Help! I need to look professional and I own no suits.

(60 Posts)

Next Friday I am going to go into a room with a copy of my thesis and let two professors tear it apart while I gibber and shake. And then hopefully they're going to tell me I have not totally failed my PhD.

Customarily I believe people wear suits to do this. Or at least something very smart.

I hate trouser suits. I look an idiot in trousers.

I would love to find something that looked a bit 1940s/vintagy - something I would actually want to wear, as opposed to 'corporate uniform' style. Like, if Vivienne Westwood made skirt suits. Which she doesn't, AFAIK. It's allowed to be a bit quirky. At this stage, desperation and the large credit card I've just been sent mean you could probably push my budget quite a long way if you show me the pretties.

I am 5'4ish, size 12/14 with about D/DD bust and a bit of tummy. Dark hair and eyes.

Any help? I am counting on your awesome wisdom.

marfisa Tue 15-Oct-13 19:24:28

No advice sadly as I am hopeless when it comes to fashion. But I haven't seen you on MN for awhile (am I frequenting the wrong forums?) and so I wanted to say hi and best of luck with the viva! Would love to meet up again.

Hope someone more style-savvy comes along with advice. xx

Oh, hello! I was just thinking the same thing. We must be ships in the night. But I've also been quite busy prepping for the viva (and I've been writing a blog about my new project which is fun but a time-sucker).

Thank you so much for the good wishes, really kind. smile

And yes, I'd like to meet up again too.

La Westwood does make skirt suits.....

Wingdingdong Tue 15-Oct-13 19:51:21

I wore a skirt and a jumper to mine. Not a suit though I own several (from the day job). At least one of the examiners wore jeans...

I reckon you should wear a MN scarf. You know, just on the off chance... wink.

Good luck!

duvetheaven Tue 15-Oct-13 19:55:58

How about a v neck vest/ long sleeved t shirt with a scarf and a jacket from Zara? You could easily wear the jacket again then. Um and a skirt in a matching colour?
It is a cliche but I think the accessories will be the key !

Ooh! Thanks stat, I missed that and I'm really not sure how. I'd only looked on net-a-porter and the outlet, I didn't think to look at her own site.

Reckon the tartan one might be a bit much! grin

wing - oh, I should! grin
I know a skirt is quite formal, but speaking to others in my department, most of them were quite formal, so I would feel more confident.

duv - ok, tell me about the accessories! What looks professional? Do I need a smart bag?

A gorgeous designer silk scarf perhaps? I wore a lovely red polka dot valentino one to an interview recently, made me feel fabulous!

duvetheaven Tue 15-Oct-13 20:06:19

I just think if it looks like you have thought about the bag, scarf and earrings and what goes together it will show! I have a good work bag from Matalan for £20. Also, I think some clashing colours look good too. I recently saw shocking pink and red together and thought it looked great. Depends on your personality though!?

tethersend Tue 15-Oct-13 20:14:53

What's your budget?

tethersend Tue 15-Oct-13 20:19:09

I quite like this but it might be a bit loud...

tethersend Tue 15-Oct-13 20:21:53

This is more sober, nicely cut.

OldRoan Tue 15-Oct-13 20:22:42

Hobbs? I'm the same size as you, more or less, and I find their things are really well cut for me.

Blue dress
Camel coloured dress I wouldn't wear it, but strikes me as the right sort of period? With a scarf and some low heeled shoes?
how colourful would you go?!

tethersend Tue 15-Oct-13 20:41:14

What size are you?

This is lovely

tethersend Tue 15-Oct-13 20:50:13

Ignore that last one, get this, it's gorgeous.

omletta Tue 15-Oct-13 20:50:51

I don't have a clue about fashion, but I do work in academia and to be frank, I don't think many academics have mirrors (!) - sorry if that's offensive to anyone! A skirt, jumper and scarf would be fine. Tights, I personally feel are appropriate, and decent shoes, but that could just be me.

Go for what makes you feel great and very good luck. Please come and tell us how it goes.

Minshu Tue 15-Oct-13 22:46:29

You would be unlikely to get to viva stage if your supervisor didn't think you'd get through, surely. Wear something that makes you feel confident smile

I wore my v cheap h&m interview suit for mine many years ago. That was in physics, and the profs were not even vaguely interested in what I wore...

Good luck (not that you'll need luck)

FreshLeticia Wed 16-Oct-13 07:59:45

Wow, I love that Westwood purply skirt suit at the bottom of the page. Shame i work in an area which requires outdoory clothes - I never get to wear professional-looking stuff.

Oh, you are all wonderful! thanks

stat - wow! I've never had a designer scarf. Or even a terribly posh one.

duv - ok, I will think about accessories but might run them past people here, because I don't feel terribly confident.

roan - thanks, good point! I have a few things from Hobbs but find their shapes can be hit-and-miss on me. I'm quite slight and sometimes their stuff falls off my shoulders (and bulges on my tummy, ok! grin).

tethers - you lovely woman, I am so glad you saw this cos you always have good suggestions. I really like the first one. I said I was size 12-14 and in her sizes, I have a (very cheap from Bicester village) jacket from Anglomania and it's a 42. It is proper tight though, so for interview clothes maybe a 44.

Pity cos the grey suit is lovely.

om - thanks for the encouragment. smile And the point about tights! I didn't think, actually, so that helps.

And misha It's not really for the academics - it's for me, I want to feel confident. Does that make sense?

fresh - ooh, I never thought I could pull that one off. I do like the Westwood suits but my favourite shapes are in the colours I am not brave enough for (red tartan?! grin). I might think about the purple though.

marfisa Wed 16-Oct-13 09:30:16

I agree that on one level it doesn't matter what you wear, but yes, an outfit that you know you look good in can make a huge difference to your own confidence. When I was applying for the job I have now, one of my colleagues told me, "I really want to help you get this job" and I immediately said to her, "Can you come to the shops with me and help me choose an outfit?" I was delighted when she said yes - I had always admired her sense of style. The dress I ended up with wasn't even that expensive (£40?) but it's still one of the most flattering things I own.

Yes, that's what I was trying to articulate, marfisa! And that's a lovely colleague of yours.

I think for me, I've got dressing in my own style pretty much down, but usually I am not trying to look professional. My old supervisor also says to use it as a dry run for interviews, which sounds good to me.

I am still being unsure about the actual VW suits, so if anyone sees anything like them elsewhere, I really like her sort of tailoring, just slightly less out-there fabric! grin

I do love the Warehouse one so keeping an eye on that.

tethersend Wed 16-Oct-13 10:31:56

Am trying to work out VW sizing... What's an Italian 48? That grey one has caught my eye...

Oh, and what's your top budget, LRD?

Net-a-Porter reckons an Italian 48 is a UK 16. Though IIRC Anglomania and Red Label are different sizes (Anglomania 42 is Red Label 44), so I am still not quite sure. It's not a label I have much chance to look at usually! grin

I think my top budget might be, erm, quite high if it's something really nice that I will wear again. This is because I am a bad feminist and a kept woman, and DH quite liked the VW black suit (which I don't think I do), so would presumably be ok with that price.

moondog Wed 16-Oct-13 11:56:19

For future reference, the John Lewis website is fantastic as it sells clothes by all the major brands and you can refine your search according to colour, brand and so on and browse hundreds of designs in the comfort of your own home. I loather shopping and this is how I buy most of my clothes. Also free p&p, free returns and fantastic customer service.

Best of luck. How exciting to get the thesis in!
What will you do now with all your free time?!

Great website

Thank you!

And it isn't future reference - I am definitely still looking. So please, do keep coming with suggestions, I really need them.

And thanks very much. I am already started on my new project, which I think it's fair to say is inspired by MN, so that's what I'm doing in my free time! smile

There was a lot of suit wearing going on in the 40's but if you hate suits then I would suggest a tea dress which is any dress with a nipped in waist that flares out with toning tights and high Mary Jane courts or bare legs in summer. Smart and elegant and still appropriate for work without the need to wear a suit. Can be worn with a cropped cardy in winter. Patterned or plain with buttons down the front or not, long or short sleeved...all variations on a theme of fit and flare dresses.

Oh, I don't hate suits - I just can't do trouser suits. Or trousers at all. I own two pairs of jeans but other than that I have not worn trousers for about five years and probably owned all of two pairs in this millenium. They really, really do not work on me.

I love tea dresses, but I would quite like a suit just to feel grown up, I think. I know it is more formal than I strictly need, but hopefully I can find something I will wear and keep.

tethersend Wed 16-Oct-13 19:27:23

Why not give Bicester a ring and find out if they have any VW skirt suits in?

Will do - didn't know if that was cheeky. I live nearby so not hard.

tethersend Wed 16-Oct-13 19:35:45

Ooh, that must be tempting!

Have rung the DVF shop a few times to see if they have any dresses I want in (they never do!)- can't hurt to give them a call.

Thanks, that's really good to know. And yes, it is tempting! grin Mostly I go there to get Karen Millen stuff for 20 quid, but I have done a lot of window shopping too.

BOF Wed 16-Oct-13 19:39:42

Something like this?. Bit pricey, mind. They have a London store so you could go and have a look.

BOF Wed 16-Oct-13 19:44:12
Reality Wed 16-Oct-13 19:49:37

No, no, from that site you need the LRD! Can't paste on my phone for some reason but search vintage for the Red figure hugging dress, it's called the LRD.

It's made for you.

Reality Wed 16-Oct-13 19:50:41

The first site BOF linked, I mean.

Reality Wed 16-Oct-13 20:04:45

Ohhhh. You lot are amazing.

BOF, I love that pinstripy dress.

I love the LRD too, but possibly not for the viva! grin

ShreddedHoops Wed 16-Oct-13 20:21:20

I had a similar situation recently - first interview in about ten years and am currently a SAHM!

I went for a dress (cheap-ish but I love it and will wear again) and a really good suit jacket that will be forever useful.

Maybe that's an option? Get a VW jacket you love from the website, then take it with you shopping and try on lots of lovely dresses. Maybe a bright shift, or a DVF type wrap or drapey thing, whatever floats your boat. I'd personally avoid floral prints - big flowers or 'ditsy prints' <shudder> as I think they look a bit chaotic, but most day dresses with a good jacket, opaques and good shoes (maybe Mary-Jane or a small chunky platform, or a basic court if you'll wear it again?) will be a better investment. Plus if you start sweating during your viva you can remove the jacket and be wearing a fab dress! Just a watch, or a statement necklace if a plain dress, and you'll rock it. Good luck wink

Oh, bollocks. Pinstripe dress is made to order in 2 weeks. Lesson to me to be organzied.

shredded - that's a great thought, I might very well do that.

And thanks for the good luck. smile

tethersend Wed 16-Oct-13 20:56:23

Oh, Fuck the budget.

Trills Wed 16-Oct-13 20:57:55

I didn't wear a suit.

I got the piece of paper that said "do some small writing stuff and show it to us and then we'll give you the better piece of paper that says you're allowed to graduate"

Erm ... DH's response was not repeatable! grin

(Gorgeous, though ... but that's about twice what I paid for my wedding dress!)

trills - I would like that piece of paper too! smile

tethersend Wed 16-Oct-13 21:00:50
Trills Wed 16-Oct-13 21:01:25

Have I recommended Dressipi to you?

Put in your measurements and it'll compare them to all the different brands' size guides and tell you what size you need (and give you advice about what shapes suit you, etc).

Almostfifty Wed 16-Oct-13 21:01:31 has some good businesses on it, that might just have a lovely, lovely dress.

tethersend Wed 16-Oct-13 21:03:10


Trills Wed 16-Oct-13 21:03:29

My viva was a bit shit actually, but it was only 3 hrs 20 minutes of shitness and then I got the bit of paper that I wanted and then I went and got really rather drunk.

Not so keen on those, tethers - the cut on the Armani and the colour/fabric on the VW. Sorry, I am massively picky!

trills - you have no recommended, thank you! Sorry to hear yours was shit. I imagine they're never exactly relaxing fun. I am kind of using this to distract me a bit.

almost - thank you! Looks like my sort of site.

Chubfuddler Wed 16-Oct-13 21:08:17

I'm a solicitor and I never wear suits. I only wear dresses to work, Boden is ideal if you avoid the prints.

Trills Wed 16-Oct-13 21:15:21

Do you have post-PhD boozing sorted out? Tis tres important.

Thanks chub, will have a look.

trills - I have post-PhD feminist conferencing. Same difference. grin

BOF Wed 16-Oct-13 21:35:51

I remember boozing with you, Trills grin

Trills Wed 16-Oct-13 21:41:38

A good memory I hope grin

Trills got MN boozing? envy

Right, so given that the lovely pinstripe dress won't turn up in time, and when I rang VW at Bicester they said they have jackets but no suits, I am thinking of following the suggestion for a nice dress, maybe with a smart jacket over it.

Questions (if I may, I know I am being so picky!):

- when you wear a smart jacket over a dress, do you think they ought to match in colour?
- Is black too boring?

I found this and quite like it (it came up after I looked at BOF's sites, so thanks!

tethersend Thu 17-Oct-13 22:58:42

Had forgotten about Austin Reed- one or two nice bits.

This dress has a matching jacket, although is smart enough without one...

Or how about a matching waistcoat and skirt over a pussybow blouse?

tethersend Thu 17-Oct-13 22:59:33

Dress and jacket don't necessarily need to match

Black is a bit boring, but could work if the cut is good.

Trills Fri 18-Oct-13 00:17:52

I just boozed and then came onto MN - anyone who happened to be online got to laugh at me grin

Thanks tethers.

And I'll go look at the Austin Reed, thanks!

trills - ahh, I see. grin Sounds fun.

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