How to Dress Like A Grownup: Dress For The Job (Search)

The Day Job is hiring for several positions right now, so I’ve interviewed a number of applicants. One thing that’s struck me, particularly with it being a fashion-related job, is how few people come dressed appropriately to apply or to interview. I understand how challenging it can be to judge the level of formality necessary, so here are some tips for dressing appropriately.

  • If you’re going in to get an application, you should be dressed the same way as if you were going for an official interview. The old cliche about never getting a second chance to make a first impression is absolutely true.
  • If you’re going to wear fragrance, go very, very light. Individual tastes in fragrance vary so widely that you don’t want to set the interviewer against you by wearing something they don’t like. My go-to is to wear a very little bit of something very clean and soapy, like Pure Grace by Philosophy.
  • If the job doesn’t involve dressing up, you don’t necessarily have to wear a suit. If you present as male, it’s usually a good idea to go wearing the full suit, but watch as you’re going into the building. If the people going in are wearing jackets, wear yours. If not, take it off and leave it in the car. A dress shirt, tie, and slacks will read very differently (and much more universal) than a formal suit. There are exceptions; always, always wear a suit if the job is in banking, government, law, or law enforcement, or if you’d otherwise be wearing a suit on the job.
  • A tank top and shorts never constitute interview attire, no matter how informal the work environment is. If that’s what you’d be wearing on the job, then go business casual for the interview, with a polo or button-front shirt and a crisp pair of khakis.
  • Leave your club-worthy stilettos at home, especially if it’s a job where you’d be working on your feet all the time. Party clothes are nice, but they’re not work clothes.
  • If you’re interviewing for a position where you’d be wearing a suit, navy is always a good choice. There’s a certain psychology to color (more about that in a later post), and blues read as approachable and trustworthy. In addition, navy is one of the four “core” suit colors (black, charcoal, navy, and brown) that are typically the safe-bet colors.
  • Unless the job would involve selling piercing jewelry or it’s encouraged in the environment, take out your piercings or put in retainers. Also, if your hair’s an unusual color that wouldn’t be allowed in the work environment, consider dyeing it to a natural color until you get the job and can find out about the dress code in more detail.
  • My personal go-to in an interview is a pair of black dress pants and a fairly dressy top in a jewel tone. Any non-clashing color would do for the top, though–just don’t go white shirt and black pants. It’ll make you look like a waiter.

The absolute most important part of dressing for an interview, though, is to go in something that makes you feel confident. You can be dressed impeccably, but you still have to carry yourself like a professional. Good luck!


What’s in the Bag?: Building a Well-Stocked Makeup Kit

Walking into a cosmetics department or a store like Ulta or Sephora can be incredibly intimidating if you’re not used to it. Where do I start? What do I need? Hey, what does this do? Was I supposed to already know this? It’s hard to get a feel for what you might want without a game plan already in place. So I’m going to break down what I consider to be the bones of a good makeup collection. Feel free to add or subtract according to your comfort level, but this is what I’d consider to be a good makeup wardrobe. (That’s “wardrobe,” not “wear them all at once.”)

  • Primer: This is your first layer, and without it nothing’s going to blend as smoothly or stay on as long as it would with it. There are several I really like, but the one I currently have is Lancome La Base Pro ($42, I know it’s tempting to skip this, but it really makes a difference.
  • Foundation: get one that works for you, in a color that’s an exact match. It’s usually best to get some help matching your color (though don’t be afraid to question–people always try to put me in a shade that’s much darker than I prefer, assuming that I’ll tan, and despite my Native heritage, I don’t. Ever.) because it’s hard to see on yourself. I’m partial to Clinique’s liquid formulas, myself.
  • Concealer: match it to your foundation. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, as long as it’s not cheap crap that will block up your pores. All it needs to do is cover over some flaws that the primer can’t smooth out, before you put on your foundation.
  • Blush: get one that’s just a bit darker than your base skin tone. You’re adding color, not painting up like a clown, so you don’t want something that looks unnatural. The idea is to look like you’ve got a slight flush to your cheeks, not to look like you’re painted. My current favorite is Mary Kay’s mineral blush in Sunny Spice ($12,
  • Bronzer: I use a good matte bronzer for contouring under my cheekbones and along the sides of my nose. (It sounds a lot more complicated than it is.) Basically, I load the brush up and sweep it from under my cheekbones in a big C motion up onto my temples, then do the other side and finish it off with a narrow, well-blended stripe down either side of my nose to create shadowing and visually narrow my nose and sharpen my cheekbones. My go-to is Nyx Matte Bronzer in Light ($9, Nyx Cosmetics).
  • Black mascara. I’m currently wearing Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant Lash in Black, but I’m not crazy about it. I’m seriously considering ditching it and going straight to the CK One Signature I have stashed, because the brush on this leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not a big fan of small, “defining” mascara brushes; I want big and plush brushes that give lots of volume, because length I’ve got. I’m also being sorely tempted by the “dial up” mascaras from Ulta and from Rimmel, but I haven’t given in, mostly because I like being able to say that I never pay for mascaras. It’s an ego thing.
  • An eyeshadow palette in neutral shades. Be sure to get one that’s not too dark or too light for your skin tone; the idea with this is to enhance your features, not to show off your warpaint. I’ve been using Rimmel London Glam Eye Shadow Quad in Royal Tea ($5.99, Ulta) as my go-to lately. Love the colors, but with this one it’s super important to use a primer, or it wears off too quickly.
  • An “evening out” eyeshadow set that adds a little more drama. I like to do a nice smoky eye with a Victoria’s Secret eyeshadow quad I picked up a few months ago. The color has been discontinued now, but you can also get a good smoky look with Maybelline’s Expert Wear Eye Shadow Quad in Natural Smokes ($4.99,
  • Eyeliner. I keep a deep chocolate brown to wear with the neutrals and a black that goes with everything. I like cream or gel liners for the way they feel, but I find it a lot more convenient to keep a self-sharpening pencil in my makeup bag. Try Nyx’s retractable eyeliner in Black and Brown, $4.49 each at Ulta.
  • A lipliner in a color that closely approximates your natural lipcolor. The point of lipliner isn’t to match your lipstick. It’s to define your lips and give your lipstick something to adhere to. Mine is almost embarrassingly cheap. It’s Jordana Easyliner in Tawny ($2.19, Walgreens).
  • A “your lips but better” lipstick color. I’ve been really impressed with Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Natural in N9, a gorgeous coppery pink. I got it at Sephora as part of their birthday gift, but I’m definitely going to be dropping the $20 to get a full tube when this is gone.
  • A perfect red lipstick. What shade that’s going to be depends on your skin tone; for me, Kat Von D Everlasting Love Liquid Lipstick in Underage Red ($19, Sephora) is so much the ideal red that when I’ve worn it, other women have stopped me on the street to compliment my lipstick and ask me where to get it. It’s highly pigmented, very long-lasting, and smudge resistant, and it doesn’t dry my lips out. I can’t recommend it enough.
  • An eyebrow filler. I like Benefit’s Brow Zings in Medium ($32, Benefit), but less expensive brands have equivalents that work–I’ve also used one from Wet’N’wild, until I got this one as a gift. The trick is to look at the shade you think you need based on your eyebrow color, and go one lighter, because it’s always going to go on just slightly darker than it looks. I definitely recommend a kit that includes powder and wax, rather than going for just a pencil.
  • Good makeup brushes. They don’t have to be expensive; my $1 Elf brushes from Target work just fine. It’s more a question of getting the right brushes and keeping them clean (washing them once a week is my usual standard). I keep a foundation brush, a big powder brush, a bronzer brush, an eyeshadow brush, and an eyelash/eyebrow brush.

I know this sounds like it’s a huge amount of stuff. Bear in mind, though, that this is a complete wardrobe. Your needs may vary according to your individual situation, but this covers all occasions for me, and anything else I pick up is just for fun.

Never pay for mascara: Money-saving tips to keep your makeup bag stocked

Times are tough out here, and we’re all looking for ways to make a dollar stretch. Fortunately, there are a few ways to make your money count. (Hint: I never, ever pay for mascara!)

1. Watch for gifts with purchase. The department stores run them in the spring and fall, and if you buy their minimum amount (usually a foundation or primer will be enough), they’ll give you lip color, mascara, moisturizer, and an eyeshadow and/or blush. If there’s a product in the gift you don’t intend to use right away, don’t unseal it; even mascaras, with their notoriously short shelf lives, don’t start to go bad until they’re unsealed, because bacteria can’t get in until the seal is broken. I wouldn’t keep them for more than 3-4 months before using them, but if you still have one that’s within its shelf life, don’t feel bad about not opening the new one yet.

2. Get signed up for rewards perks. Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is brilliant, as is Ulta’s ULTAmate Rewards. Ulta’s birthday perk this year is a full-size CK One Signature mascara, which, since I just got the one from Sephora, I’m leaving sealed for a bit. I don’t need it just yet, but I’m excited to try it out when I get to it. With Sephora, your first purchase in-store after signing up gives you a free mini mascara from Benefit Cosmetics, and on your birthday every year, there’s a gift with a free trial-size mascara and some other little makeup item. Last year the gift was from Benefit and had They’re Real! mascara (which I highly recommend) and Watt’s Up highlighter. This year it’s from Make Up For Ever and includes their mascara and a trial size of their Rouge Artist lipstick in color N9, which is a beautiful coppery pink that’s my perfect “my lips, only better” shade. I’ve found some of my favorite products this way.

In addition to the birthday perks, they give you points for every purchase you make, and once you’ve got a certain number of points stockpiled, there’s free stuff and discounts in it for you. I got my rollerball of Elizabeth And James Nirvana White that way–it was a 100 point perk at Sephora. Between birthday perks and gifts with purchase, it’s perfectly possible to have fancy mascara all the time and never have to pay for it.

3. Get friendly with the people at your local makeup stores and department store counters. If you establish yourself as a good long-term customer, they’ll let you know when events are coming up. Sometimes there will be gift set deals that make the designer and department store brands cheaper than drugstore brands.

4. For drugstore brands, watch the sale ads. Buy-one-get-one deals aren’t uncommon at all. Also, watch your Sunday paper, because there are often coupons.

5. Don’t even bother putting your foundation on with those little wedge-shaped sponges. They waste more of the product than they put on your face. Get a foundation brush to apply it; after that, if you need to, you can use a blending sponge to soften up the lines. Likewise, putting your eyeshadow on with a brush instead of those little foam applicators that come with it will help you avoid wasting product.

6. Unless you have sensitivities to certain ingredients, you probably don’t need the best and most expensive of most products. My eyebrow filler is by Wet’N’Wild, and I think I paid maybe $4 for it. My go-to lipliner is by Jordana and runs $3. In most cases, if you’re taking proper care of your skin and have a good quality (not necessarily high-dollar, but not nasty-cheap) foundation and mascara, you can basically use whatever you can afford for the rest. I’ve had plenty of dollar lipsticks in my day, and they’ve never hurt anything.

There are definitely ways to save money on your makeup. If you’ve got more tips, I’d love to hear them!