A New Intern's Guide to Professional Wear
With the spring semester underway, many Pittsburgh college students are involved with internships. The transition from a closet full of T-shirts and yoga pants can be a hard one, so here are a few tips to start putting together a professional wardrobe.
1. Professional clothes can be expensive, so shop around.
It’s tough enough to manage finances as a student, paying for rent, tuition and groceries, but to add a new wardrobe to the mix? There are affordable ways to dress professionally; you just have to be creative. Sites like ModCloth have cute, internship-appropriate clothes that are reasonably priced.
Keep in mind that ModCloth is an online retailer; so getting your size right might take a few tries. The site has a return policy and an in-depth size chart to help you out.
Outlet stores are always a great place to find reduced-priced items, too. The J. Crew Factory Outlet (at both the Grove City and Tanger Outlets) gives a 10 percent discount for students with a college ID, and it almost always has clothes worthy of any wardrobe.
2. Thrift stores and consignment stores are your friends.
Pittsburgh has many thrift and consignment stores that carry unique finds. While the typical Goodwill locations can be hit or miss depending on the time of year, Highway Robbery Vintage on East Carson Street has vintage pieces at good prices, and the store is always getting new items.
Consignment stores, such as Plato’s Closet in Bridgeville or on McKnight Road and Avalon Exchange in Squirrel Hill and Mt. Lebanon sell second hand clothes that are only a couple of seasons old. Bring in the clothing you don’t wear anymore and receive a percentage of the resale price in either cash or store credit. Some consignment stores will have higher end clothing, but don’t rule out thrift stores for good quality items.
3. Keep it simple, but polished.
Flashy clothes that are loud aren’t the way to be remembered at an internship. Pairing pieces like a black blazer with a fun patterned shirt or scarf can show off personal style without being overbearing.
Statement pieces like a necklace or ring can start a conversation and help you get to know your coworkers.
4. Make sure it fits!
Button down shirts shouldn’t be too tight, for men or women; being able to move your arms at the elbow is key. Skirts shouldn’t be too tight or too short; knee-length is a good start, and pants should fit well so that you can sit and stand for long periods of time. If you think it’s too tight or too short, it probably is, so trust your judgment.
The J. Crew Pencil Skirt is a perfect length and comes in a plethora of colors. The skirt even comes in “long” if you want something that goes below the knee.
5. Shoes: Comfort and style
So you want shoes that are comfortable and cute? You can never go wrong with black flats. If you’re feeling adventurous, find a pair that is embellished or textured. Tall boots are always office friendly, and black or brown colors can go with any of your outfits. Plus, they're comfy.
If you are gifted with the ability to wear heels all day, black or nude heels (even wedges) are office appropriate, just be weary of long days on your feet.
DSW has flats and modest heels that are appropriate as well as comfortable. These hardware-trimmed flats have a metallic decoration that amps up everyday flats but can still be paired with just about anything.
Bonus tip - make sure you break them in first!
6. If something you like comes in different colors, go for it
Let’s say you find the perfect sleeveless top and it comes in six different colors. Instead of deciding between them all, pick a few. Having the same blouse or skirt in different colors isn’t a fashion faux pas; it just means you love it enough to buy it twice. Each pattern or color can go with a different skirt or pants and can be styled with a blazer or a cardigan.
The J. Crew Jackie Cardigan comes in every color imaginable and goes with almost anything in your wardrobe.
7. Don’t be discouraged.
It’s difficult finding the perfect fitting pants in just one shopping trip. Don’t worry, though. Trying out different styles and fits can help you rule out things that don’t work for you. You won’t find everything that you’re looking for at one store or in one day, so spreading your purchases out over time isn’t a bad thing.
If you need inspiration, check out Pinterest. We’ve made a board of some professional-wear outfits that would be suitable for internships and jobs alike. Men, we pinned an infographic about how to find the perfect fit for all of your business casual needs. There are tons of users with boards that you can browse for ideas.