It’s always difficult adjusting to the “world of work” fashion after the freedom of dressing how you like at university. In the past, I’ve turned up to job interviews wearing awkwardly formal clothes so as to not feel underdressed. The reality is it’s essential to make a good impression, but what you wear does not need to weigh you down.
Some industries are more casual than others. I have interned at a content marketing company, where I expected smart trousers and non-trainers to be the minimum. As it transpired, the creative industries are more informal – there was a heatwave while I was working, and the office was met with everything from shirts to shorts and sandals.
Now that summer is here, you may have some time in an office coming up and be wondering about the correct internship attire. After all, when adjusting to the etiquette of an alien work environment, the last thing you need is stress over a correct blazer or loafer combination. Here are some practical tips for creating comfortable, chic and classy outfits for internships or summer work experience.
1. The first day
The first day can be tricky as you probably haven’t had time to work out the “vibe” of the office – how smart people dress and what is expected of you. It’s best to play it safe with a smart-casual look. You might also find some shiny stock photos of staged office workers online on the company’s website, which can help you ascertain how formal it is. If they don’t emphasise being particularly sophisticated or dressy, that’s probably because they’re not. It might be worth checking out more affordable second-hand options if you don’t have formal shoes. Schuh’s “imperfects”, also known as ex-display, offer shoes with minor scuffs for around half the price.
2. Finding inspiration on Pinterest and TikTok
A recent competitor to magazines, most of us are turning to TikTok or Pinterest when it comes to fashion inspiration. Pinterest is great for building boards of workwear styles you like and helps you to approach the task more as something to enjoy rather than an ordeal. Many items you already own can be adapted to create a smarter outfit. TikTok is also great for seeing what people wear daily in the office, with outfits of the day or specific companies like the online magazine Sheer Luxe’s page having an active TikTok page showing off office looks.
3. Budget-friendly buying
Being a student means you don’t want to shell out for specific new pieces when you will likely not even get a proper wage. Besides charity shops, sites like Vinted are a great place to look for “trendy” items by searching keywords, as sellers might not be aware they’re sought after, unlike high-street stores. If you need to get some basics that you will use for a while, shops like Pull and Bear and Stradivarius have “smart” and “dressy” filters you can apply when browsing their trousers and tops. Also, I can’t emphasise the importance of raiding the wardrobes of older family members – you might find some hidden treasures there!
4. Suit yourself
While some jobs are more casual, like marketing and arts, if you are mainly client-facing or have many external meetings, you’ll probably be informed of a business casual or business professional (or formal) dress code. Think of treating your wardrobe as an investment. For example, a career in law will require fancier clothes for the foreseeable future. The clothes you buy for internships now can be worn to the office after graduation to maximise their use.
5. Heat-proof outfits
An internship in the summer comes with the risk of handling a heatwave in workwear. Although you may be blessed with air-con in your office, the commute and frantic rushing around require cool formal clothes. Choosing light-coloured clothing and fabrics like cotton and linen make the outfits more chic and comfortable. You can definitely get away with shorts, too, as long as they’re smart-looking.
At the end of the day, if you’ve managed to secure an internship or work placement for the summer, congratulations! I hope these tips help you feel more comfortable and confident while dressing up for internships. Equally, if you haven’t, don’t stress! There are always other ways to improve your employability or simply enjoy some well-deserved time off.