Summer Associate Style: What to Wear For Your Internship

Summer Associate Series: What to Wear For Your Internship | CorporetteWhat should you wear for your internship or summer associateship?  Welcome to the first installment of our Summer Associate Series! Name aside, we hope this series will be helpful to ANY intern, whether you’re a law student or another woman interning in a conservative office for the summer. First up in our series: WHAT TO WEAR? How can you build your wardrobe without going bust?  What’s the best way to look professional on a budget?

Finally, you may want to check out some of our guides, which are updated regularly (unlike posts) –

Finally, that’s a lot to unpack, but you don’t have to worry about EVERYTHING: there is such a thing as overthinking what’s professional, like the person who wondered whether a water bottle could be unprofessional. Oh yes, and you may want to check out our guide to how to have a great first day on the job.

Readers, what advice would you give summer associates and other interns on what to wear, what not to wear? Readers who ARE interns or summer associates, what are the biggest areas of confusion for you? (Any posts from above that we should revisit more in depth, or give a more current take on?)

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N.B. PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS ON TOPIC; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course I highly value all comments by my readers, I’m going ask you to please respect some boundaries on substantive posts like this one. Thank you for your understanding!

Comments

  1. Ebro fin says:

    I hope this qualifies under the make-up category! Think about the length of your nails. Super long doesn’t look professional, but at the very least, learn how to shake hands without stabbing people with your nails. This happens to me almost every summer and it always freaks me out a bit.

  2. Equity's Darling says:

    Our summer student started a month ago, so this is a bit late maybe, but she’s been pretty appropriate so far.

    One of the women in another group has a very pink wardrobe, and while fashionable and appropriate, I have started calling her Elle Woods in my head, because she wears an article of pink every.single.day.

    Also, the men all have pants that are way too tight, in my opinion, though I know this is a site for women, I think that message should be passed on to the male summers.

    • tesyaa says:

      Tight pants (for men) are apparently in style now.

    • I’ve been seeing a lot of too tight suits on men in court lately and I agree – not a good look. There’s a difference between fitted and modern and looking like your button is going to pop off and hit me in the eye. Also, this isn’t a look that works for all men, body wise, which I think they aren’t used to realizing since so much of men’s clothing works universally.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh yes, I’ve been having the hardest time finding pants and suits for my SO now that slim cut is in fashion. His legs are very muscular (cyclist legs are the best), so slim styles in the correct size just don’t look right. And he has the hardest time understanding this, because he’s so used to just picking up a pair in the right size and it looking fine.

        Meanwhile, finding pants for women has always been confusing. My most recent pair of pants from Gap fit really well in one color/fabric, so I bought another color online and came to find that they were a totally different fabric that made the fit totally different. Ugh.

  3. I actually just wrote a blog post on this topic because I had a lot of fun putting together my summer associate wardrobe and thought I did a pretty good job. The link in my name sends you to my full post, but in summary, I think the following 10 basic pieces are a good place to start for a summer associate:

    1, 2 and 3: 3-piece suit (jacket, pants and skirt) that is not your interview suit. (If your interview suit was black, look for a blue suit, if your interview suit was navy blue, get a black pinstriped suit, etc. This is assuming that (like me) the only suit you owned prior to starting your summer associate position is your interview suit. I quickly found out that I needed at least 2 suits to make it through the summer.)
    4: colorful (ie not black, white or cream) cardigan (because all black gets boring)
    5: neutral-colored work dress (can be a sheath, A-line, etc – whatever looks good on you in a color that is very classic and matches with most of your closet)
    6: button down blouse that is not white (since you probably already have a decent white button down somewhere in your closet, and I found the basic white blouse quickly got very boring).
    7: office-appropriate “t-shirt” or shirt with sleeves that you can wear under your suits (lets you take off your jacket in the office)
    8: nude-for-you pumps (because it’s summer and you don’t want to always wear black pumps, but these will still look very neutral)
    9: statement necklace (always useful to dress up any outfit)
    10: classy clutch that can double as a large wallet (use it when you go out to those nice summer associate lunches instead of hauling a huge tote. Also useful when you need somewhere to keep your blackberry and ID card at a post-work cocktail party).

    • Sydney Bristow says:

      I agree with the vast majority of your list, but would personally skip #6. I’ve never been able to find a button down blouse that fits me correctly, and don’t even wear one for interviews. If you can’t get one that fits appropriately or don’t have the time/money to get one altered then I think you can skip this.

      Also, I think flats can be completely professional and heels are not a necessity. I’m more likely to notice the woman who either can’t walk in heels or is clearly in pain than I am to notice someone is wearing flats.

      • Tummy tuck says:

        Note to our summers: there are heel heights b/w flats and 3+”. When you constantly complain about heels being tricky to walk in or hurting your feet, I think you are doing it wrong.

        • If there are I’d love someone to show me where to buy them! I’m stuck in flats because I can’t find any low heels

          • Naturalizer is a go to brand for me for comfortable low and medium heel heights. Not super trendy, but good for basics, IMO.

          • I get my low heels at the Nine West outlet store. Nine West sells a different line at the outlet, and they fit me so much better than regular Nine West shoes, so I shop exclusively at the outlet now. Anyway, I love their low heels.

          • anon-oh-no says:

            there are lots of brands that make low heels. my favorite kitten heels are stuart weitzman. i probably have 6 pair in the 1-1.5 in range.

            i just ordered two pair of ivanka trump “indico” pumps from the nordstrom sale. they come in tons of colors and are 2.5 inches. i have them in red and they are super comfy, particularly for less than 100 bucks.

            Ferragamo Vara pumps are also only 1.5 inches and super comfortable.

          • Anonymous says:

            I would love a pair of Vara pumps, but holy too-expensive-for-a-summer-associate-shoes batman! Anyone know of a good knock off, or similar shoe at a more internship friendly price point?

          • cbackson says:

            Honestly, if you shop online…this is not a problem.

          • anonsg says:

            If you’re on a budget, Payless!! Their pumps are not that high, surprisingly comfortable, and super cheap.

            Also if you tend to have small feet, you can look at childrens shoes – they actually have some (like at Target, sometimes at outlet stores) that are low pumps that actually look “adult” so to speak – there are usually some with no flowers, sparkly rhinestones, or velcro.

          • I can’t shop online for shoes because I have really difficult feet. I probably reject 85% of the shoes I try on, and that’s excluding the ones I see that look nice in pictures or on the shelf and then I pick them up and see the shape better and I know it’s not worth trying on.

            I’m so jealous of people who can shop for shoes online!

    • I don’t own a button down blouse. They look horrible on me. I had a couple that I wore for interviews in law school but I quickly abandoned them when I realized it was ok to wear silk shells instead, even for interviews.
      I’m not sure a summer associate needs 2 suits. If you’re in a business casual office (particularly in a more casual place, like California) you may not have to wear a suit the entire summer. I think I wore a suit twice all summer, on my first day and when I got to go to court to observe a hearing. My interview suit was fine for those occasions. I didn’t get a second suit until I had been practicing for close to a year I think.
      I’m not sure the t-shirt pictured is really appropriate for an office, even a bus casual one, except on casual Friday, but then again I don’t really believe in the concept of a “dressy t-shirt.” If its inappropriate to wear a t-shirt, I think you should wear a silk shell, sweater or blouse. If a t-shirt is appropriate, I think any plain (i.e. non-logo) t-shirt that isn’t too low cut is fine.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m loving a button up blouse that I bought at Target that is polyester chiffon. I also have issues with making crisp cotton button ups looking right on me. But this one drapes much better.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think I mentioned this before but I am really loving the site Twice (www.liketwice.com) for great, affordable used pieces. This could be a great place to pick up high quality pieces at secondhand prices.

  5. EC MD says:

    I think summer associate wardrobe, or any summer internship, is an okay time to buy cheap. Many of us who are more established in our careers definitely skew towards though “oh, buy fewer high quality things” but I think if you are a broke broke broke student and need to look professional, a few cheaper (not trashy looking, but less expensive) pieces can get you through a summer, especially if you are building a wardrobe from scratch. Looking at the Limited, Target, even Old Navy, you could pick up things that will last you through the summer season. The items might not wear well for the long term, but you don’t need them for the long term. Most important make sure you are picking things that aren’t too tight, aren’t too clubby, etc.

    • Agreed — my summer associate wardrobe came from the Chadwick’s catalog and Marshall’s and I wore Easy Spirit pumps.

      • tesyaa says:

        I’m not sure what is wrong with Easy Spirit pumps in the first place.

        • a passion for fashion says:

          So, so many things. Though in fairness, cost is no where near the first one that comes to mind.

        • We had a store at the mall and it closed. Not sure why or where it went, but it helped to have a real store instead of zappos. I used to take public transit and wore East Spirits and not flip flops for my commute. I sense that they are seen as the province of older ladies and don’t often see them mentioned here by anyone. But at one point I had high and low heels, each in black and navy, and they were great.

    • hoola hoopa says:

      Agree x1000. I’d also rather see my interns alternating the same two outfits rather than wear weekend bbq or clubbing outfits.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh yeah. I’m starting my (unpaid) summer job next week and I have been hunting the clearance sections at Nordstrom Rack and Target. I don’t absolutely love everything I’ve bought, but at least it all has appropriately high necklines, which is hard to find for my particular anatomy (not size so much as placement). It’s enough to get me through the summer.

  6. Lily student says:

    Thank you Kat!
    As I have to relocate for my internship, would it be a terrible idea to buy just enough to get me through a week and a half and plan to shop the first weekend I’m there?
    Am I likely to need evening wear? I’ll be in Edinburgh, if that makes a difference

    • If you are going to a foreign country, I’d be weary of only bringing enough for a week (unless you have shopped in that city before). Higher clothing prices, and a different demographic can make finding affordable work clothes difficult.

    • Woohoo! Can we have a this site meet-up when you arrive? I think Edinburgh is pretty informal, most people working in government seem to be in dresses + cardigans and pencil skirts / blouses / flats. The shopping is pretty decent although everything is pretty summery in stores at the moment (John Lewis thinks everyone is off to Spain).

      Post a disposable email if you want my contact details.

      • I think the financial and legal sectors may be slightly more formal but all my friends are gov / academic / NGO types.

      • My blog email is lily_actually at hotmail dot co dot uk
        I’m in insurance, so I really want to wait a week in to find out whether the one full suit I bought from M+S is sufficient (I’ve got both skirt and trousers) or if I need another.

    • Lavinia says:

      I relocated for a summer internship, and for work clothes, I brought 3 suits (I was in court almost every day, plus I already had these), maybe 6-8 tops, and a couple of cardigans. Basically enough to get me through two weeks without looking like I was wearing the exact same thing all the time.

      • Great, thanks. The thing is that I don’t mind buying work clothes there because I don’t own many anyway, but if I have to buy duplicates of what I already own it’s a bit annoying – especially since I’m then relocating to Germany for a year so I don’t want to take too many clothes with me then!

        • Hi Lily – might be too late to see this but I work in the London Insurance Market, which is relatively business-casual compared to other financial sectors. Not sure exactly what part of insurance you’ll be interning in, but I can imagine one suit would be fine – not sure I’ve ever worn a suit other than to interview in. It’s a lot of sheath dresses and blazers, but I also wear fit & flare dresses, pretty blouses and slim fit trousers et al. For a comparison, none of the men in my office wear ties unless meeting clients. If you have any questions and want me to post a throw-away email let me know, I’m an energy underwriter at a Fortune 100 firm.

          • Oh, wow, thanks – I’m in Annuities, Bancassurance and Protection.
            If you see this, my blog email address is as above, lily_actually at hotmail dot co dot uk

  7. This is very timely as I have been tasked with letting two of our interns know that some of their clothing choices may be inappropriate. Apparently one woman’s shirt was very low cut and she had on too much perfume which my boss found unprofessional, and the young man favors black dress shirts which my boss also finds inappropriate. I think rather than single them out though I am going to take all the interns out for lunch and give them a general overview of what is expected of them as far as wardrobe, etc. Has anyone done this? Tips?

    • Ellen says:

      This is a good idea. Even tho Mason is not an intern, he is dresseing with all the latest style’s, including the tight pant’s that almost look like legging’s! Also, as a result, the front of his pant’s leave’s VERY LITTEL to the imageination. I realy do NOT care what the shape of his unit is. I saw enough of Alan that seeing him wear tight clotheing is kind of gross. Does any one in the HIVE disageree? I therefore would make a motion that MEN all wear loose pant’s, at least loose enough that we do NOT have to see that thing underneathe his pant’s! FOOEY!

    • I would talk to them one on one. I know it’s awkward, but I hate the group thing. It makes people who don’t have a problem suffer through the discussion, and one of two things happens with the problems: (1) he or she realizes it’s about them and is more embarrassed by the group setting because everyone realizes it’s about them or (2) he or she is oblivious and doesn’t really it’s about them and doesn’t change. A direct, one on one conversation is kinder and more likely to get results than an indirect group conversation.

      • realize, not really

      • I second the one-on-one, for the reasons mentioned above…and also because your boss’ comments are a little …unusual? I mean, black dress shirts are far from the first thing that comes to mind as “inappropriate” for a guy! So you could even couch it in a “this is a little weird/boss is conservative/a thing you probably don’t realize”, and less an “OMG you are so dressing wrong”

    • Hmm – even though it’s more uncomfortable initially, I’d probably speak to the interns in question individually, because they probably aren’t *trying* to dress inappropriately / therefore think they’re doing just fine by the dress code, so hearing general statements like “be sure your neckline is high enough” or “don’t wear too much perfume” or “men prefer shirts in traditional colors here” may breeze right by them.

      I’ve always heard to do this at the end of the day (unless it’s easily fixable) so the person doesn’t have to spend all day hiding or feeling embarrassed, and to say something like “I want to make sure people are focusing on your work – you may not realize it, but the next time you wear this top I’d suggest a safety pin or camisole to make sure the neckline isn’t too low”

      • Monday says:

        I agree with RR and Cat that, though counter-intuitive and uncomfortable, it’s probably best to talk to them individually and be direct. If I were in their shoes this would also be my preference–I’d want to know for sure whether I was the problem, and if I was, I’d rather not have an audience when it was brought up.

        I don’t envy you this assignment, though.

        • I don’t envy me this assignment either, especially now that I probably won’t be doing it in a general sort of way. Oy.

    • TO Lawyer says:

      I actually had to do this a couple weeks ago because my boss told me that our summer student’s wardrobe was inappropriate. I took her out for coffee outside of the office and had the conversation. In our case, it wasn’t just one outfit that was inappropriate but was pretty much everything she had worn in the first two weeks.

      It was insanely awkward but turns out, she wasn’t trying to be inappropriate, she just didn’t know any better. So I gave her very specific advice on what tops were inappropriate, how work skirts and dress pants should fit, where to shop etc. It’s been almost 2 weeks since that conversation and all of her outfits have been more conservative and appropriate so I really think sometimes students just don’t know what exactly is office-professional and what is tv-office-professional.

    • This is so hard, because when people are told in a group setting, it’s so easy to think “it’s not me.” The woman with the low-cut shirt wore it to work thinking it was appropriate, so when she hears “no low-cut tops,” she is likely to just dismiss the comment as not relevant to her.
      I think at the very least you should let them know that you have been specifically tasked with requesting their compliance with the office’s (unwritten?) dress code and that someone in charge has noticed the non-compliance. This might encourage them to take it more seriously; if it’s just a general overview, it might just wash over the offenders without them taking notice.

      It’s still a tough road though. It’s easy to say “men’s shirts should be white, blue, pink, or yellow” (or whatever), but saying shirts should not be “very low cut” is likely to cause the same problem with people thinking, “Oh, my shirt’s aren’t very low.” Once there’s any subjectivity in the standard, people’s own judgment comes into play, and it can’t always be trusted! Maybe just encourage them to always err on the side of caution / conservative?

      • DC Darling says:

        There’s no need to bring up that you have been “specifically tasked with requesting compliance with the dress code” from on high. Not only is it humiliating but they will likely already be embarrassed enough in a one on one discussion to take the discussion seriously without adding “AND BIG BOSS NOTICED.”

        • I suggested doing this if the conversation took place, as AIMS suggested, in a group setting. I agree with you that it would be inappropriate to say that in a one-to-one conversation (and didn’t suggest it).

          • DC Darling says:

            I don’t think it’s warranted in either situation for the reason you already outlined above regarding awareness. Those who are unaware will likely stay unaware and those that realize who you’re talking to/about will be even more uncomfortable. Adding another layer of authority doesn’t solve for lack of awareness.

    • Avery says:

      I tried to do this with an intern last week and dropped hints that our office was more formal than what she was wearing, hoping that she would get it and I wouldn’t have to say “hey people are talking about your wardrobe being too casual, and I wanted to let you know before a partner noticed.” She definitely didn’t pick up on it, and I had to have the more direct conversation later. Being direct and honest is the way to go.

    • Hate awkwardness says:

      What if you did this individually, using little white lies…? I was just thinking about how I would do this without embarrassing the other party. I might casually stop by the associate’s office and say something like, Hey Betty, I debated whether or not to tell you this, but I noticed you wore that [description] blouse on Monday. I have a similar blouse and I actually got asked not to wear it again because it was too revealing. I just wanted to pass that along so you don’t have to go through that!

      • I hate awkwardness too but as much as I try to relate things on a personal level, I am reluctant to do it too much at my own expense, as well. I’ve had experiences in the past – because I am still relatively young or at least appear so – where if I make it too much “I totally get this too, but here’s the thing,” they tend to not take it or me seriously.

        But maybe I can frame it in more general, “I wish someone took me aside in law school and explained all these little rules to me because no one ever talks about it but here’s the thing…”

    • Thanks, guys. I guess I may have to go back to the drawing board with my original plan. I usually have to give a “what’s expected of you” speech in the beginning of summer and I was hoping I could kind of tie these two tasks together, but maybe one on one is the way to go. Or maybe I will start with my general spiel and then give the two interns who were singled out a week to see if they reform on their own – perhaps they bought some more appropriate business clothes in the meantime?

      I really wish law schools taught this sort of thing as part of orientation (or for that matter high schools or colleges). I remember some CA school got mocked for having their instructions on the subject leaked to ABTL and there are definitely better ways to phrase what they instructed, but it just seems like too many students miss out on this sort of thing.

      • Anon for this says:

        More than a decade ago, someone had the “your clothes aren’t appropriate” talk with me individually, and I far preferred it that way. I honestly had never been around professionals or in a professional environment. I called before I started and was told the office as business casual. I went to petite sophisticate because they were going out of business and I was BROKE. I spent all my money there and at Old Navy and Goodwil buying what I thought were business casual. I really didn’t know that the items I bought were generally not the best choices, although not horrible. They first tried telling us as a group that the big boss felt that “business casual” shouldn’t apply to summer associates who were trying to prove themselves, and we needed to apply a business dress code. I literally had two suits, one of which was awful, and no money. I then bought these horribly out of style, I’ll-fitting suits from goodwill, but I felt I had no choice. I then was talked to individually that my skirts needed to be mid-knee. I am quite petite and mid-knee, at age 21, seemed so long. I really didn’t know or fully appreciate how conservative that office was until I had the talk. I was so grateful that someone told me this. She did it casually while we walked back from a hearing or some other event. Basically just said that I was doing good work, highlighted a particular project, then told me that the office was really conservative and skirts should be mid-knee.

        • Anon for this says:

          I should have included I wish someone would’ve just been upfront with me from the get go. I literally had no clue how to dress appropriately, and I wasted money I didn’t have on clothes that were too short and too bright because nobody was told me from the get go.

          It helped she talked to me positively about my work product. She made it clear that I was doing a good job which made the talk seem like not a big thing.

        • Anita says:

          Gosh, this made me sad for your old self! It’s hard to shop for business attire with a tight budget. I remember, at my first job out of college, being given wear a friend’s mom’s old work clothes after she retired. I was so grateful for free work-appropriate clothes but, yes, I spent a year dressing like a 60-year old office manager that collects porcelain teddy bears.

  8. SummerGal says:

    I will be starting at a law firm as an articling student in July, and I think my biggest area of confusion (or struggle) is how to find suits cut for young women. Apart from BR, I haven’t been able to find one suit that didn’t make me feel like I was playing dress-up. Maybe it’s the shoulders, or perhaps I’m just not used to the look. Any tips/thoughts?

    • Are you 5-4 or shorter? You may need petites, at least in the jackets. Also, if you have a nordie’s, you can make a stylist appointment to help do measurements / find brands that might work. Finally, for a few $, you can buy a tape measure and that has really helped me with my mail ordering.

      • Miz Swizz says:

        I have a good friend who’s 5’9″ and wears Petite jackets because she has a short torso so it may be worth checking out petite sizes if you find jackets are consistently cut strangely for your body/seem too big.

    • rosie says:

      For me, it’s jacket length. A jacket that’s too long always has a dress-up feel for me. When I try to wear a jacket over a dress, in particular, it needs to be pretty short, otherwise I feel like I’m borrowing a man’s jacket because I’m cold at a party. I have been pleased with the Calvin Klein suits I got from Macy’s (I always recommend these here). There are multiple pieces, so you can play around with skirt style (pencil versus a-line) and jacket style to see what makes you fee comfortable.

      • rosie says:

        *feel

      • SummerGal says:

        Thanks rosie, I will try CK. I’m not really short (5’6″ or so) – I think it’s just getting the proportions right that I find tricky.

        • Long legs says:

          You still might want a petite jacket (or something like the J Crew Sidney v. the 1035 jacket). I am not short, but I must have small shoulders (or something), but petite jackets have always fit me better even though I wear regular-length pants and skirts. Maybe worth a try for brands that stock both (Halogen / J Crew / Talbots / Ann Taylor).

    • Try going down a size in the jacket if the shoulders are too wide. Usually does the trick for me.

    • anonsg says:

      Ann Taylor usually has pretty good, young-looking suits. You also want to try to find suit separates, not the ones that come with both the jacket and the pants/skirt (unless they both fit you right). Macys has good deals on the ones that come w/ the jacket and pants (actually TJ Maxx and Marshalls also have decent ones sometimes – I think I got a nine west one there for really cheap), but sometimes you just have to shop for separates if your size on top is not the “same” as the bottom.

  9. Meg Murry says:

    If you really want this series to apply to ANY intern, you should make a clear distinction which advice applies to business formal offices, which to business casual / casual Friday, and which to very casual offices. The thing I struggled with as an intern in business casual was how not to fall down the slope into weekend casual or looking too much like clubwear casual.

    I’d especially like to see advice for women working in traditionally male dominated industries where there aren’t many women to look up to for what to wear advice. For instance: – What to wear to work at a place where the men all wear suits? – a suit, or sheath dress and suit jacket. What if the men all wear polos and khakis? Etc etc. Bonus points if you include pants options as well as skirts.

    • When I worked on a trading desk, I mostly followed the same routine as all the guys: a suit everyday. We typically worked in our shirtsleeves and put on the jacket for externally facing or investment committee meetings. I had a standard set of colors (black, navy, charcoal) for suits or business formal dresses, and added pops of color in my shirts and accessories. Admittedly this wasn’t the most creative wardrobe, but on the upside it was nearly impossible to show up in clothes that didn’t go together. That’s something to keep in mind for interns/new associates expecting 90+ hour weeks.

  10. Allison says:

    I kinda wish I’d seen this blog before starting my State House internship. In hindsight some of my initial work pieces weren’t entirely appropriate – I wore stuff that was too tight, or too short, and I kinda regret the red lip gloss and pearl necklace. At the time I figured if there was a problem with my work clothes, they’d tell me, but reading blogs like this I’m beginning to realize how rare that is.

    Why don’t people tell interns their clothes are inappropriate? I mean, I get that they’re sometimes told eventually, when the problem is really bad or it’s gone on too long and the poor kid’s already made a bad impression, but isn’t there a polite way to advise someone that their top/shirt/shoes/makeup/perfume/etc. isn’t work appropriate and shouldn’t be worn again? The purpose of an internship is to help kids learn about the working world, but how can they learn something if no one tells them?

    • hoola hoopa says:

      It’s a good question, and IME it comes down to it being awkward for all. No one on either side enjoys it, and I do think current trend is to pretend that you see the worker not their clothes. It doesn’t help that most errors (in my experience) are made by women (due to wider range of wardrobe options in general and often more vague rules), which gives the whole experience a twinge of sexism. Also, if there is not a firm dress code, then it becomes harder to distinguish whether the issue is with the dresser or the observer.

      But I do agree with you. I was pulled aside twice when I was younger to address particular issues and while it was rather mortifying I became a more professional dresser because of it. They were jobs in finance and health care, though, which are both fields which tend to have very clear dress codes. My current field does not, which adds to the sense of wondering whether it’s appropriate to pull aside a new employee.

      • Orangerie says:

        I agree with the awkward dynamic of this happening more often with women, interns or not. I’ve heard male managers specifically say they know someone dressed inappropriately but didn’t want to confront the issue due to potential harassment complaints.

        But I also think people are less willing to broach the subject with interns in general because the focus of an internship has shifted. Companies don’t really focus on things like dress code and how to conduct yourself in a professional manner, instead they teach industry specific skills that are resume builders for the interns.

        Interns might be un(der)paid, but they are pretty much expected to be professional employees right out of the gate so their focus can be directed on doing actual work.

      • Allison says:

        I would’ve LOVED to know if my clothing wasn’t appropriate. It mght’ve been embarassing, I might’ve felt guilty for doing something wrong for a bit, but the alternative would be to continue wearing bad clothing, assuming it’s okay since no one’s saying anything to the contrary, and possibly sabotaging my career development. Or just constantly wondering if my outfits are okay, and thinking “hmm, did that woman mean what she said when she complimented my dress, or did she find it unprofessional and was trying to make me aware of the fact that it wasn’t going unnoticed, in the hopes I’ll stop trying to get away with it?”

        As an aside, has anyone said “that’s a cute dress . . .” when what they were trying to say it was ugly or inappropriate? Or have I seen Mean Girls way too many times?

    • Long legs says:

      Also, I think some of my choices weren’t all the way to inappropriate, they were often just a C+ (linen-cotton blend suit that was obviously cheap). I don’t think that someone would pull an intern aside and say to spend $ (or that church attire may work for guys, but not so much for women, especially if they are younger). Also, my mother wasn’t in a profession that wore suits (and my father wore pocket protectors), so I didn’t have a lot of guidance at home. I did better once I started seeing more people and getting catalogs showing women in suits. But Vogue doesn’t cover what we need and there were no interwebs back then.

      Maybe shopping days and discounts at a good local store a week before people shop (not helpful to all, but a nice gesture and good for stores)?

  11. Sweet as Soda Pop says:

    As someone whose role used to include supervising our undergrad intern program (conservative, corporate, large company) these are all great pointers. I would also add that a cardigan does not turn a sundress into an office appropriate dress. I see it every year with interns and new hires, and it always makes me cringe.

    As a rule, if you can’t wear it without your sweater (because you’re trying to cover up that it’s strapless, spaghetti straps, halter) you shouldn’t wear it in the office.

  12. I have a tiny diamond nose stud (I’m Indian). Is that inappropriate? I otherwise dress very conservatively, and the people have asked say that they don’t really notice it. I don’t want to give anyone a reason to ding me, but it’s an important part of my heritage. In the end, it’s not so important that I wouldn’t take it out if I had to, though.

    • Long legs says:

      I grew up in NJ, so I am used to it and wouldn’t consider it inappropriate. Maybe if people aren’t used to it they might wonder. But I think that tiny things are always OK. I think that people are so litigation averse that no one dares even ask an innocent question if they’re just curious (I guess there’s google for that).

    • Hiring Partner says:

      My office (mid-law, South) is very conservative, and that wouldn’t be something I noticed or cared about as a hiring partner.

    • hoola hoopa says:

      I have a subtle gold nose stud. I’m not Indian. It has technically been against dress code in every office I’ve ever worked in. However, only one ever mentioned anything. It was upon hire (~12 years ago), and I never took it out and never faced consequences for leaving it. Another conservative office may have – although that office was strict enough on dress code to ‘write me up’ for wearing cap sleeves that were deemed to be too short to count as sleeves. While it may be a bigger issue if you have client contact, I think most offices will let it slide given that you are Indian. Obviously YMMV.

      Also, it’s probably been 10 years since anyone even commented on it, so I feel like nose studs are becoming more mainstream? Or maybe I’m just old and established enough to not make anyone think I’m a threat to the establishment, lol.

    • Burgher says:

      I would think that most people would recognize that it has cultural significance for you and so it wouldn’t be perceived negatively, especially since it is small and conservative.

  13. Summer conference! says:

    My summer intern class has an offsite conference with multiple social events (including swimming!). The dinner one night is a “white party” and I’m at a loss for what to wear (I’ve already tackled finding a work appropriate bathing suit). Can anyone help me find a work-appropriate white (or cream/ivory) dress to wear in a hot climate to a nighttime, outside dinner at a resort? I’m a size 6/8 and am hoping not to spend a lot (ideally under $75). Thanks!

  14. Tracy says:

    Does anyone here work in banking? I’ll be working in the wealth management group at a large bank. Can I get away with a cardigan, blouse and pencil skirt or will it be a suit each day? Thanks!

    • SoCalTraffic says:

      It depends on how formal your particular company and role within it is. In my experience, retail banking skews more business casual vs relationship management positions where it’s more formal.

      Will you be mainly working back office or are you expected to make client calls? Personally, I have a couple suits for when I’m meeting clients but otherwise pencil skirts or slacks, with a nice blouse and blazer, is my normal wear.

  15. Burgher says:

    One of our new interns is intelligent and hard working and wonderful, and then ruins it when she opens her mouth. I have a hard time listening to anything she says because her manner of speaking (think valley girl / high school – esque) is so distracting. I’m not trying to be harsh (OK, yes I am), but please try to speak professionally and take it down a few octaves. We are not your girlfriends.

    • SoCalTraffic says:

      This! Also, I don’t really care to know about drama with your ex that kept you up last night and that’s why you’re “so out of it today”.

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