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How to Afford Dressing for your Internship or Field Work

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Elizabethtown chapter.


We hate talking about it sometimes, but everyone should to do it at least sometime during their college career: internships and field work. Whether you’re doing it for a semester, or years, it takes a lot. Job shadowing, working at an office or for a company or being an assistant are just common positions, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Having to wake up before the sun is in the sky, sometimes travel a certain distance and endure a few hours a week of work for the sake of college credits isn’t always the best. There’s some things I can’t help you with, like what company you should intern for, but if there’s something I know from doing 40+ hours of field experience, it’s how to dress for the job. As college students, our finances are limited, and we can’t afford a number of business casual wear, so here’s a cheat code for how to look professional on a budget.

Thrift stores

Just here in E-town, we have our own Goodwill and Frugal Finds, and there’s countless thrift stores elsewhere. Most of the dresses they have are more 1980’s prom-style, but they definitely can provide nice blouses, blazers, cardigans and jewelry for cheap. The best thing is that, besides cheap products, thrift stores usually have sales on certain items often year-round because they’re always getting more stock.

Cheap jewelry

I know not everyone trusts those online shopping stores that are unusually cheap, but hear me out; some of them aren’t so bad. If you haven’t heard of Wish or Romwe, they sell decent products for crazy low prices, but honestly the jewelry is much more dependable than their clothing. If you want something more trustworthy but not expensive, try Fashion Nova or Missguided US. If you’re not into shopping online, Primark and Payless always have decent jewelry, and they’re more business casual than Forever 21.

Hairstyles and makeup

If you’re not into overcompensating on your outfit as much, or maybe you are and want to be extra, doing something to your face and hair always changes your whole appearance. Makeup doesn’t have to be heavy or a statement, but remember you’re a woman in the workplace and you can look however the hell you want to look. Hair always looks professional pulled into a bun, and if you think that doesn’t flatter you, pin back the front of your hair, so it’s not in your face.

What about seasons?

Your outfits during the winter are going to have to be different than in warmer months, but you don’t have to buy all new pieces in order to be comfortable with the temperature. The clothes you wear in the spring can be layered with cardigans and coats. Put thick tights under dresses and skirts and wear boots instead of flats. Scarves are also really easy to pair with a business-casual look.

One pair of shoes

If you don’t have the money to buy fancy boots, heels, and a variety of flats, then literally just stick to one pair of shoes. Do what I do, which is change shoes after your commute, so you can protect your feet from the rain or snow, then wear your business casual shoes to your location. The most important thing to remember with shoes is not that they have to be expensive or perfect, just make sure they’re always clean.

Rely on statement pieces

Remember that not everything you wear has to be top-notch. Any random pair of slacks or pencil skirt with cheap, clean flats and a nice, stainless blouse is all you really need most days. If you want to stand out and have something special, have one statement piece, not four. A nice blazer in a bright color, a big necklace, a pin on your blouse, a shiny clip in your hair; small simple things like that. It’ll make all the difference, trust me.

What should an outfit look like?

As women, sometimes we’re taught that your appearance matters more than the rest of you, but don’t fall into that belief. Your appearance is usually the first impression someone has of you, so it’s important to put thought into it, but overall your outstanding work means all the more. Nonetheless, if you’re completely lost on fashion, business casual wear is really easy to accomplish. Any dress that isn’t a gown can work with a cardigan, and any slacks can work with a blouse that isn’t clashing in color or print. You could easily make a number of outfits with just a skirt, slacks, three or four blouses, a dress and a cardigan and a blazer. If all else is lost, observe how others at your location dress and follow their example.

Okay, but what about the first day?

The first day, especially if there’s an interview involved, always matters the most. Something I was told was to wear one thing that was sparkly, like a pin or earrings, so the person you’re speaking with has something to look at and it lessens eye contact by a small percentage. It’s always helpful to wear one thing with color or a print, so it makes you easier to remember? What was the name of that awesome woman I saw last thursday, the one in the bright blue shirt? Ah, yes, Sarah.

Be energized and smile!

Overall, remember, the world won’t fall apart if you aren’t dress in expensive, high-class wear. The thing that matters the most is that you dress like yourself, because then you’ll be comfortable and confident, and when you’ve got that, everything else falls into place. The most important thing to wear is a smile with full eyes, and go take on the world, girl!

Jennifer Davenport

Elizabethtown '21

Campus Correspondent for the Her Campus club at Elizabethtown College. Jennifer is part of the Class of 2021, and she's a middle level English education major, with a creative writing minor. Her hobbies include volunteering, watching YouTube for way too many hours, and posting memes on her Instagram. She was raised in New Jersey, lives in New York, and goes to college in Pennsylvania, so she's ruined 3 of America's 50 states. She's an advocate for mental health, LGBT+ rights, and educational reform.
Kristen Wade

Elizabethtown '19

Kristen Wade is a senior Communications major with a concentration in PR and a minor in Graphic Design at Elizabethtown College. Kristen loves hiking, shopping, and baking. After graduation, Kristen hopes to work in digital marketing.