When her clients are figuring out what to wear for a job interview, Seattle-based wardrobe stylist Tannya Bernadette recommends that they check their own closets first.

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When her clients are figuring out what to wear for a job interview, Seattle-based wardrobe stylist Tannya Bernadette recommends that they check their own closets first. Why spend the money on a new blazer, shirt or tie if it’s unnecessary?

Freshen up that suit hanging at the back of your closet with a few small, new additions instead. “A good shirt is one inexpensive item of clothing that can help update a business suit,” Bernadette says.

You could go with a crisp or textured white or cream button-up, says Pat Tonnema, a Bellevue-based personal shopper. “White signals trustworthy, clean, calm, reliable,” she says.

But color can spruce up an outfit as well. “Flattering color near the face is extremely important,” Tonnema says. “Pretty and pleasing to the human eye gives a subtle psychological advantage.”

Women stand out in raspberry, teal, violet and turquoise tones, she says; men make an impression in slate blue, charcoal, burgundy and chocolate colors. Skip washed-out hues such as beige and tan.

If you haven’t worn the suit in five years, it’s probably too big, too small, too wide or too boxy, Bernadette says. Styles change, and so do our bodies.

If you’re going to splurge, pick up a new shirt or a good, well-fitting jacket, Bernadette says; they can be worn on interview day and on the job.

When nice, new duds are needed, don’t forget the new (to you) option: consignment shops. Alexandra’s, a designer consignment boutique in downtown Seattle, offers high-end suits ranging from $99 to $299.

In Bellevue, the suit rack at Your Sister’s Closet displays professional outfits from size 2 to XL. Recently, a Banana Republic suit was on clearance for $30, while a Calvin Klein jacket-and-pants combo was $71.

Men’s business suits are sold alongside women’s suits at places such as Take 2 on Capitol Hill, where prices range from around $68 to $120, depending on the fabric quality, designer and the item’s condition. Le Frock, also on Capitol Hill, offers women’s and men’s suits in store brands through high-end designer — along with the important extras, such as ties and cufflinks.

Call first; many consignment shops don’t sell business suits, and at others, supply can be sparse. “Thorough searching is necessary, but well worth the effort,” Tonnema says.

Such stores are also a great place to score shoes. A bonus: The pumps or oxfords are already broken in. “No limping, no blisters,” Tonnema says. Pick high-quality shoes; they’re more likely to last after you’ve filled out the HR hire forms.
Consignment isn’t the only deal in town. It’s possible to pick up dress shoes on the cheap at Macy’s and DSW, says Bernadette, who adds that getting a professional shoe polish takes the budget outfit up a notch.

For professional suit and accessory bargains, check the sales racks at Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Men’s Wearhouse and Macy’s, Tonnema suggests.

Other options: “JC Penney is doing a pretty good job of staying up-to-date with clothing and accessories, and you can find affordable things there,” Bernadette says. Low-priced H&M also offers trendy dress apparel.

For a good haircut, look to name-brand training institutes, which offer inexpensive styling at the hands of supervised trainees. At Gene Juarez Academy in Mountlake Terrace (recently moved from North Seattle) and Federal Way, a shampoo and cut starts at $14. At Gary Manuel Aveda Institute on Capitol Hill, a new ’do runs $16-$22.

Ultimately, your appearance has more to do with how you wear your interview ensemble. “You must feel good in what you pick out,” Bernadette says. If you have the confidence, you may well get the job.