Dressing For the Job You Want

By , March 12, 2012

A job interview begins the moment the interviewer sees you. Like it or not, your interviewer will consult your appearance to get clues into your work ethic. Your hair, nails and shoes tell the interviewer if you’re detail-oriented. If your clothing is wrinkled, dirty, or disheveled, that tells the interviewer you don’t take pride in yourself.

If you’re a person with a disability, being well-dressed means balancing your body type and complimenting your skin tone with clothing that is accessible, smart, and fashionable, a term that I call APOSHSM.

Remember, when you look good the company looks good. So what exactly do you need to do to look your best? Here are 10 easy tips:

  1. Dress for the job want. How would you dress if you were offered a position at your dream company, working in your dream job? If you’re interviewing for a mid-management job, but you eventually want to be CEO – that’s how you should dress during the interview and after you’re hired. I also encourage you to “think beyond the label” designers may have placed on you as a person with a disability, particularly if you have a seated disability; you should make the clothing adapt to you, not the other way around!
  2. Measurements are a must. As part of your goal to have clothing that fits right and looks good, it’s important to have accurate measurements. Ask a tailor or a friend to take the following measurements: bust, waist, hips, the rise, thigh, neck, across the back, inseam, torso to waist, and across the front. Knowledge is power, and knowing your exact measurements will make shopping (online and in stores) more enjoyable.
  3. Know your body type. Everyone has a personal body type; do you know yours? It’s not difficult to figure out. Use your measurements and ask a few questions like, “Am I bigger on the top and smaller on the bottom? Am I bigger in the middle and smaller on the top? What areas are difficult to dress? Dressing well is about finding clothing that balances your body. Wear bright colors to add volume to your smaller areas while using dark colors to reduce volume on your larger areas.
  4. Invest in clothing for the seated body type. There is no way around this one; clothing designed for the seated body type instantly makes you look neater and more put together. Fortunately there are some designers that are making clothes just for you. Check out how IZ Adaptive makes dressing easy. Clothing designed for the seated type is bulk-free; it lies properly, and will not cause unwanted body sores. If you’re on a tight budget and you have to select one or two pieces, purchase one pair of slacks and one shirt; this will ensure your pants are not hanging over the side of the chair and the elbow area on your shirt fits the bended arm, which is important for looking your best on a job interview.
  5. KISS = Keep it Simple with Suits. There are several companies that sell suits for the seated body type. Suits are the simplest way to dress professionally, period. LegaWear lets you measure yourself and order custom suits online. Another idea is to buy your suit from a company that lets you buy separates, like Lands’ End.
  6. Tie one on. Guys: Your tie is an opportunity to subtly show your personality, so choose wisely. Select a color that compliments your eyes or skin tone, but stay away from ties featuring animation, and remember tip No. 1: Dress for the job you want.
  7. Showcase your shoes. Professional shoes can be fun. Shoes do not have to match your look, but they should compliment your look. Purchase shoes with a wider width to compensate for foot swelling. And make sure you consider any issues you may have with foot drop. (A cobbler can help you.) Men: Make sure you match your socks with your slacks. Women: To extend your leg line, match your shoes to your slacks, skirt, or opaque stockings. If you live in a warm climate and you wear bare legs, wear shoe colors similar to your leg; doing this visually extends your legs. However, if you’re uncomfortable showing your legs due to loss of muscle tone, stick with thigh-high stockings. Wear a thigh band to keep your knees together when wearing skirts, if one is necessary.
  8. Tailor to fit. It is imperative to find a tailor who you trust and feel comfortable with. That way you can work with him or her to come up with custom clothing solutions. When tailoring clothing, try to stay away from items with lining, as these are very costly to tailor. Also, the cost of tailoring the garments should not exceed the original cost of the garments.
  9. Smile, it’s your best accessory. A smile is a universal symbol for confidence and approachability. There are plenty of quality toothpastes and teeth whiteners to help you whiten your teeth. The whiter your teeth, the more youthful you appear. If you absolutely hate your teeth, raise your eyebrows (literally) and practice a closed mouth smile; it has the same effect.
  10. Take time for a dress rehearsal. When a moment passes, it passes; we will never get that moment back. How do you want to live each moment? As you prepare for this interview, make time to plan your outfit, try on your outfit, and execute your professional look with confidence. And always remember to “luv what you wear!”

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Author: Stephanie Thomas

Born with congenital physical defects on her hand and feet, Stephanie is a disability fashion consultant and longtime advocate in the field of accessible clothing for retail clients. She is also a former TV reporter/producer, on-air radio personality and voiceover actor. She is an adjunct Fashion and Speech professor at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, and is developing a Disability Fashion Stylist training program that will help train stylists in the field of accessible fashion.