Dressing for your internship on a student budget

May 04, 2016
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When your wardrobe is on point, life just seems better. The dreaded morning routine becomes that little bit easier, and your staple shorts and t-shirt uniform becomes similar to a warm hug from a really old mate. But what happens when you score your first internship and you’ve got extremely limited time to suit up and get your professional adult pants on before the big day? Where do you even start?

Shopping becomes an exercise in horror as you stumble blindly from the casual section of your favourite clothing store to the big scary world of office wear. Dressing to impress is one easy step you can take to at least make yourself look like the suave, high-achieving professional we’re all hoping to become. It’s also a great way to let your new co-workers know that you respect that they know their stuff, and that you’re willing to put maximum effort into the time you spend with them. There’s just nothing like a good blazer to tell the world/your new boss you’re an adult now.

You’ve finally got a semi-respectable outfit together and you’re feeling pumped as you reach down to double-check the price tag. Yikes, right? That’s more expensive than you thought. Fear not, brave intern, because we’ve got you covered.

Invest in key basics then go crazy with cheaper pieces

Staple pieces are going to become your new best friend in the world of corporate wear, so be prepared to splash a little dosh on the perfect pair of slacks or a skirt that fits just right and is going to get you through your entire internship. These are the pieces that everything else is going to work around, so don’t settle for ‘just OK’. Once you’ve got them, you can go crazy with blouses or shirts from cheaper clothing chains as these can easily be replaced if they get ruined.

A pop of colour can help keep the corporate blues away

Let’s face it: wearing the same outfit in the same shade of neutral can get a little dull. Depending on your work environment, don’t be afraid to pair a little bit of colour with a neutral base. Don’t go crazy and wear your new lime green heels with a fluoro pink blouse, but if you feel it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to wear that pink blouse with a black skirt and shoes. If it puts a little extra pep in your step, go for it.

Hit up op-shops and outlet clothing centres

Shopping on a budget can be depressing in your average shopping centre, so don’t be afraid to hit up an op-shop or an outlet clothing shopping centre. There’s no better feeling than finding the perfect piece of clothing at an even better price, and op-shops are a goldmine of staple workwear that thousands of office workers with cash to burn have decided to get rid of. It’s also easier to build a bigger, more creative professional wardrobe when that perfect piece is only going to cost you $5.

See if you can fancy up your own wardrobe

Not everything you already own is going to work, but there might be a few pieces in your wardrobe that can be paired with those basics we mentioned earlier to create the perfect office-appropriate look. Dust off those killer ankle boots, fish out that tie your dad gave you on your 18th birthday with such hope in his eyes, and get ready to ask everyone you meet for an opinion on your new look before your first day.

Don’t worry, you’ve got this.

Shannon Coward

Shannon Coward is a third year Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Queensland. She enjoys period dramas, doughnuts and a good nap.

Image: Naomi Chilcott