The $200 Job Interview Outfit

Last Updated Jul 1, 2011 12:27 PM EDT

Last week, I wrote about the essential $500 interview outfit. In the comments section, I got a fair amount of flack from frugal fashionistas who said $500 was out of many job-seeker's budgets. While I still think investing in a quality suit, pair of heels or briefcase is worthwhile if you can do it, I agree that funds can be limited -- particularly if you've been unemployed for a while.

So I went back to my expert, NYC-based stylist Allison Berlin, founder of Style Made Simple, and asked for her best tips for putting together a stylish yet budget-savvy interview outfit. Her first tip is to shop smart at budget stores like Zara and H&M (unfortunately, they don't sell online, but you can find nearby stores on their websites). Berlin also suggests scouting used clothing stores where you can find heavily-discounted designer duds (particularly helpful if you're interviewing at a company where they value that sort of thing). "A gently used suit can be just as good -- at half the price," says Berlin, who also recommends Target & DSW "for a variety of men's and women's shoes for under $100."

Shopping smart also means searching for sales: "Men's Wearhouse sometimes has 2 for 1 sales, when you can score deep discounts," says Berlin. And if your budget is truly tiny, don't despair. "If you're really in a difficult spot, contact your nearest Dress For Success," suggests Berlin. "It's a fantastic charity that helps women get back on their feet by offering interview outfits at little or no cost."

Last week, Berlin had suggested we "invest in a great fitting suit or sheath dress with classic details, in dark, neutral colors like black, navy, charcoal, and chocolate brown." Using this as a guideline, I've put together two interview outfits -- this time for $200 or less. To finish the ensembles, use what you have from your existing wardrobe. For women, that will mean a cardigan and jewelry, and for men, a shirt and tie. Go more bold with color if you're interviewing in a creative industry, and stay safe with conservative neutrals if your potential employer is more buttoned up.

$200 Interview Outfit For Women $200 Interview Outfit For Men What do you think of these more budget-friendly interview outfits? Please share links to YOUR favorite items in the comments section.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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