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The 5 Best Clothing Stores For Your Internship Wardrobe

Even if the contents of your closet could clothe a small village, chances are if you’ve never had an internship before, you probably don’t have an office-appropriate wardrobe at the ready. Our street clothes rarely make for good professional wear, so spend these last weeks before your first day shopping for internship wardrobe staples at our favorite budget-friendly stores!

What to wear

Before you shop, you should know exactly what it is you’re looking for. According to Janice Hurley-Trailor, an executive coach and image consultant, the styles you should be sporting at your internship depend on the culture of the company and the office. “If you’re [interning] for Apple, the culture there is very different than if you’re going to [intern] for a company where you’re going to be a financial planner,” Hurley-Trailor notes. “So you want to know first the culture of the company [and then] the general the attire for that culture.”

She suggests erring on the conservative side on your first day, and if you find that the women around you are dressing in more fun, youthful styles, to follow suit. For conservative offices, you can still be true to your personal style when it comes to aesthetic and layering, but avoid loud colors and prints; stick with neutrals and blues, browns, and blacks.

Though the colors and prints of your clothes should depend on the culture of the office, Hurley-Trailor says the staple pieces stay the same no matter where you intern:

  • A pencil skirt
  • A shift dress
  • A blazer
  • A cardigan
  • A pair of pants, tapered or flared (no jeans allowed!)
  • A couple of blouses
  • A pair of closed-toed pumps with a medium-size heel
  • A pair of flats

 

Where to shop

Not one of the lucky ducks with a high-paying internship lined up? No worries! To help you stock up on these wardrobe staples without breaking the bank, we at HC have compiled a list of our favorite budget-friendly, office-appropriate shops.

 

H&M: Best Basics

Consider H&M your one-stop-shop for all of the internship fashion fundamentals. With super low prices and a wide and frequently changing selection, this collegiette favorite always has something to offer. Whether you’re searching for a flowy blouse, a no-frills blazer, a light cardigan, or a standard pencil skirt, you’ll find nice, neutral options in the racks. H&M is a great place to find simple items that you can pair together or with statement pieces.

  1. Jacket in black, $46
  2. Jacket in light beige, $46
  3. Pencil Skirt, $23
  4. Blouse, $23
  5. Skirt, $28
  6. Ankle-length Trouser, $12

 

Forever 21: Best Statement Blazers

When you shop around for a high-impact piece to couple with your basics, look no further than Forever 21’s blazer supply. As Hurley-Trailor advises, it’s important to know first what degree of clothing creativity is acceptable in your office. If you find the environment allows for chic dressing – as is the case with most advertising, media, magazine, PR, and design internships – then a bold or printed statement blazer is a quick and easy way to freshen up your look.

Why is the blazer important? As Hurley-Trailor reminds us, “[If I’m an intern], I’m not wearing anything sleeveless. I might have a sheath dress or a blouse that’s sleeveless, but then in my arsenal is always going to be a blazer.” She continues, “The blazer doesn’t have to be lined – it could be a softer material – but the fit on the clothes above anything else is going to be the most important.” Make sure your sleeves are hitting right at your wrist before you make your purchase!

  1. Three-Button Peplum Blazer, $32.80
  2. Pointed Hem Blazer, $19.80
  3. Cropped Shawl Collar Blazer, $24.80
  4. Tropical Floral Blazer, $32.80

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Express: Best Bottoms

Express is most celebrated for its Suit Shop, which boasts sets and mix-and-match pieces that work for more conservative internships (such as ones in law, banking, HR, government, or corporate settings). If you’re on an unpaid intern’s budget, however, you might find these sets a little hard on your wallet. Fortunately, Express’s impressive and well-stocked Deals & Steals section saves the day with BOGO offers on office-friendly pants and skirts!

Keep in mind that, according to Hurley-Trailor, skirts should reach your knees. You have an inch or two of leeway in less conservative offices, but as always, it’s best to err on the cautious side at first and learn by example from your co-workers.

  1. Cotton Sateen Pencil Skirt, $39.90
  2. Ultimate Double Weave Wide Belt Columnist Pant, marked down from $79.90 to $39.99
  3. Floral Print Columnist Ankle Pant, marked down from $69.90 to $39.99
  4. Tweed High Waist Chain Embellished Skirt, marked down from $69.90 to $29.99
  5. Hi-Lo Hem Pencil Skirt, marked down from $59.90 to $29.99

 

LOFT: Best Petite and Tall Departments

LOFT is a little bit pricier than our other picks, but they offer a wide selection of corporate casual pieces. More importantly, their Petite and Tall sections cater to collegiettes of all shapes and sizes! When buying a pair of pants for the office, the most important thing to be sure of (besides the fact that it isn’t made of denim and riddled with holes) is that it fits! The same goes for tops and blazers.

As Hurley-Trailor notes, “[It’s] important if you’re a woman 5’4” or shorter that you shop only in the petite section because the clothes are cut in proportion to your body. You’re not buying something because it’s trendy but unattractive on your body – you’re buying something for fit.” She gives the same advice for the leggier ladies among us: turn to the Tall section to find clothes that look like they were made for you!

  1. Petite Marisa Casual Cropped Pants in Stretch Cotton, $49.50
  2. Petite Drapey ¾ Sleeve Blouse, $44.99
  3. Petite Ponte Peplum Shell, $44.50
  4. Tall Pleated Cap Sleeve Dress, $49.50
  5. Tall Julie Skinny Pants in Double Weave Cottong, $44.99

 

DSW: Best Shoes

No outfit is complete without the perfect pair of shoes. Unfortunately, your favorite summer sandals won’t make the cut when it comes time to step into the office. Hurley-Trailor emphasizes that closed-toed shoes are a must.

“This is not the time to wear platforms, spiky heels, or a shoe that’s open in the back,” she says. “They can be round-toed, they can be pointed, but they can’t be open.” If you’re going for heels – which Hurley-Trailor suggests as a safe office-friendly shoe – stick with medium-sized heels. If you’re going for flats, make sure they look professional (hint: if they have any denim or crochet on them, save them for Saturdays!).

  1. b.o.c. Batik Lace Flat, $39.94
  2. Jellypop Absolute Flat, $39.95
  3. Mia Seduce Pump, $39.94
  4. Mootsies Tootsies Ideal Pump, $39.95
  5. Mix No. 6 Madeleine Patent Pump, $39.95
  6. Mix No. 6 Stride Flat, $34.95
  7. Mix No. 6 Madeleine Pump, $39.95

 

As Hurley-Trailor explains, “The most important aspect of the internship is the opportunity to expose your skills to potential clients [and employers]. This is as good as it gets for showcasing yourself.” If you want to prove you have what it takes to do a job right, look the part by dressing for success! Stock your wardrobe with these low-budget, internship-ready staples. Your wallet (and your future career) will thank you later!

Kate is the Associate Editor of Her Campus. Before joining the staff full-time, Kate was the Campus Correspondent for the HC Skidmore College chapter as well as an editorial intern, Love editor, and national contributing writer for HC. In addition to her work with Her Campus, Kate has been a Sex & Love stringer and digital editorial intern for WomensHealthMag.com and an Inner Circle Trendspotter for MTV. Kate graduated from Skidmore College summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French. In her spare time, Kate is usually spotted writing fiction, playing tennis, reading pop culture blogs until her eyes hurt, baking cookies, or dreaming up her next travel adventure.
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