Interview with Tory Johnson, Workplace Expert

Shop It To Me recently had the opportunity to interview Tory Johnson, CEO of Women For Hire (, a company that connects employers with bright diverse career women, as well as provides those women with exceptional advice on advancement. Tory is often featured on Good Morning America as their Workplace Expert. We wanted to share her tips with you, which may be useful as many of you start looking for new Fall work wardrobes!

Q: What’s your recommendation of what women should wear for an interview?
Tory: As a first step, before going in for the interview, ask the person interviewing you about the culture and dress code. The HR person or assistant can generally give you a sense of how to dress appropriately. I always tell people that if an environment is business casual, it doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit. Ask over the phone, and you should get some cues/clues of what is appropriate to wear. If you don’t have this information, it’s better to be more formal than casual. This still doesn’t always mean a traditional suit. In certain environments it is expected, but it’s not always mandatory. The most important thing is to look and feel comfortable!

Q: What basic staple pieces should all women own for their work wardrobe?
Tory: A pair of basic black lightweight wool pants. The kind that can be worn all year-round and have a dressy polished look. A few tops that look great with those pants. These can be button-downs, basic sweaters, sweater sets, or other varieties. And a great blazer for when you want to take it up a notch, that you know you can throw on and look great in.

Q: Can you talk about incorporating trends into a work wardrobe?
Tory: Work wardrobe choices are a good way to show your personality and flair. You shouldn’t wear anything too tight or too revealing, as this can lead others to question your judgment. You should strive to appear polished and poised. You can use style choices to make a positive impression or even seem creative. Looking up-to-date is a plus, but it’s not essential to incorporate a trend into your work clothing choices. Unless you’re working in an industry like fashion, advertising, or PR, which tend to be more creative, you don’t always need the latest “it” bag or shoes. It’s better to appear clean, polished, and poised, and you can do this regardless of whether you’re finding your clothing at Target or on Rodeo Drive. A freshly ironed top will look better any day over a wrinkled one, even if the wrinkled one was ten times as expensive! It really comes down to how you put yourself together.
Q: Any stores particularly great for building a wardrobe?**
Tory:Bloomingdale’s and Saks are where I buy almost everything! They have a great selection in terms of both prices and brands, and a good return policy. I really try to buy the right thing on the first try, because otherwise I find myself rarely going back to the store to return it. However, a good return policy is important for those moments when I’m pressed for time or need to buy things in a rush because my kids are with me and not interested in waiting while I browse! People have their favorite spots, and it’s great to know where you personally find the most items that work for you individually.****

Q: What are some tips for shopping during tough economic times?
Tory: To accessorize is a great way to make the most of a budget. Basics and classic pieces seem so much more interesting when paired with fun earrings or a great necklace. I incorporate earrings or jewelry all the time when I’m on the air, as it can keep a more basic outfit unique and allow you to wear it time and time again. Changing your jewelry can also help to easily adapt any outfit to become workplace appropriate. I’ve even found great accessories at street fairs or in teen-oriented stores, like Claire’s. You may not covet these pieces forever, but they will definitely give you pizazz. Everyone has their 1 piece of expensive jewelry, but for every day it’s great to find less expensive accessories that you can afford – sometimes for around $10.

Another fun thing is to trade with friends. It’s not about how much you spend, but the look you convey. A swap party is especially fun for younger women, where every 6 months you bring 5-10 fun accessories to trade. You all go home with something new without spending a penny!