Deciding what to wear to an internship can be tricky. You want to make exactly the right impression. On the one hand, you want to match the workplace dress code and not look inappropriate. On the other hand, you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard. Whether your internship goal is landing a full time position or just an excellent recommendation letter, what you wear is important.
What to Wear to an Internship Interview
Before you start thinking about your internship dress code, you have to ace the interview! Treat it as you would a regular job interview. By applying to your desired company, even if it is only as an intern, you’re showing that it’s a place that you would like to work at. Besides, it’s good practice for future job interviews.
Research the company’s dress code and take it up a slight notch. For example, if you’re applying to a company with a traditional business formal dress code, imagine that you’re going to lunch with the CEO and dress accordingly. Wear a blazer over your shirt/blouse and put on some heels rather than flats. If you’re applying to a company in an industry with a more relaxed dress code, that doesn’t mean you should show up in jeans and a t-shirt. Wear a blouse or smart knit (depending on the time of year) with trousers (they can be in a relaxed fabric) and some nice flats. Keep your makeup simple yet pretty – a nice lipstick, a swipe of mascara, and a bit of eyeliner if you like will do (unless you’re applying to a makeup company – in which case show off your skills). You want to dress to impress and show the interviewer that you’ve done your homework about the company’s culture.
Internship Dress Code
Now that you’ve scored your dream internship, you can start thinking about your actual work outfits. You don’t need to dress up as much as you did for the interview, as you’ll probably be spending most of your days running around doing a million different tasks. You’ll still want to follow the workplace dress code but make sure that you’re comfortable while doing it. And again, this all depends on the type of company you’re interning for.
If you’re interning somewhere with a business formal dress code, invest in a few pieces of workwear basics (if you don’t have them already). You don’t need to wear a power suit every day but it’s good to have a nice button-down blouse, tailored trousers, and a pencil skirt for rotation. Stick to neutral, solid colors like black, white, and grey and you’ll never have to worry about violating the office dress code. Though if you are wearing skirts and dresses, mind the length of your hemline. You can’t go wrong with anything that’s knee-length or lower, but if you do want to go a bit shorter make sure it’s at least mid-thigh or past the length of your fingertips. Feel free to wear heels if you feel comfortable walking in them all day, if not get a nice pair of loafers or oxford shoes.
If your internship is in a company with a business casual dress code, your outfit choices will be more flexible. You might be able to wear denim, but stick to black or dark washes to keep looking professional. Leave your ripped and raw hem denim for the weekend. You might also be able to wear t-shirts, but be careful how you style them. Always pair them with dressier items to elevate your look. For example, layer your t-shirt with a blazer and/or pair them with trousers instead of jeans for a smarter feel. Even with a more relaxed dress code, we still recommend sticking to longer hemlines on skirts and dresses. It’s quite rare for any company to allow ultra-mini hemlines. As for footwear, stick to anything comfortable and flat. Ankle boots, ballerina flats, loafers, and/or oxford shoes are a good bet. If sneakers are allowed in the dress code you might as well take advantage to stay comfy during coffee and supply runs, but again style them wisely and use the high-low approach. And if you are going to wear sneakers, make sure they are nice and clean! Your beat up Chucks may be your comfiest pair, but unless you’re interning at a tattoo studio they are probably inappropriate for the workplace.
If you’re interning at a company with a very relaxed dress code (such as a tech start up or fashion company) – lucky you! You’ll have a lot of freedom with your outfits. That being said, you still want to look appropriate. Though you might be able to wear jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers, always make sure you’re putting in effort and are keeping yourself and your clothes clean and neat. Some items that you should always leave for your off-duty looks are short shorts, flip flops, tank tops, anything skintight, and anything ratty. Basically – nothing that you wouldn’t wear in front of your grandparents.
Advice For Interns
Treat your internship as you would a real job in every aspect, including your appearance. Even though you will be asked to do odd jobs and menial tasks, if you do it with pride and dignity your hard work will pay off. It shows that you’re professional, serious, and have all the qualities of an excellent employee. Who knows, in the end your internship might turn into a full time position! If you have other plans in mind and are only doing the internship for school credits, you should still be taking it seriously. It’s true that many jobs are all about connections and networking, so later on down the road you’ll be very happy when your internship boss hooks you up with your actual dream employer.
Of course, your work itself is the most important thing. But if you demonstrate that you can walk the walk, talk the talk, and dress the part you will show yourself off as an all-around amazing worker that any company would be lucky to have on a permanent basis.
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