Friday, June 14, 2013

Dress Code Disaster: What Does Stylish Yet Appropriate Mean?

Courtesy of Banana Republic
Hey Edsters,
Finding out the dress code at my internship sent me into a tailspin. "Stylish yet appropriate" is really magazine-talk for business casual. I hated business casual, mainly because I didn’t know how to do it right.

Last semester, I worked at my university’s business school in its events department. The job required business casual attire, so I would go to work from class and change in the bathroom before entering the offices. I typically stuck to a dress/blazer and pants/sweater combo with flats. Despite my best efforts, my boss revealed at the end of the semester that I didn’t wear the business casual attire that the job required.

For one, my dresses were typically cotton. Any time you’re required to wear business casual and you choose a dress, make sure it’s of thicker material and a bit more substantial.

Also, my pants weren’t as business-like as my boss would have preferred. Although they were khaki and similar to a pair of riding pants, they were a close fit. My boss suggested during my review that I wear something that wasn’t as body conscious.

I was horrified that I went the semester with absolutely no clue that I was inappropriately dressed. Armed with my failure, I was on a mission to buy real work clothes. If I was going to be the intern that spilled corn chowder down her cerulean blue sweater, I better have more work clothes to wear.

So far, I’ve acquired one dress, a few pairs of pants, a couple of blazers and jackets, and one or two blouses. I’ve also bought two pairs of pumps in black and nude.

I’m curious if the office will showcase more jeans, blazers and pointy heels or Pam Beasley-esque button-downs, cardigans and pencil skirts.

I also picked out my first day of work outfit (yay!). My internship director warned about first impressions; she suggested we overdress on our first day of work and then tailor our outfits to the workplace afterwards.

My first day outfit is a little much, so bear with me: black two-inch pumps, white khakis with a black zigzag print, a black knit top with a larger zigzag texture, and a black jacket with a white lapel. I’m going completely classic black and white on my first day of work.

Have you experienced any fashion flubs? Sound off in the comments section.

Shelter Intern


  1. That is such a d*** move of your former boss to ding you for not dressing professionally when he'd never mentioned it before. I hope he wasn't as passive aggressive the rest of the time. Your outfits actually sound totally fine for my magazine office.

  2. I work in book publishing and your outfits sound perfectly fine for our office too. If jersey dresses weren't allowed, I don't know what half of us would do. The khakis probably have to be seen (let's hope they weren't really like jodhpurs), but unless they were skintight, I'm having a hard time imagining something inappropriate.

    I think the main issue here is it really highlighted how dysfunctional the boss/office is. If your clothes are inappropriate, after a week max, he should have taken you aside or asked a senior woman to take you aside. A boss who sees your unconscious mistakes and lets you keep making them is not a boss you want to work for, ever. He could have cleared it up so easily, but he avoided saying anything for months. Crazytown.

    I will add, though, I'm not sure about your planned outfit. It sounds like a lot of look. High-contrast patterns from collarbone to ankles? Not sure if I would call that classic. But good luck!

  3. On your first day you should wear something that makes you feel great. If it gives you confidence, and it's authentic to who you are, you can't go wrong. Your outfit sounds perfect to me.