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What to Wear to a Job Interview: 7 Tips for Women Over 40 or 50 or 60

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

I’ve been reading all the articles about what to wear for a job interview and I’ve decided that if you want to get a job, you’d better be young and beautiful like the woman in the photo... because females are not allowed to wear anything remotely flattering during job interviews. Actually, it seems like you and I are supposed to look like boring slave-drones while trying to secure jobs. However... if you’re over 40, the most important thing is doing your best to look young, vibrant, and hip... or you might as well stay at home... so you, my favorite jobseeker, will probably get to stretch a few fashion rules.

Younger women need to wear clothing that makes them look stable, together, and mature... but, you don’t. You need to wear an outfit that makes you look young and energetic, but also strong and competent.

Interview Clothes Over 40

Interview Clothes Over 40

1. There's Conflicting Advice

Yes Ma’am, go online and people will say you must wear a skirt that’s below your knees or just above your knees or right at your knees. Or, you should wear a black suit with a white button-down blouse... no... wait! You should wear an outfit that’s not matchy-matchy, because a standard suit will make you look old and outdated.

Who’s right? It depends.

  • East Coast: If you’re on the East Coast or you’re interviewing for an office position, you probably should go with a black or navy skirt-suit or pantsuit with a white shirt.
  • West Coast: If you’re on the West Coast and you’re not applying for a job as an accountant, you can break up your suit pieces... You can wear your navy blazer over a tan skirt or a black dress or black trousers, because that’s a younger, fresher look.
  • Business Casual? If you’re applying at Starbucks or an internet startup company, you should not wear a suit.
  • Retail: If you’re applying at a store, it depends on the store.

... and some places are more likely to hire you if you’re in jeans than if you're in a suit. So, now you know what to wear... right?

Interview Jacket for Women

Interview Jacket for Women

2. Scope Out the Company

Since there are no easy answers and the last thing you want to do is to look old, stodgy, and out of touch; you need to spy on the employees who work at the company where you want to work.

Your goal is to look like them, but a tad dressier. For example, if they’re wearing jeans, you should wear slacks. (Note: You should visit the workplace a few times, so you’re sure you aren’t seeing the employees on a work-casual day.)

Silk Scarf in Great Colors

Silk Scarf in Great Colors

3. Do You Need to Buy New Clothes?

Yes, you probably will need to buy new work clothes... sorry. I wish you could wear your favorite blazer from 1993, but you can’t. It’s out of style and it probably doesn’t fit right.

4. Start With a Great Blazer or Fitted Jacket

I would put most of my money and effort into finding a great black or navy (or neutral) blazer. Get something good. Most off-the-rack clothes aren’t going to fit your body the way I want them to, so you may want to go up a size... and then start sending love notes to your favorite tailor.

  • A jacket is the one piece you will probably wear to most job interviews.
  • If you’re in a “suit” industry, you’ll need to get the matching skirt and/or slacks (from the same company that made the jacket), so that the colors and fabrics are all on the same wavelength. It’s surprising how many different blacks there are.

5. Fit and Fabric Are Key

You’re not a kid. You’ll need to try different shapes and cuts when looking for your basic interview pieces.

  • Not everyone looks good in a pencil skirt with a button-down shirt. If you have big hips, you might look better in A-line skirts and dresses.
  • A fitted sheath with a jacket is another good option for curvy women. And, I think you can go a tad above your knee to avoid looking frumpy.
  • Mid-calf shirtwaist dresses are good for the stodgiest of companies.
  • You must be able to move your arms without your jacket feeling too snug across your back. If something's too tight (or too baggy) give it to charity.
  • Make sure your bra doesn’t show because your blouse gaps open at the buttons. (Scoop-neck shells lie smoothly under jackets and may be good for busty gals.)
  • Sit down in your outfit to see what happens. Does your skirt slide up your thigh? Do your pants ride up your crack?

As for fabrics, some polyesters are better than others. Blends are often engineered to be wrinkle-free. Lightweight wools are awesome. Silk shells, blouses, and scarves are your new best friends because they light up your face.

Prints? In general you should avoid prints because some of them scream “little old lady”. However, you can get away with small prints and weaves that blend into solids from across the room. I would be cautious with florals and would lean more toward tiny geometrics.

Interview Wear

Interview Wear

6. Wear Neutral Colors to Interviews

Most of the time, you should wear boring neutrals like black, camel, and navy. Some complex colors like moody taupe or grayed pinky-beige look better on older women than standard neutrals, and you can usually get away with any shade of blue.

Now, I’m not an expert on “interview clothing”, but I think you should wear a flattering color (or colors) near your face even if it means veering away from neutrals... as long as the rest of your outfit is neutral. If tan or gray or white makes you look like death... well... no one is going to hire a dead person. Try a soft pink shell or a burgundy scarf. Wear a beautiful teal blouse under your gorgeous jacket. You want to look alive and beautiful... even if you’re old as dirt.

Jaeger Shirtwaist Dress Silk

Jaeger Shirtwaist Dress Silk

And, you should never wear white (near your face) if the white is whiter than your teeth. So, have your teeth whitened and consider wearing a creamy-colored blouse instead of one that’s “harsh” white.

7. Interview Shoes and Handbag:

Well, most of the experts tell you to wear boring neutral pumps, but one expert says that shoes and handbags are where older women can strut their stuff... within reason... as long as they avoid white shoes and strappy sandals.

Most websites tell you to wear closed-toed shoes, but one website says that older women should crank it up a notch by wearing trendy booties (probably with trousers) or patent-leather pumps or even peep-toe Mary Janes.

A few sites say that “mature” women should wear a heel... something like 2-3 inch black pumps... and I agree. You probably should avoid stilettos unless everyone else is younger and wearing them, however heels look hipper than flats... and the most important thing is to NOT LOOK OLD. Well, if you must wear flats, get something cute... that doesn’t look orthopedic in any way. And, don’t wear pantyhose... too old school.

The best info I’ve read about what to carry says to bring a purse that stands up when set down and to nix the briefcase whenever possible.

Anyway, I think the three most important items of clothing that will make or break your look are your jacket, your shoes, and your purse... so get a second opinion on those. You’ll also need to cover your gray, get a good cut, go to Sephora for a “natural” makeover, talk to a plastic surgeon about fillers, start going to the gym... and consider self-employment as a backup. (I’m sooooo glad I work from home.)

More Articles for Fashionable Women Over 40:

Parisian Style Details for Women Over 40, 50, 60

Should Older Women Wear Bright Colors?

Paris Street Style for Older Women

Fashion for Women Over 70: 8 Tips from a Beverly Hills Clothing Expert

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page or give us a Google Plus.

References: All photos courtesy of prshots.com.

  • Top Photo: Fenn Wright Manson
  • Interview Clothes Over 40: Tops Fenn Wright Manson, Shoes LaRedoute, Bag Biba at House of Fraser.
  • Interview Jacket for Women: Elegance Plus 2012
  • Silk Scarf in Great Colors: Jaeger
  • Interview Wear: Jaeger
  • Dress: Jaeger

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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3 Comments

  1. Sharon

    This is a great article. I have an interview tomorrow and I'm glad that I read this because I was going to were black and white top but now I'm going shopping to find a blue or tan jacket and I have some taupe shoes and taupe purse already. I'm going to try to squeeze a teal blouse in this outfit as well. Thank you!

  2. janie

    Your advice is really helpful except for your comment about talking to a plastic surgeon about fillers- that is ridiculous.