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
- The Simple Sheath, Target, $30
- The Classic Bag, Banana Republic, $60 (shown in photo)
- The Stylish Slingback, Ann Taylor Loft, $50
More on MoneyWatch:
- Job Interviews Tips: Fail-Proof Looks For Under $500
- Job Interview? 4 Reasons To Keep Your Mouth Shut
- How To Answer The Five Toughest Interview Questions You'll Face
- Job Interview Horror Stories
- Job Interview? 9 Great Tips To Get You To Round 2
- 20 Craziest Job Interview Questions & The Right Answers