If dressing for your first, second, or hundredth magazine interview makes you feel like quoting Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, you’re not alone. (Trust me, we all feel poor.) Dressing for success can feel impossible when you have a budget of only $100, so we asked editors, stylists, and even fashion industry insiders for their tips on how to look like a million bucks for less.
Be On (Top Of) Brands
J. Crew, Banana Republic, and LOFT are great options for tops, bottoms, and dresses. Heather Viggiani, an associate editor at Seventeen who handles all the magazine’s fashion coverage, recommends signing up for sale alerts. “Take advantage of mark-downs!” she says. But make sure you shop in-store for interview items. Just because a button-down looks fab on-screen doesn’t mean it will look like that in-person. You want to actually feel the garment to make sure the quality is on par with your expectations.
Spend $$$ On Your Shoes
The majority of your budget should to go your footwear “Stick to peep-toe, pointed toe, or a round toe. Something more classic,” says Salinger. “Don’t make it too over-the-top with straps and prints and materials.” Make sure to treat these shoes as an investment. Meaning: Don’t wear them anywhere but to the interview to avoid scuffing or nicking them. “A simple long-sleeved black dress will slay when paired with a chic, well-made and well-cared-for pair of mid-height pumps,” says Viggiani.
Conquer Your Carryall
Don’t worry if you can’t afford a fancy purse: “No one cares if you’ve got a real bag or a fake bag unless they’re super pretentious or obnoxious,” says Amy Salinger, a New York City-based stylist. Designer discount stores like DSW and TJ Maxx sell handbags made of quality materials at reasonable prices. And don’t shy away from faux leather. “There are so many great-looking options under $50 at H&M, Target, and Old Navy,” says Viggiani. No matter what you choose, just make sure it’s a good size carryall that can hold your resume, flats, and other essentials—and that it’ll fit on your shoulder while you shake hands with your interviewer.
Wear It Well
Interviewers are less concerned about what you’re wearing than how you’re wearing it. “Don’t aim to look like your outfit costs more than your potential first paycheck; aim to appear sophisticated and tasteful,” says Viggiani. A shirt one size too small, whether it’s from Forever 21 or Barneys, will look unpolished. “If you come to an interview and your clothing is a little too tight or your shirt’s a little too low or something’s just not right, you can tell,” says Sarah Gold, a former product developer for Ralph Lauren’s New York City offices.
Comfort is Key
“If you never wear a dress, don’t pick an interview to start wearing one,” says Viggiani. Your outfit should reflect your personality, not how much money you can spend on this season’s It outfit. The goal is to look your best so you can feel your best, concentrate on the interviewer’s questions, and land an edit test. (For more information on how to nail an edit test, check out Ed’s tips here.)
Who’s that lovely girl in the pic? (No, not Kristen Wiig!) It’s Ed’s friend Brooke Shunatona who’s an associate beauty editor at Cosmo.com. Photo credit goes to Kathleen Kamphausen.