Dress for the Job You Want
Lana Baker: A 45-year-old single mother, Lana lost her management position in publishing but recently scored a job helping to connect art collectors with sellers—"a perfect balance of creative and corporate," she says.
The Outfit: A cool sleeveless dress (Calvin Klein, $128) provides instant poise (since it's one piece, there's no preinterview agonizing about coordination). The salmon suede jacket (Peter Som) shows a terrific color sense—"It's a mix of soft and tailored, art and business," says Lana. Low-key polish comes from high-quality accessories: wooden hoop earrings (Kara Ross), an elegant tote (Nancy Gonzalez), and python pumps (Diego Dolcini). "Heels make me stand straighter," Lana says. "They give me confidence."
Keiyana Fordham: The 27-year-old, second-year law student is looking for a summer job—and in the current economy, the competition is tough.
The Outfit: Law is a formal profession, so a suit's authoritative message is a sound strategy. (When you're in doubt, a dark suit is sharp, slimming, always correct.) Keiyana's shapely jacket and skirt (Zero + Maria Cornejo, $798 and $490) have side panels that give them textural interest and an easy fit. She could add a colorful blouse, but this solid look (tank, J.Crew, $30) is flawless. Other staples include hoop earrings (Dana David), a classic watch (Cartier), and versatile beige shoes (Christian Louboutin).
Christine Shields: After a string of routine jobs in the automotive and banking industries, Christine, 58, is reinventing her career, trying to get into the field of corporate event planning (on the side, she makes party favors for wedding receptions).
The Outfit: An unforgettable occasion, carefully orchestrated and budgeted—that's the event planner's specialty. Christine decided to invest in a new outfit that reflects this attention to detail: It conveys business acumen, but the floral jacket and striped top (Tory Burch, $750 and $195) are "fun and funky, not too buttoned-up," she says. Other pieces—knit pants (Diane von Furstenberg, $275), a gold and quartz chain (Suzanne Kalan)—are understated, as is her makeup.
Michelle Kilic: Wall Street layoffs led this 38-year-old banker to switch from finance to investor relations—a side of the business with more client contact.
The Outfit: In the people-oriented field Michelle is targeting, her goal is to establish an approachable persona: Her green jacket, cane-print skirt (Talbots, $299 and $119), and silk shell (Shoshanna, $319) create the effect; accessories add a strong accent. "Plain and presentable is not enough," says Michelle, whose signatures include bold jewelry (earrings, Bounkit; ring, Zil; watch, Cartier) and distinctive leather standbys—belt (Moschino), bag (Anya Hindmarch), shoes (Christian Louboutin).
See the best work fashion for under $100