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Students encouraged to dress to impress


By Jessi Towell

Collegiate Staff Writer

It’s that time again. And by ‘that time,’ I mean the time of year when the various stores in shopping malls begin interviewing and hiring for seasonal positions. For a retail interview, etiquette for dress appears to be remotely straightforward—professional and sophisticated.

But how does Grand Rapids Community College define professional and sophisticated fashion?

Margie Erlandson, adjunct instructor teaching fashion design here at GRCC, is certainly no stranger to the concept of professional clothing.

“You want to walk the midline and you want to dress more conservatively,” said Erlandson of what to wear to any job interview. For women, Erlandson says to avoid “low-cut tops, skirts that are too short, and anything that shows a bare midriff.” Guys and girls alike should stay away from “casual clothes, such as blue jeans and T-shirts,” said Erlandson. On the subject of expressing oneself through fashion choices at a job interview, Erlandson said it is essential to “be who you are, but sometimes we have to put part of ourselves aside to attain the position that we desire.”

“We should never read a book for its cover, but in this case we have to,” said Erlandson, referring to the careful eye an employer has on their potential employees’ first fashion impressions. “The company has an image that they need to promote.”

“For girls? UGG boots and cleavage: definitely avoid showing those off,” said GRCC student Jamie Coffin of what shouldn’t be worn to a job interview. Coffin, after working at stores like Forever 21, Baker’s, and Wet Seal over the course of nearly four years, feels it’s important to keep away from the overtly casual in any job interview.

“It’s all about your first impression,” said Coffin, “Looking sloppy for an interview might reflect that you’ll be sloppy in the workplace as well, to put it simply.”

Looking put-together should be the goal that those interviewing keep in mind while picking out an outfit. A blazer gives a classically professional quality and never goes out of style. For both men and women, a structured suit jacket or blazer will always read as sophisticated, especially when paired with slacks and a sensible pair of clean, comfortable dress shoes.

It is helpful to look into the style of dress that everyone already in the company appears to have, especially in a retail position. If it is a clothing or accessories store, research what style of clothing or accessories this company tends to sell. Erlandson believes the key to understanding the style of dress for an interview with a specific company comes from the research you do about the company outside of the interview.

“For example, if you are going to an interview for Gap, wear a pair of good dress pants and maybe a top that comes from the Gap,” said Erlandson..

“Neutral [black, brown, beige, grey, or white in color] jackets layered over a vibrantly colored shirt look fashionable and polished at the same time,” said Coffin, regarding popular fashion choices for anyone, no matter their gender.

“Men might want to wear a clean pair of khaki pants and maybe a sweater to the interview,” said Erlandson.

With those items, hopeful job-seekers will attract the right amount of hiring managers’ attention with their outfit for all of the right reasons.

So this holiday season, as you part the throng of frenzied mall patrons while bustling to your next interview, I genuinely hope you all look great doing it.

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