“Dress to impress” might sound cliche, but it’s an age-old saying worth remembering, especially for those getting their first taste of office life this summer with an internship.

Although hard work is important, studies show that 33 percent of how someone is professionally perceived is based on their image, reports

But for those better acquainted with the classroom than the corporate world, knowing what to wear to work (and where to find it) can be tricky for cash-strapped college students or recent graduates.

Take the guess work out of a company’s dress code with these tips from style and etiquette experts — you’ll be the talk of the office for all the right reasons:

Do your homework: Nowadays, there is no “this suit will work for everything” or “this dress will work for everything.” Research the company culture and dress code. That is something you can easily do by going to the company’s website and seeing how they represent themselves online or on Facebook. Or call the company and ask.

It’s also always a good idea to reach out to friends and family to ask what they think of your outfit, if you’re not sure.

Building a wardrobe on a budget: Try eBay or second-hand shops. Just be really scrupulous about finding things that have no signs of wear, and look for things that are going to work in multiple ways. A full button-down shirt will work for a jeans culture, or it can go with a suit.

Learn the art of dressing up (or down): If a man is wearing a suit and gets to the office and sees everyone else is in jeans and T-shirts, remove the jacket and tie and carry them. For women, dress pants and a nice top can be just as formal as a nice suit.

Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute and co-host of the “Awesome Etiquette”


Personal style meets work wear: Even if you’re in a conservative office, women can add personality with their extras — say a modern pair of geometric stud earrings or a work-appropriate handbag in your favorite color. I also love using scarves for personality and warmth in chilly offices.

Stores for the fashion-savvy professional: We love LOFT, Club Monaco, Banana Republic, Nordstrom and J.Crew, especially their sale selections. You can also find fantastic work wear for less at Saks Off Fifth and Nordstrom Rack.

When in doubt, channel Coco Chanel: There’s her old quote that says, I’m paraphrasing, “Take off one piece of jewelry before you leave the house.” I think that’s still great advice. I like to choose two pieces, and they have to be in balance. Think statement stud earrings with a thin pendant necklace or a chunky watch with small, simple gold studs.

Zephyr Basine, CollegeFashion

.net editor-in-chief

Look the part: “You’re an intern, you shouldn’t dress as nicely as everyone there” is a misconception. The point of an internship is for the company to see how you fit in and how you mold with them.

If all goes well the goal is to get hired. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you love the company, but they didn’t feel you were professional enough.

You want to be seen as the intern who already feels a part of the company. Leave everything on the table. Dress your best. Work hard.

Antonio Centeno, men’s style expert and Real Men Real Style creator (

What to take

Packing for a summer internship? Here are some items to consider bringing:


A nice pant or skirt suit

Work-friendly dresses (nothing too short or too low cut)

Dress slacks and/or skirts (at least fingertip-length) in neutral colors that can be mixed and matched

Blouses (button-down or pullover)

A blazer, cardigan or wrap (good for air-conditioned offices)

Khaki pants or dark-wash jeans (for casual offices)

Neutral closed-toe shoes. For heels, nothing higher than 4 inches. Flats are OK for most offices, but check with a supervisor.

Tasteful accessories (nothing too flashy that could be distracting)


Interchangeable dress shirts (white, light blue and/or pinstripe)

Trousers (charcoal gray, navy, khaki and/or black)

Dress shoes (for example, penny loafers, wingtip brogues, brown double monk straps, etc.)

A properly tailored suit and coordinating tie

Dark-wash raw denim pants (for casual offices only)

Tailored khaki chinos (for casual offices only)

Polo shirts with no visible logos (for casual offices only)

Tasteful accessories (pocket squares, tie clip, a watch, dress socks, etc.)

Leave at home

Mini skirts

Anything sheer or with holes or cut-outs in it (including cold-shoulder and off-the-shoulder shirts, keyhole tops, distressed pants, etc.)

Crop tops

Shorts (for after work only)

Anything low cut (tops and dresses)

Flip-flop sandals and sneakers (for after work only)

Athleisure wear

Anything that’s ripped or stained

Additional resources


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