You might think those super high heels and sleeveless dresses will be great for the office, but unless you want to be teetering up and down the hallways of your internship or be frozen at your desk, take a look at these internship fashion dos and don’ts to make sure your internship is as smartly chic as possible.
Warning: These shoes are higher than they appear!
DON’T: Wear your favorite Louboutins. We’ve all heard it: flip-flops are unacceptable as workwear. That doesn’t mean the opposite is the best idea, either. As much as you love those towering heels (we know, they make your legs look fabulous!), remember, you’ll be in them all day! It’s hard enough running an errand on a tight deadline or carrying a heavy load up the stairs without sky-high heels on, so the last thing you want to worry about is getting a blister or, even worse, making a major faux pas and being known in the office as the girl who can’t walk in heels. The horror! HC Writer Ally Karsyn, a senior at Dordt College, shares a typical footwear story: “I bought a pair of wedge sandals for $50. They are a light metallic gold and go with practically anything. Super cute. But by time I made it to the subway, one of my toes had been rubbed raw. It took over a week for that to heal.”
DO: Be kind to your feet.
The best way to avoid injuries like Ally’s is to seek out comfortable shoes, preferably flats, and make sure you break them in before you start your job. But let’s be real, many collegiettes™ will choose style over comfort any day of the week. If you make the conscious decision to sacrifice your feet in the name of fashion, make sure you bring comfortable shoes for the commute and keep a pair of flats under your desk in case of emergencies. There’s no shame in switching shoes in the elevator — according to an HC poll, 70 percent of women carry subway shoes, and 30 percent keep a spare pair at their desk!
DON’T: Show too much skin.
Founder of Women Rising Sara Bordo, who mentors women of all ages and career stages, says that overly sexy, low-cut shirts and short skirts are definite office no-no’s. “Don't wear something that's too small…even if it's really cute. Chances are if it's too small, it doesn't look as great as you think,” Caroline, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says. Not only will a revealing outfit make your coworkers uncomfortable, imagine walking up the stairs in an itsy-bitsy skirt with your boss behind you…giving your supervisor a glimpse of those panties that say “Kiss Me” across the bum is probably not the best way of kissing up to your higher-ups!
DO: Dress to impress.
Pay attention to how your coworkers dress and keep their level of professionalism in mind as you build your own work wardrobe. “Hopefully you paid attention at the interview to see what others in the office were wearing,” Bordo says. Put the “girls” away by keeping your button-up buttoned up and ditching the Herve Leger bandage miniskirt for a pencil skirt instead.
Just because Snooki can go to work in last night's outfit doesn't mean it's a good idea!
DON’T: Settle with ill-fitting garments.
How you dress is a reflection of who you are, and style isn’t the only aspect of your overall appearance. The way your clothes fit is important, too. Does the hem of your pants drag along the floor? Are your leggings bunching around your knees? Is your shirt so tight you’re having a hard time breathing? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need a wardrobe fix! Second-skin outfits can be uncomfortable to wear all day, and too-loose clothing can make you appear sloppy and disorganized. “[What you wear] says how seriously or not you take the role you’re in. It also says how you want others to perceive you as a fit or not to the office,” Bordo says, adding, “Could you slip into a senior meeting if someone asked you to?”
DO: Test-wear your outfits.
If you are at all concerned about the fit of an outfit — be it a high hemline, a low neckline or a tight waistline — take the look for a test-drive. Sit down. Stand back up. Walk around your room. Now faster! Unless you’re Lady Gaga, a wardrobe malfunction is not advisable at work. Once you’re confident that you can make a mid-morning dash for coffee without suffering a wardrobe malfunction, you’re good to go. Rebekah Meiser, a senior at Ohio University, shows off both style and professionalism without sacrificing comfort. “Search for clothes that are on-trend and professional but comfortable. Stylish, nice shorts are a perfect summer intern staple. Dress it up with a silky top or button-up and fun accessories, and you will be comfortable, will be able to move around easily, and still look chic,” she adds.
Is she wearing the same top...again?
DON’T: Wear the same blazer three times a week.
Every internship requires you to present yourself professionally, but if you’re working in a field such as business that really emphasizes personal presentation, it’s important to show your supervisors and coworkers that you’re not just throwing on the same top every morning before running out the door. If you’re working at a fashion magazine, and you’re not even putting work into your outfit, why should you be the one to work at styling your next client’s look?
DO: Stand out— just not too much.
Depending on how strict your company’s dress code is (some places may have a uniform or a no-frills policy), vary your look a bit. Put the pressed white button-up back in your closet and wear your chiffon bow blouse instead, or opt for high-waisted camel dress pants instead of the same black pants everybody else is wearing. Add color to your accessories without overdoing the bling — if you’re going to wear a turquoise pendant necklace, don’t wear giant bangles, a rock on your finger and a headband à la Constance Billard-era Blair Waldorf.
DON’T: Mix too many patterns.
Unless you work for Missoni or Pucci, steer clear of wild patterns. They can be distracting and because patterns are so dependent upon personal preference, they are inherently more casual than neutral prints. Though a light floral or basic stripes would be perfectly acceptable, it would be best to avoid combinations of bold colors or unusual patterns as they are less professional, especially if you work for a company that requires more conservative attire.
DO: Play up your best colors.
Sure, neutrals are in this season, but who wants to be dressed in nude every day? If deep blue brings out the color of your eyes, don’t shy away from it! Wear the top with a pair of white pants. Is mauve your hue of choice? Wear it with a chocolate brown pencil skirt.
Kirsten Cooper, a rising senior at Emory University, knows where to go to get her career essentials. “J.Crew has a great selection of patterns and colors that can spice up a work-appropriate outfit,” she says. “Even H&M can provide some basics on a budget, which is especially great for those unpaid internships!”
What's your favorite brand, again? DON’T: Flaunt brand names. Dior is your favorite brand — but that doesn’t mean you should strut into your internship in a Dior button-up, flats, tote and watch like you’re working the French label's runway. Overdoing it with any particular brand can make you appear superficial or boastful. In the workplace, you want your coworkers and supervisors to know you for you (and your hard work) rather than as the girl who’ll throw on anything that features a monogram.
DO: Wear your outfit with confidence!
Whether you’re carrying a Chanel tote or a briefcase you picked up at Target, or whether you’re skipping through the office in Manolos (Carrie Bradshaw, if only we had your wardrobe!) or running off to make copies in a pair of classic black heels, be proud of the outfit you’ve put together! What makes an outfit is how you look and feel in it, and if you’re feeling your best, your clothes are probably looking their best.
Regardless of where you’re working this summer, Bordo says there’s a “Golden Rule” of internship attire that every collegiette™ should follow: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” she said. Guess it’s time to see what Anna Wintour’s wearing these days!
Ally Karsyn, Dordt College
Sara Bordo, Founder of Women Rising
Rebekah Meiser, Ohio University
Kirsten Cooper, Emory University