Dress Code: Reader Questions, Answered


This week, we address questions ranging from coats for large chests, to law school interviews, to dressing when your weight’s in flux.

You Wrote:

What do you wear for grad school tours, interviews, and info sessions? I found a few website that made recommendations, running along the business casual side for interviews. But what about all the other part of courting colleges? Applying for grad school is not the same as applying for undergrad, the expectations are different. Also, its winter here in the Northeast (most of the sites I found made recommendations, but they were all warm weather wear) tottering around in high heels and suits in sub-zero, slippery, icy, slushy weather is not going to work. I need to be warm, look professional, and not feel like I’m putting my life in my hands by wearing high heels in the snow.

Ah, the cold-weather interview: a quandary indeed! You’re on the right track with business casual, and I do think this is a case where it’s better to err on the side of conservatism when in doubt. A good rule of thumb for these situations is: one “businessy” element — ie, dressy slacks or a tailored jacket or a good skirt, just to show you mean business. And go easy on jewelry, accessories etc — you want an interviewer focusing on you, withh nothing to distract. This is not the case where you want your bracelet to be a conversation-starter.

Cold weather does complicate things, especially from a shoe perspective. Need I mention fleece tights? I think not, since I’ve already talked your ear off about them. Your other allies will be black boots (under which one may wear multiple socks) and good sweaters: merino and cashmere are both dressy enough, plus thin and sleek enough to go under a jacket. And never forget: there is no shame in switching from wellies to heels in the bathroom.

You Asked:

I’m trying to help my sister with staying warm while she’s in Europe. The problem, she said, was that she can’t find a coat that she can button or zip up. Her breasts (I think they’re G cups) are just too big. We are all stumped. She’s in Ireland right now, wearing a lot of layers under her open coat. I think one day she will really need a jacket or coat.

I’ll say she will! As we all know, coats can be hard to find and they’re all the harder when you’ve got a bigger-than-average bust. For starters, I think Time Out New York has put together one of the best coat guides of the season, so whether you need one or you’re itching for new coat blood, have fun looking!

Now, if you’ve got a big chest, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it single-breasted; you don’t want a bunch of buttons marching across your boobs and pulling insolently.
  • Look for an open neckline. It’s the most flattering and it’s an easier fit.
  • As a rule, go for structure and tailoring rather than a flowing shape — although the latter, belted, can look pretty cool too.
  • Keep it plain: avoid breast-pockets and similar doo-das, although this is really cosmetic, so it’s up to you.
  • If you feel like you’re bigger on top than the bottom, try a flared or princess shape for balance.
  • The tailor is your friend! She can take in shoulders and waists! And at the very least, move buttons.
  • The more buttons, the better. You may even want to have a tailor add a few more — and move the others around — to make sure there’s no gapping. Hidden snaps can do wonders, too.

You Asked:

I have for the past several years struggled with maintaining a steady weight and clothing size and am totally frustrated with what to do about clothes. I don’t really have the means to drop the money on clothes of different sizes, and I also don’t have the space to save all the different sizes i have previously worn “just in case” i need that size again. This is by far the part of the flux in size that gets me down the most, the old look good, feel good, feel good look good conundrum. Clothes that are too small from last fall don’t feel good to wear. Clothes that are too big from last spring don’t look good, they look sloppy. I’ve reverted to creating a uniform of sorts that revolves around jersey: leggings, tank dress, cardigan. But this seems like a separate art/ life project, and also doesn’t really work for all occasions in life, unless approached as said art/ life project.

Thing is, there’s really no one answer to this — most of us do have things in a few sizes — and the other thing is, the outfit you mention is actually a pretty good fallback. So, while I can’t produce a magic garment (although wrap dresses are a lifesaver) I will tell you my own fallback, winter and summer. A printed dress, black tights, a big cardigan and a belt — worn over either the dress or the sweater — always feels pulled-together and cheerful without trying too hard. And if the dress is loose, it really doesn’t matter what size you are. Plus, you can wear boots or ankle boots or even clogs or strappy sandals (over tights) and vary the look.

I hope this helps!

For all of our handy Dress Code guides, go here.

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