Reader Question: Tights with Interview Attire

January 27th, 2011 § 18 comments

We recently received this reader question…

I have an on-campus interview (yay!) at a liberal arts college in a very cold climate. I just purchased a navy blue suit from J Crew: fitted blazer + pencil skirt. I’m going to pair this with a brightly colored shell of some sort and gray patent leather shoes. The problem is what to do with my legs. If I double up on tights, I think I’ll be sufficiently warm for brief jaunts outside. But what color tights would work best? Is black okay? Any suggestions you have you would welcome!

First of, congratulation on your campus interview! And we love the items you’ve chosen for this occasion: this navy J.Crew skirt (and matching blazer) and these grey patent leather Naot shoes. To winterize your legs, we agree that doubling up and layering tights might be a good idea. Now, as to what color tights to wear on the outside, here are a few suggestions:

Although we love how that navy skirt and grey patent leather shoes would look with a boldly hued pair of tights like this…

… we agree that the above combination might be best saved for a teaching day on campus. For that more formal interview attire, we would suggest opting for a more ‘conservative’ and ‘traditional’ color such as a navy or grey…

A pair of black tights may be too harsh with the lighter color shoe, while a grey or navy pair should blend more seamlessly with your skirt or footwear choice. Choosing a pair of tights in a neutral that picks up on the existing color scheme of your outfit should makes the tights fit right in with your look wihout drawing too much attention. And don’t forget to check how the pair of tights underneath affects the color of your top layer! This might be obvious but is worth stating in case your mind is on other interview related matters right now.

Lastly, we also think that a pair of open weave pattern tights layered over an opaque black pair of tights could create a subtle yet rich and interesting effect. It wouldn’t be too discernable from far away but would lend your outfit that extra bit of personality and individuality from up close.

What do you think, dear readers and fellow academics? What color tights would you recommend to for that polished and professional interview look? What have you worn for academic interviews in the past? Thank you as always for your contributions in the comments section! ~ Chics

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§ 18 Responses to Reader Question: Tights with Interview Attire"

  1. Alisha says:

    I actually like the bold combination better! You know, I recently interviewed a vet school, and I wore very professional attire, but in (black pencil skirt, short black wedges, cornflower blue long sleeve button down, black vest), but I made the outfit my own with my mustard yellow, yes yellow, tights (and a red bag, too–I had the three primary colors going on!). It still looked very professional, and yet I received compliments from everyone, including the dean of the college of veterinary medicine (she loved yellow tights). And you know what? I got accepted to that school. I tried the same outfit again at another vet school interview, and I got in there, too! My qualifications and personality spoke for themselves both times, and my outfit never hurt, but only helped. At first I was nervous that some interview people would think the yellow tights were “too much” (whatever that means, anyway), but I thought, “really, REALLY would someone reject a great candidate because of the color of her tights?” and the answer was, is, and will be, no. I don’t think that people, especially those that are in charge of hiring/admissions decisions, are so closed-minded and petty to discriminate against people confident enough to wear professional attire in unexpected colors. So to the reader who wrote in with that question, I say, go for it; wear that first outfit! Professional, cute, and stylish need not be mutually exclusive.

  2. Chris says:

    I think that the more subtle colors are best. Many if not most people may be fine with bright colors, but I would play it safe for the older faculty member/dean. You just never know what characteristic becomes important with some people (even if they don’t articulate it).

    But, I don’t think that I would double up on tights. The buildings could be very warm – you’ll be nervous enough, I wouldn’t want to risk leg sweat as well. I doubt you will spend a lot of time outside – our job candidates go from office to office and once in a while they have to go outside our building. Just take a long, warm coat.

  3. AW says:

    I think the 2nd option with the grey tights would be best for an interview. You’ll feel most comfortable if you don’t have to think about your clothes.

  4. Catherine says:

    What about a darker maroon? It wouldn’t feel as in-your-face as a bright red, but will still give you some good color. I’d err on the side of being memorable, but that’s just me. :)

  5. Kat says:

    The conservative approach is always safe for these more formal settings, and gives you fewer things to stress about – if it were me, I’d go with grey. And, Chris’s point is well-taken. As someone currently living in a very snowy climate, i can say yes, your legs may/will get cold outside if you don’t layer up (well, they’ll probably get cold anyway). But is it really worth it to be comfortable outside and chance being overly warm inside? Risky, since inside is where the higher-stakes things like your job talk, etc. will be, and you have no idea how hot and stuffy the room may be (and if you’re like me, add in the extra warmth of performance nerves)….

  6. Alicia says:

    I think I’m on the side of the subtler tights. But I have a similar problem for a snowy visit. I have a black and white blazer + pencil skirt set (I know this sounds weird, but it’s from Benetton… it’s cute and a bit tweedy) that seems like it really only goes with a black shell underneath. Is wearing all black and white a bad idea?

    I have a gray pants suit that could work with a more colorful shirt, but I’m worried about snow and trousers. Help?

    • Kat says:

      @Alicia, I just did a round of interviewing, in a grey suit with pants rather than skirt. I didn’t have any trouble with hems getting wet or anything like that, despite the snow. Usually the sidewalks on campuses are pretty well-cleared. I would be more concerned about footwear. Finding shoes that are professional enough for the interviewing that won’t be absurd outside in the snow/recently shoveled sidewalks is no joke. I wore black tsubo dufays and they were perfect for the interviews and worked well enough outside, though if there was more snow on the paths, I doubt they’ve have been able to hack it and I’d have been sorry. Does anyone else have thoughts about better options for winterviewing footwear?

      That said, @Alicia, I love the idea of a black shirt with your black & white tweed skirt suit – sounds classy and interview-reserved and just a touch fun with the tweed!

  7. Cynthia says:

    On my monitor, that first pair of maroon tights is reading as a very dark, muted color. I can’t see how that would be any more attention-getting or controversial than grey, and it would help bring the navy and grey together, especially with the right accessories.

  8. Katherine says:

    If it was me, I’d probably play it safe and go with the grey or black tights and avoid doubling up. As much as I like the look of the maroon and patterned tights, I’d save those for another day.

  9. C says:

    I like the look of patterned tights over solid ones, but I live in WI and cannot imagine wearing two pair of tights all day long! The walk from my parking spot to my building is .5 miles and takes about 10 minutes – if I’m wearing a skirt & tights, I’ll wear a longer jacket and maybe some legwarmers that I can remove once I get inside. One pair of tights around my waist is enough – two just seems unbearable!

  10. I would not layer tights at an on campus interview. You will only be outside briefly – even a campus tour at a SLAC is likely to only last 20-30 minutes. Whereas, the buildings might be quite warm, and giving a job talk and teaching demo in addition to various meetings with deans and provosts could already get you feeling warm and claustrophobic. I would also recommend that you err on the side of conservative in terms of the color of your tights and go with black or grey.

  11. @Alicia, a red shell would really pop with that suit. Purple would coordinate too. But even in all black it sounds really snazzy.

    I’d go with the gray tights for formal interviews. Doubling up might bind your stomach and make you uncomfortable in an already stressful situation. If there are less-formal events with currents students, you could rock the red tights.

  12. Maggie says:

    I think this question might also be influenced by research field: I’d imagine that (dark) red tights would be less strange in for art department interview than in, say, economics or another more conservative area, where they’d be completely off-limits.

    Additionally, as much as I like red tights, I’d only wear them if I found a very dark pair and my shirt was also dark red (and I’d still think twice about it then!).

  13. Rebecca says:

    First, it’s so nice to see that people actually care about how they appear in interviews. I’ve long been on the other side of the interview table and am aghast at what some people wear. I’ve seen outfits that look like pajamas. I’ve seen a person take off her shoes and sit cross-legged in the equivalent of sweat pants during the interview. I’ve seen shirts that were so tight the buttons were about to pop off. I’ve seen jackets with the lining hanging 8″ out the back and the sleeves frayed.

    I think I’d personally go with the subtle tights, simply b/c I’m not a risk taker and I don’t want someone to say “oh that was the one with the red tights” instead of “that was the one who talked about second wave feminism”. You know?

    And to the reader who asked the original question: GOOD LUCK! You will look smashing and confident in your JC suit.

  14. Mcphilimypr says:

    Gray. Definitely the gray. Save the dark red for once you’ve got the job. A great rule of thumb is to dress for those who are hiring not for your peers. So yeah, while the colors are more fun, the gray is more dean-worthy.

    And the doubling up? Whoa. I’m not sure I’d like the look, but more concerning is the effort and contortions needed to get that second pair on. And get them smooth. Maybe I don’t know as I’ve never tried it. Sounds way too difficult.

  15. Joni says:

    Like many others, I would go with the subtler tights either gray or navy. I did my doctoral work in Canada and wore wool knitted tights in the winter. They were very warm and were great for layering under jeans or trousers as well for extra warmth. I found them at The Bay dept. store, I’m not sure where to buy them in the States. In terms of making your decision, I would research the faculty profiles of current faculty to try to suss out how creative they are in terms of dress. As annoying as it is, your age is something else to consider. My department is mainly middle-aged men. I am the only woman and over 20 years younger than the other faculty, so I dressed quite conservatively for my interview. I had enough other things to make me stand out. Now that I have the job, I feel free to dress more creatively.

  16. Sara says:

    Personally, I’d err on the side of conservatism and go with nude panty hose. To me, tights always look a little casual compared to panty hose. With your navy suit, I’d avoid black and other colors and just deal with the cold for the short while you’ll be outside. I doubt tights vs. Panty hose make such a big difference in terms of warmth anyway. Good luck!

  17. Truth says:

    I’m sorry but since when are boots that come up mid-calf knee-high boots? There are rules when it comes to proportions of one’s outfit to the type of boot.

    This girl Emily and other girls who make the same mistake need to speak to a stylist to get an idea of what they are doing right and wrong. Your outfit can cost you the job you are interviewing for.

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