AMA Style Guide
After three to five years in a doctoral program, you're probably due for a wardrobe upgrade in general, and in particular you need interview attire for AMA.
Here are some pointers on how to look like a million bucks without breaking the bank.
Contributed by academic and fashionista extraordinaire, Marie-Agnes Parmentier.
This is an exciting time in your life, congrats for making it this far! Here a few suggestions on how to make the best first impression possible based on my own and some friends/colleagues’ experience. I will take a “head to toe” approach to make sure I cover everything.
Hair. Ponytails are acceptable, but opting for a low, sleek one rather than high one is a safer bet. Buns can also work, but they should look like you’ve actually spent some time (but not too much time) on them. A loose (but blow-dried) hairstyle can most certainly work too, but keep in mind that you should refrain from playing with it during the interview. Whatever the style, be sure to keep your hair sculpted and neat, and remember to remove the sunglasses from your head before you enter the room!
Face. Even if you don’t normally wear make-up and are afraid of experimenting (something I can certainly understand), a bit of BB cream, matting powder, mascara, clear or subtle lipstick, and blush can work wonders. For the more experienced kind, I suggest simply keeping in mind that your goal here is to portray a professional look, not too far from how you would present yourself to MBA students. If you tend to express a lot of your uniqueness and personality through make-up and hairstyle, that’s fine too, but it’s important to know that some interviewers may wonder about your fit in a more conservative setting, which business schools tend to be.
Perfume. Subtlety is the way to go (for obvious reasons), or skip fragrances all together. More people than ever before have developed sensitivities to scents, so you don’t want to inadvertently trigger someone’s allergy, or to have that scent linger long after you’re gone. You want the interviewer to remember YOU and not the perfume!
Accessories. When it comes to accessories, less is more. Keep the chandelier earrings at home and stick to studs. Also, stay away from multiple bangles on the wrist – you don’t want the noise and movement to distract from the conversation. For married or engaged ladies, wearing (or not) your band may be something you are wondering about. Indeed, although a questionable practice, some future employers may try to know your current family situation (married, or not, children, or not) and intentions regarding family. To me, what counts is that you feel confortable answering the questions that a band, engagement ring, or absence of thereof may trigger.
Body. Pant-suit, dress-suit, and skirt-suit are all appropriate options. What matters most, especially in hot summer days and air-conditioned hotel rooms, is fabric and fit. You will be standing and sitting a lot, so keep that in mind when evaluating dress or skirt length. Quality fabric like summer wool, poplin cotton, and silk may allow you to feel less sweaty. Avoid linen, as it will crease a lot. Don’t feel like you absolutely have to wear black or navy; these are classics, of course, but since AMA is in the summer, light grays or beiges suits are great too. I do not recommend cream, pastel or white suits, however. For blouses, both patterns and solids work for me, but remember that showing cleavage is an absolute no-no, so keep the necklines high or modest, and always keep the shoulders covered. Blazers work with any outfit. Also, keep the neon bras at home, you don’t want them showing through a sheer white blouse, and make sure the lingerie is not peeking out from under the blouse. Bring everything to the cleaners beforehand so it’s neat, clean and wrinkle-free on the first wear. Brands that are worth trying include: Theory (which pieces in black you can mix and match from collections to collections), J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and Elie Tahari. J. Crew offers a personal shopper service that may be helpful if you'd like some guidance.
Shoes. I am not a big fan of open-toed sandals with suits, unless they are very elegant. Keep the peep-toe small and worn with an impeccable pedicure. Otherwise, wearing shoes that are confortable is key, and so is wearing a shining pair that does not show any signs of wear. Leave the platforms and wedges at home, and keep the bling off the shoes. You can also wear elegant flats. Brands like Stuart Weitzman and J. Crew offer wide selections of shoes that last and are confortable. Pantyhose are also a safer bet, and investing in ones that feel confortable around the waist and silky on the skin is worth it. Calvin Klein, Donna Karen, and Spanx all do nude versions that are great and not too expensive.
Bags. You may want your handbag with you, and I don’t see any reason why that would be a problem, but a bag that fits both your interview props (tablet, computer, usb key, flip chart slides, etc.) and your personal stuff will probably make it easier to shake people’s hands. Make sure the bag is not ripped or worn, that you have an elegant pen and clear pad that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice. Keep the contents of the bag neat and organized, and know where your important papers are. You don’t want to waste the interviewer’s time by rummaging through your belongings, and being organized speaks volumes about your professionalism as a potential employee.
Manicure. Keep the nails short and trimmed, and stick to clear polish, or nudes.
Contributed by Ethan Pew, who does not regularly wear bow ties but still knows how to tie them.
Suits. I highly recommend ordering a custom suit online. I'm a big fan of Indochino.com. It's possibly the best thing going in suits under $500. For $499, you'll get a perfectly tailored suit delivered to your front door. If it arrives needing an adjustment or two, no biggie -- Indochino will cover $75 in alterations at your local tailor (upload the receipt, and you'll get a credit back to your card). And if you don't like the fit (or it's not fixable at your local tailor), Indochino will remake it, no questions asked (aside from "what needs to be done differently?"). The customer service is pretty incredible. Pro tips: click custom options and select the functional sleeve buttonholes and functional boutonniere options. These are the hallmarks of a custom suit. The pen pocket is nice too -- especially for AMA.
When it comes to ordering, the Essential line is sharp (that's what I own). If you're particularly hard on dress clothes, order a second pair of pants (that's what gets the most wear and tear). Just be sure to order in advance, it takes about three weeks for the suit to arrive. Use this referral link for $50 off a purchase of $300 or more (new customers only, though): http://share.indochino.com/v2/share/6309479625881650156
Of course, Indochino is just one option for ordering custom suits online. Black Lapel seems to have plenty of positive reviews. The price points are similar to Indochino, and the defaults under the advanced options include the high-end features of functional sleeve buttonholes and boutonniere, which is a good signal.
Shirts. I strongly recommend adding custom shirts to your custom suit order. When the new suit arrives, you will realize how poorly your current dress shirts actually fit. The custom shirts will make the custom suit look even better. White Oxford is a classic option that works in every context. Choose the medium point collar. Order a few shirts (white, solid, stripe, or otherwise). You'll want a clean shirt for every day you're interviewing.
Ties. A trip to the local mall or haberdashery may be warranted. H&M and Macys are great options. Amazon and eBay are surprisingly good as well if you have a general sense of what you want. Ties are possibly the easiest place to overspend. A $9 tie from Amazon just might be perfect. Order 10, choose the ones you like best, send the others back.
Socks. I'm a huge fan of Hugo Boss socks. Welcome to the striped socks club.
Shoes. This is a classic search versus experience problem. If you live somewhere you can try on shoes, go do it. If not, Zappos is your friend. Order a bunch of shoes in different styles and sizes so you can get it right. More or less -- just ship the shoe store to you. Not sure about style? Try Dress Oxford for a classic look. If you want to shoot for something a bit higher end check out options on Bluefly.com and Gilt.com, though your ability to return may be limited.