5 Rules for Dressing for a Fashion Internship

An adorable and totally work appropriate dress suit from J. Crew
Picking my outfit for the first day of my internship at ELLE Canada this past January was TORTURE.

I knew the rules were probably different in the creative industry than in a typical office environment, and I was excited by the idea of playing with my work fashion a bit, and maybe even wearing 5-inch heels to the office every day. But I still spent the weekend trying on tons of different outfits. And that first morning I spent at least 20 minutes simply staring in to my closet.

I ended up wearing a pair of last winter’s trendiest trousers (tweed and tapered with a cuff), a fitted shirt, an unbuttoned lace-back vest, and black suede ankle booties. I erred on the side of caution and played it a little safe. But I felt good, I felt confident, and I wasn’t sent home with a warning. All positive signs.

When in fashion doubt at work, follow these five rules:

1. Avoid cleavage. In a survey conducted by stylecompare.co.uk, six out of 10 bosses said that plunging necklines were a no-no at work. Sure, the dress code is fairly relaxed at ELLE Canada, and the editors are creative, on-trend, and fashion-forward (think maxi skirts and sky-high wedges), but that doesn’t mean rules of what’s generally appropriate fly out the window.

2. Follow your co-workers’ leads. I hadn’t been given any clear indication about the ELLE Canada dress code (other than it was “casual”). So I played it safe until I saw what other people in the office wore. I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to wear jeans so I waited until one of the editors wore them first, and then followed up with our senior editor, confirming it was okay that I do the same.

3. Dress professionally. Chances are you’re hoping your internship will eventually lead to a job. You’re given the chance to make so many great industry connections, and you want the people you interact with to take you seriously. So here are a few “don’ts”: Don’t dress like you’re heading to the club, or so casually that it seems like you don’t care about what kind of impression you’re giving the world.

4. Showcase your personality. In the fashion industry, making a style statement with your wardrobe is important. Let your personality show in what you wear. Play with accessories, experiment with your hair or makeup, or mix trends with your favourite vintage pieces or tried-and-true staples for a look that’s uniquely you. In the winter, I love to top off any outfit with a blazer and my suede wedge booties.

5. Be confident. Wear what you feel comfortable in, and don’t dress the way you think people want you to dress. When we had our intern photo shoot back in March, I was so excited that I went out and bought new clothes to wear. But when I got to the set, I didn’t feel comfortable. I was wearing outfits that still felt foreign to me, and I didn’t quite know how to pull them off yet. Stay true to yourself in what you wear, and your personal style will win people over.

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