The Summer Intern Faux-Pas
Jul 16, 2010
We interns have a rough time of it sometimes. Hear me out: we are usually unpaid, often given menial tasks, and we don’t get vacation time. Perhaps one of the worst things about being an intern is that we just don’t know what to expect going into a new internship. That first day, you walk in the door hoping you won’t be getting coffee or carrying boxes between floors. I also tend to walk in wondering what the dress code will be. Even when you’ve asked ahead of time, I find that “business casual” takes on a different meaning no matter where you go.
I always play it safe that first day, usually in black pants, heels, a cute shirt and a cardigan. Simple office fare, pretty unadventurous, but at least I know I won’t be underdressed. Summer throws an extra kink in there, because hot weather couture and office attire usually don’t intersect. But there are some interns who cannot seem to understand appropriate fashion, no matter how many blogs there are to guide them. Here are a few examples of what not to wear as a summer intern in any city.
A white button-down, khaki bottoms and flats do not an office outfit make when there are shorts involved. I agree with Belle on this one: shorts are not appropriate to wear to the office, no matter how casual. I was shocked to see a fellow intern and my supervisor (new to the job) both wearing shorts the other day. Even when your boss is doing it, even when a triple-digit record is being set outside, I just think a skirt makes a better impression. Dress for the job you want, they say, not the job you have. You the intern may be doing nothing and making no money, but don’t dress like you’re on vacation.
Full disclosure: 1. This is me. 2. This dress is tighter and shorter than it looks here. And 3. In this picture I’m heading off not to a day at the office, but rather to a semi-formal party. Yet I have seen interns in this sort of outfit before. You have to wonder how these girls think an outfit they would wear out to a club the night before should ever make its way into the office the next day. Chalk it up to not making room in their budget for one or two practical, office-appropriate skirt. Seriously girls, you’d be amazed at the versatility of a neutral-hued skirt from Forever 21.
I think this outfit actually could be worn to some offices. It’s a cute off-white dress with gold and off-white accents, all of which look good together (and the bright bag is a nice surprise). The dress walks the fine line of too-short-for-the-office, but I think it would pass the test in a more casual office setting. That’s usually the finger-length test: if the hem of your skirt or dress is above your fingertips when your arms are hanging straight down, go change. No mirror or second opinion required.
Bottom line: As much as people tell you what you can and cannot wear, there are a few basics that will get you through any “WHAT DO I WEAR TO THE OFFICE?!” crisis this summer: not too short; not too tight; no shorts; and please, please, make sure it matches. Just because you found each piece of your outfit in Banana Republic’s “Stylish Work” section doesn’t mean they look good together.