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How to dress for a job interview on a £30 budget

Fast fashion may be scorned by many, but the British public still reach for it when we need a quick sartorial fix. My allocated budget of £30 for an interview outfit including shoes did not take me far, however – even Topshop, Next, Zara and Dorothy Perkins, all supposedly stalwarts of affordable fashion, were out.

Quality and cut are tell-tale signs of shoestring shopping. So, at the outset, ascertain your body shape and remember that for less than a fiver, tailors can shorten trouser lengths or adjust a hemline. It may not be Savile Row, but properly fitting clothing will ensure you look more expensively dressed than you are.

There’s no avoiding polyester or other flammable fabrics when shopping on the cheap, though. Black and white helps disguise shiny materials and looks smart in basic cotton. To ensure you stand out among a sea of candidates, try a subtle nod to trends such as graphic checks and stripe.

Unquestionably, your clothes should be clean and ironed, shoes polished and personal grooming attended to; no amount of money can buy you common sense.

Woman's job interview look
Stick to a simple palette. It’s chic and makes your clothes look more expensive. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Pencil skirt

Primark is the Marmite of shopping. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying the desirability of an £8 pencil skirt. Monochrome is the default option for fashion editors when it comes to dressing for work; adopt a similarly chic palette when job interviewing.
£8, Primark


HM has maintained budget-friendly prices yet still has a better sustainability record than most. It’s also a go-to for basic essentials. A round-necked T-shirt is interview-appropriate when properly sized: I recommend going one size up to obviate unsightly body cling.
£3.99, HM


Chain-detail straps add a twist to classic ballerina flats, which are starting to feel antiquated. Matalan has an on trend range of bargain footwear ranging from monochrome brogues to cobalt suede stilettos.
£12, Matalan


Pat Butcher-style costume jewellery has had its day. Unless of course you are interviewing as an extra in Eastenders. Instead opt for drop earrings with pearls, which have undergone a fashion revolution thanks to Céline/Chanel/Simone Rocha’s SS14 take on the age-old accessory.
£6, Asos

Man's job interview look
If you want a tie, you may have to borrow one … Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian


Cheap trousers need to be simple and streamlined; grey sends a more innovative message than black. Those with a bigger budget should head to Uniqlo. They offer a free same-day hem-tailoring service, so there’s no excuse for not getting the perfect fit.
£9, George at Asda


A research study recently revealed that men who wear pink shirts to work earn £1,000 more a year than those who opt for other colours. I thoroughly recommend putting this theory to the test – after you’ve got the job in HM’s classic white version. This slim-fit style set me back £14.99, but they do have cheaper ones in store.
£14.99, HM


Is the tie yesterday’s symbol of conformity? Let’s hope so, because the £30 budget didn’t quite stretch to accessories. Or footwear. When in doubt, borrow from Dad …

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