Dressing for a job interview can be a daunting task, but often has straightforward solutions, like wearing simple, streamlined suits with delicate accessories that don't overpower the look. Dressing for an interview at a startup, however, is an entirely different game. Startup offices are notoriously casual, which can be fun once you get the hang of, put how do you put your best foot forward when you don't know if heels are a no-no there? I'll show you what to do.
(Thanks to @caricakes for the idea!)
Do wear... darkwash denim.
Black denim or jeans in a dark wash perfectly toe the line between professional and casual, and in a sleek cut, like a skinny or flared pant, look office-ready without being too dressed up. Make sure the pair is in good shape, without rips or too much fade, or they'll risk looking sloppy.
If you don't feel like wearing jeans, great! Try linen slacks or cullottes, but nothing that feels like seperates you would ordinarily pair with a blazer. A skirt is fine too, but steer clear of short hems, and also avoid pencil skirts to eschew that office cliché.
Don't wear... light wash or distressed denim.
Light wash and distressed jeans can look totally fashion-forward, but also have too many casual associations to wear them to an interview. You might end up wearing those amazing ripped jeans to the office, but you'll look too thrown-together and not polished enough for this first step with your knees poking through (albeit carefully orchestrated) rips.
Do wear... a chambray button up or silky pullover tee.
What top to wear is all about wearing something that's almost a workwear staple, but not quite. If you want to go with a button-up blouse, pick a casual material like chambray, denim, or linen. You can accessorize with a cool (not pearl) necklace peaking out of the collar. If you aren't so into the button-downs, a silky top is fine, but go for a casual cut like a pullover with short sleeves or a silky muscle tee, as long as the neck is high enough to keep it modest. Printed or solid works for either kind of top, and a print will make it a little more fun than a basic black or white.
Do wear... oxfords or heeled booties.
For cooler days, heeled booties are a great mix of classy and casual, but are perfectly appropriate all the same. A sleek black pair with a chunky heel is great, and a thinner heel is fine, but make sure you can walk comfortably in them, and they don't look too thought-through.
Oxfords are also a great option, because they look professional but aren't as office-cliché as ballet flats. Basically, you want to give the impression that you wear looks like this regularly, and have a polished appearance, rather than seeming like you poured over your closet to find an "interview outfit" that's more secretarial-chic than your authentic style.
Don't wear... classic high heels.
This is just not the environment for your Mad Men-worthy slingbacks or office-ready peeptoe pumps. They'll look like you're trying too hard to nail down the "office" look, which isn't even a look they have going in their offices. (Note that Victoria Beckham's look above is perfect for a regular office job interview! It's totally wrong for this occasion, however.)
That being said... don't wear sneakers either!
You don't know how casual this office gets, but sneakers, even super stylish kicks, aren't safe for an interview. They might totally work with a shirtdress and cool jewelry once you get the job, but in the meantime, stear clear of that too-casual staple.
Do wear... a leather or suede jacket.
This is the fashionable and polished finish your interview look needs. A crisp moto jacket will look professional but still relatively casual, giving the impression that you're put together but don't try too hard. Make sure what you're wearing under the jacket isn't too revealing, or you might be sweating through the sleeves to avoid removing it in a warm office.
Don't wear... a blazer.
Blazers are the number one workwear cliché, and while they're a must-have in the wardrobes of most, they're only out of place in a startup's offices. The aforementioned leather jacket will be the professional jacket you need, but a blazer will only make you look out of place, and quite frankly, wrong for the job. Startups are about dedication and passion to the product, and dressing like you're at the front desk of a law firm means you don't really understand the workplace.
Wear pieces that you feel comfortable and confident in. I would advise against buying something new for the interview, because you never know if those shoes will make you wobble in them until they're broken in, or if that new blouse will itch around the collar. The employer will be able to tell when you're uncomfortable, and while the outfit is important, your attitude and what you have to say are most important. A good outfit gives you the boost you need to remind yourself how awesome you are, but use that to speak your mind and make eye contact with the interviewer, not with your new shoes.