Style 911: How Do I Buy A First Suit?

I bought this gray pinstriped suit jacket the other day, and I really like it, but it was being sold in the separates section so I couldn’t find the pants that were supposed to go with it in my size. So … what CAN I wear it with? Are black pants acceptable? Navy? Should I cut my losses and return it?

Alternately, have you ever considered doing a post about suit rules? Two of my suitemates are about to graduate and last week we were all sitting in the kitchen trying to help one of them decide what to wear to an interview. I’m sure a lot of first time suit-buyers could use a guideline on what’s acceptable and what’s not. – Karen

Suits can suck pretty hard if done wrong. Take the jump for some tips on doing it right.

  • It’s not the ’80s, so keep them shoulders in check. Basically, your jacket’s shoulders shouldn’t really extend beyond your real shoulder/arm area.
  • Consider a skirt suit instead of a pantsuit. And should you decide your calves are worth sharing, keep it tame with just the calf visibility. Those knees are for later, lady.
  • Always have the right amount of booty in them pants. You’re trying to get a job, not pick up the dowdy HR rep, so leave a respectable amount of room for Jesus in your pants. That said, you also shouldn’t be swimming in baggy trousers. Ha, trousers.
  • Double-breasted is too many breasts. You’re a girl, not a Men’s Warehouse frequent shopper.
  • If you’re not ready to buy a whole suit, pick up coordinating separates over time. Classic black trousers and a pencil skirt work with a whole mess of jackets. Amongst them: gray pinstripes (gray in general, actually), tweed, etc.
  • A job interview is not the time for cutesiness, so skip the shrunken jackets. Three-quarter sleeves are permissible, but your jacket shouldn’t be cropped and, good God, please do not wear capri suit pants. They’re a thing. A very bad thing, indeed.
  • On the other hand, you don’t have to look like a Secret Service agent to be taken seriously. Pair your lovely tailored suit with a slightly ruffly blouse if you’re looking for a bit more femininity. Something like this works. So does this.