So You’re Starting a Non-Fashion Internship, What Do You Wear?

That white space is neither your computer’s glitch nor is it mine. It is deliberately there and do you know what it signifies?


Do you know why I’m confused?

Because, frankly, where in the good name of all that is christened-by-the-wand-of-Vogue do I, of all people, get off thinking I might be able to help you dress for a non-fashion internship?

I’ve told and retold you at least ten times that a company-wide memorandum went out when I was a fashion intern and that it was directed directly (hehe) at me. It said in huge bold letters, TELL THE INTERN NO MORE SHORTS. And if I can’t even get it right at a fashion house, where do I fall?

I’m doing this new thing right now, though, where I forcibly remove myself from my comfort zone and subsequently force fluency-as-self-taught in the foreign territory. So, here’s a crack at helping you dress for a non-fashion internship because maybe that’s what you’re doing this summer, even in spite of a profound fondness for fashion, so you’d like to good without looking like you tried to look good and you need help figuring that out.

Say you’re working a non-fashion editorial internship, right? Why don’t you try a pair of streamlined white trousers with a very reliable white shirt (I really, really like the loot by Everlane but there’s nothing wrong with Uniqlo’s offerings either). You’ll likely need heels under the trousers, which gets annoying, so I’d also suggest short-ish skirts to pair with brogues and comfortable mid-heels, but I won’t suggest dresses. Dresses are hard. They make one point and that point is over after the first few wears.

Recycle old t-shirts and wear them under blazers with said skirts, or white trousers. If you’re working a finance job, I have almost no advice to give other than that Rebecca Taylor has totally cornered the market on lovely, work-appropriate dresses that are functional at Goldman Sachs and easy on the eye at Happy Hour.

Outside of that arena, I’m pretty sure denim is fair game at most places (is it not, after all, the fabric upon which writing was founded) so don’t you go underestimating the power of your chambray.

Was this helpful? At all? LMK, SOS, TTYL.

— Leandra Medine

  • marie a

    But I’m not allowed to wear open toe shoes at my job… which is awful in the summer. Or denim..

    • Leandra Medine

      Where are you working?!?!?!??!???????

      • DW

        sounds like finance!

      • marie a

        For a skin care company/line of spas. But I don’t do the treatments so I really should be allowed open toe shoes.

        • Leandra Medine

          You should get a pair of brogues and wear them with pinafore dresses every day

  • Nives

    I worked at a museum last summer. Made me master the art of non-fashion internship dressing. Slit jeans, T-shirts, sleeveless blazers and mid-heel sandals. Amen to that!

  • Shelby Louise

    My office doesn’t allow the following:

    – Denim
    – Open Toe shoes
    – Khakis (unless it’s Friday)
    – Sneakers
    – T-shirts of any variety

    Aside from donning a she-suit, there are very few alternatives. I usually go with a skinny trouser/turtleneck or blouse and midi-heel combo (vaguely channeling my favourite Hepburn).

    When I met my coworkers for drinks on the weekend in leather pants/sneakers/waist tied flannel, I’m certain they almost had a collective heart attack.

    • Leandra Medine

      FINE. DRESSES WIN AGAIN. Can you wear dresses? and anoraks?

      • Shelby Louise

        Dresses are welcomed, and a good way to push the boundaries a bit. I once wore some flowy silk Club Monaco pants and got asked if I accidently wore PJs to work, so that was a no-go.

        • Jamie

          I was also teased about wearing PJs while wearing flowy pants at work.

          • MLN

            Yup, same here. I was like…uhhhh ‘scuse me boss but these pants are worlds fancier than the pitted out oversized college shirt I actually wear as pajamas.

  • Grace

    I wear shorts to work in the summer, and even though I’ve never received a memo or been pulled aside, I’m still get self-conscious about it.

    But then I remember my hot-as-balls commute and I get over it. 🙂

    Speaking of which, can you suggest some commute-friendly outfits for the summer? I walk about 3 miles to work everyday and need some suggestions that are comfy and work-approp. Thanks so much!

  • I was just wondering where I could find advice for what to wear this summer…so thanks for this.. haha. I’m a student office intern on campus and there hasn’t been any fashion/clothing “rules” yet so I’m crossing my fingers xxxx
    I’m going to try white tees, nicer shorts/skort, shift dresses, and birks. of course.

  • Luana Adriano

    Gladly, I work in a photography studio where I can even wear flip-flops if it pleases me. Sadly, the only one time I actually wore flip-flops to work, a picture of the team (including me) who worked in the photoshoot that day was taken and it was spread in all social medias in town. At least, it was a comfy day.

  • I’ve interned at two indie record labels. Band t-shirts and denim were staples for the men and us ladies pretty much looked like a Madewell lookbook. Awesome times.

  • Engineers are effing weird (in the cutest of ways), and basically will wear dad jeans, sneakers, and polo t-shirt even in the most corporate fawncy environments. I can wear whatever I want, but I would never wear shorts!!! Today, my shoes have spikes in them. My boss said I had “wild shoes.” #funengineer. And your posts are always helpful, gurrrrl!

    • Atiya

      I discovered by accident that a good way to be a style-forward engineer without compromising professional cred is to work in an office with architects. They raise the bar just high enough to keep you from looking like a clown among the polos.

  • Courtney

    I am starting an internship at a super corporate place after working in the fashion industry for 10 years! My style icons for this job are CJ and Donna from The West Wing circa 2000. Seriously – pleated trousers that sit at the natural waist have stolen my heart!

  • Lucy

    HA I went from my phone to my computer to read this article thinking that there was something wrong because the picture wasn’t loading. YA GOT ME!

  • Manuela R. Viseras

    Fashion advice for female chefs, that would be a great entry 🙂

  • Miranda

    I don’t know any office type industry where denim is appropriate? unless it’s some sort of casual friday day thing. maybe you’re not interning but apprenticing at those jean places (ie., I’m thinking some sort of manual labor/craft skill type dealio)

    • Jamie

      I wear jeans to work on the reg, but I’m certain I would face a fair amount of criticism if I were to sport chambray in the office — and my boss wears Tommy Bahama shirts every day.

  • professional school interviews HALP. pant suit? skirt suit? what to wear under suits?

    • Adrianna Grężak

      You can’t go wrong with a suit in my opinion. A pant suit seems more modern than a skirt suit. If you’re afraid of looking too formal, than wear a blouse, not a button down shirt. I recently witnessed about 20 interviews, and it astounds me how casually ppl dress

    • Julie

      I wore a pant suit to both of my dental school interviews, and was accepted to both! But I made sure to wear a pretty silk blouse under the suit to make it a bit more feminine. Also navy suits >> black.

      • 😀 I’m applying to dental school in a month! What kind of shoes did you wear to interviews?

  • Merc

    Fashion advice from a Marine Biologist: running shorts, tennis shoes/ flip flops, and longsleeved fishermen’s shirts over your one-piece swimsuit for the internship boat ride where it is undoubtedly about 90 degrees at 100% humidity. For the lab, cropped skinnies, closed toed shoes, and a lab coat because the lab is most definitely 62 degrees, air conditioned. When I go out on the weekends wearing dresses and make-up, it confuses some of my coworkers! At least we always have a good tan!!

  • Mariana

    Yo Man Repeller,

    I am going to be working at a congressional office. What I am supposed to wear that sends the I’m-professional-and-fashionable, but at the same time not giving off the I-have-more-money-than-most-of- your-constituents look?

    • Natalie


  • Adrianna Grężak

    The safest thing to do is dress the same way your boss does

    The publishing firm (in NYC) I worked at was corporate casual – trousers, dress shirts, etc. Basically the sale section of Banana Republic. But one girl kind of astounded me with the torn panty hose and crop tops she wore

    This reminds me of the frustrating conversations I had with my mother about work clothes. Even in 2012 she was trying to buy me nude panty hose for work

  • Emma

    Well this great but I’m starting my fashion internship soon and I have no clue what to wear! Any staples I should have?

  • olive

    Shall i somewhat revert the question by asking what we should wear to fashion internships? What can make you stand out without having feathers fall in your coffee? How do you avoid the whole Anne Hathaway devil wears prada first impression?

  • Amanda

    I am interning at a newspaper this summer. Very interesting fashion scene. Some days, reporters will wear full on business casual. Others, the very same individuals will appear in jeans and a band t-shirt. I’ve decided to split the middle and go with boxy dresses, kakhis and flats. On a related note, I recently realized that I dress “basic.” Yep–flats and cardigans with slim-fitted pants. What’s a poor soon-to-be college grad to do?

  • Sofia Allyn

    Any thoughts on shoes that are not a shmillion dollars but also don’t suck?

    • Lelano

      Zara has great summer shoes 😉 genuine leather too ;))

  • Valerie Cheng

    And this is why I will only work in the fashion industry

  • Hannah

    I don’t think that “interns” are at all in the price range of Rebecca Taylor $300 dresses…

  • Lelano

    My comapny is moving to a brand new buildning with brand new rules…no denim :(( collared shirts ;(( …maybe I should change my profession? lol

    • Leandra Medine

      Nothing at all if you like how you look/feel good

  • girlinmenswear

    I’ve worked (at a newspaper) where you weren’t allowed to wear denim, tees, shorts and sneakers as they were deemed “scruffy”…needless to say I don’t work there anymore.

    • Melissa

      Newspapers and their dress codes kind of make me chuckle. I get the reasons why they require a strict business dress code, but then they send reporters out on all kinds of assignments where jeans and sneakers would probably be a lot more sensible. Plus unless you are a top exec, most newspapers don’t pay well enough for you to afford a decent business wardrobe. There’s always thrift shopping but in rural areas such as mine, that is pretty limited.

  • annonymous-me

    Leandra I need to know your thoughts about NORMCORE. Please?

    • Isabelle

      Search for it in the archives. I think there´s a post about it!

  • blanca braun

    The flower shop that I am being interviewed by supplies arrangements for Vogue, Moda Operandi and other cool places. I would come all primped out but they boast a more downtown vibe. I don’t want to seem to overdressed! Help

  • Claire Catherine Wyatt

    Haha – I can’t follow ANY of these suggestions … I have to wear a suit on Monday, Business Casual Tuesday through Thursday and then Friday is “Jeans Day” but it’s still basically “smart casual.” (I work in Finance …) No open toe shoes, skirts should be at the knee (if they’re not … at most 3 inches above … if it feels too short, it probably is). I’ve found this website REALLY helpful for how to work in a more conservative business environment – this girl gets it!

    • Jessi J.

      Same here and I’m with you- Her style is on point.

  • Catherine

    My office is SUPER casual. I like heels and hate not wearing layers (at least, not right after summer is over). I want to look chic, be comfortable, and not look like a ridiculously overdressed teenager. I’m will probably be the only teen in the office, and there are only three other people working there. I’m working for a tech start up in NYC, and I worked at an office like this last summer. There are 25 min subway rides both ways (I.e. Delayed trains that are frigid inside, and interminable waits in the tepid train stations), over air-conditioned loft spaces, and downtown-hipster-engineer-coworkers who definitely DO NOT WEAR HEELS. Summer’s a bitch in NYC, but as the Jitney’s gas fumes laugh in my face as it flies toward the Hamptons, I want to look fucking fabulous. What I do I do? I’m thinking white vests/blazers, and popping a scarf in my bag to protect myself from my nemesis/savior, the AC. And loafers/oxfords/espadrilles. Not Birkenstocks. I will not do Birkenstocks. That trend needs to go the hell home. Any suggestions?

  • Jack of all internships, master of none here.

    If you’re in a stockings-mandatory, no-open-toed-shoes, no-nail-polish, no-arm-hair (sort of kidding) field – there is a secret no one is telling you. HEELED BOOTIES UNDER YOUR DRESS PANTS. No one will know you’re actually wearing athletic socks every day. NO ONE.

    Dresses (even though I h8 them) and a blazer can work, but if you’re in the panty-hoez office, it’s probably not worth it. Another bonus: those old school stockings you can get with the thigh elastic. They look grandma but they are a godsend in the restroom.

    J. Crew Minnie trousers are excellent with ballet flats and a simple silk/cotton/linen/etc. top. Start building your jacket collection now. If it looks good at a law firm, it’ll look even better with a pair of raggedy cut-offs. I have more tricks but I’ll spare y’all.

    Keep fighting the good fight,

  • Amelia

    Definitely not denim unless you’re working in a small creative business. Even then, never wear denim on the first day, it’s too risky. Maybe that’s just an Australian thing? But yes generally everywhere I’ve worked the main dress code requirement given has been ‘no denim.’

  • Jacqueline Ho

    Just the article I was looking for! Thanks Leandra and the rest of the Man Repeller team! PS. I agree with you on the whole idea the DRESSES ARE HARD, so true. Trousers a simple blouse and ACCESSORIES are the way to go 🙂

  • Starr

    Leandra, coming to NYC for a fashion internship—flying of course hence bringing 1- MAYBE 2 suitcases- I sigh with confusion as to how I will pack for a summer in nyc…..for a fashion internship (aAHHHhhhhhhhhh!!). Would love if you guys did a similar post on the fashion summer internship packlist since it would have to be limited to a large suitcase size. I figured you’d have some great tips on what to pack 🙂


  • Moura

    i try to refresh the page for several time, thought thats my computer error ha you got me

  • MGF

    I re-upload the page 3 times before understanding the first blank was on purpose.
    not used to face a boh? on MR

  • Middle West

    I work for the local government of a very small island in the pacific. It’s stupid-hot every day of the year and “on-trend” means nothing to my colleagues, so my appearance teeters on a slippery slope from self-expression to self-importance. My go-to for work is silk (love equipment) or cotton (thanks suno) blouses paired with just-below the knee pencil skirts or cropped, tapered trousers. Brogues most days. Smash the basic out of it with weird jewelry or an unexpected hairstyle. Coworkers definitely don’t “get” what I wear, but ya gotta let you be you!