our interns are clueless about our office dress code
Smoky eyeshadow can be relatively conservative and professional or a sexy and going-out look. False lashes fall into the same category imo a friend had to wear some in high school because she had trichotillomania, and you never would have known they were false unless you were really close.
But then there are other notes on the dress code, things like shells under a blazer not being allowed and buttons being expected on everyone at all times, which are typically appropriate in conservative suits-only offices that are apparently off limits in this workplace. That indicates to me that there are probably a lot of makeup styles that are generally considered totally professional but which are not accepted in this specific office or industry, for all I know.
When I was a teen white lipstick was popular! When I was a teenager, people put concealer on their lips. But also one where there could easily be confusion stemming from fashion magazines and TV, which go way, way overboard in their depiction of how gigantic your eyelashes need to be for you to be taken seriously at a career in finance.
Or archaeology, or sewer maintenance. Are there any women only a couple of years older than the interns, on whom they could model their take-me-seriously style? If most of the women in the office are the age of their parents, they may not realize that their fashion sense comes across as too edgy rather than just elegantly hip.
I stopped shopping at LOFT a few years ago when all of their magazine ad models started wearing shorts to work in office-looking settings. Nice shorts, but shorts! I never considered them work appropriate, but apparently LOFT thinks we can all wear shorts to work in our office jobs!
No shorts, no capris, no culottes even if you try to call them gauchos. And, definitely, no business rompers. We have to keep reiterating through the summer that flip flops are also not appropriate for the office. Thankfully no one has decided to wear shorts to the office. Basically, her thought was that if a situation was formal enough to require someone to go through the trouble of putting on tights, it was too formal for shorts. But yes, my understanding was that the nicer shorts were for like, brunch or outdoor summer parties.
To a lesser extent I consider professional dress to be in a similar category as the makeup statement; if I can go clubbing, drinking, on a date with what I am wearing to work, it probably not in all cases will not convey the message of a straightlaced professional.
In general, I think this dress code is pretty far on the conservative side, since a couple of things the OP mentions are things that I would never have flagged when I was in a more formal environment. Agreed — it sounds like this office is not doing a good enough job of communicating up front about their very stringent dress code.
I know that would have been a dealbreaker for me, and I would certainly have wanted to know that up front, not after I had already started the internship. Getting work experience that will help them economically is the goal, not making sure they look exactly the same as people three times their age who work there full-time. Thrift stores like goodwill sell professional clothing very cheap. My daughter found a nice church thift store and went every weekend until she had a professional wardrobe built up.
And as you said, it took her several trips over several weeks. Someone who wears a is going to have a lot more success with this idea. Yeah — I found that thrift stores in rich neighborhoods had really nice stuff, but thrift stores in less affluent areas not so much. And rich neighborhoods often restrict public transport options as much as possible. I know, I looked there many times when I was starting work here.
And you get the clothing that comes from the neighborhood the store is in, most of the time. Thrift stores work some of the time. The only one that regularly has work attire is run by a church and open about 15 hours a week, making it difficult for people to get to.
I know thrift stores work for a lot of people, but in order for there to be decent work clothes in them, people in the area have to wear decent work clothes first. So thrifts are an option, but not everyone has access to professional clothing at them. I can find plenty of separates from thrift stores I do most of my shopping at thrift stores! It depends on your size. It can be very hard to find second hand clothes if you are at the edge of the spectrum in any way tall, short, heavy, skinny, different size on top than bottom.
So while that might be an option for some people, it wouldnt be an option for me. I agree if someone will need to purchase multiple suits for an internship they should be told upfront so they can weigh the cost-benefit. If your area has a Junior League, they often run a secondhand shop, and obviously the contents reflect the membership of the organization.
Soooo much Ann Taylor on the cheap! It was great for church, when I was still going to church. Just saw that my local Junior League sponsors a huge annual sale. Am not an intern, but like Ann Taylor clothes for work. Which if you can find something that fits I rarely do at all, let alone what this place wants is nice. Some people are lucky.
Clothes are expensive, and this is a very stringent dress code. In some industries how you look matters a lot. Subconscious bias of future employers against wardrobe faux pas may well hold these young people back. If someone with naturally brown lips wears brown lipstick and gets sent home for that then that would be a manager being racist, not the policy being racist, since it is clearly a natural colour. Can a white girl wear brown lipstick?
Can a black girl wear pink lipstick? Can someone with naturally black hair dye it blonde and vice versa? We had a rule against non-natural colours in school and I distinctly remember a black girl dying her hair bleach blonde and white girls dying their hair jet black and no teacher ever said a word to any of them.
Speaking as a middle-aged white woman, so I could be wrong! Eh, that look is pretty stylish among young women and femmes in general at the moment. My university has a program to get free and low cost suits to students who need them. It is possible to buy one inexpensive black suit and accessorize it cheaply.
There are suits at thrift stores. You may need to go to several thrifty stores to get a wardrobe together quickly. Annoying, but it works. I live in a metro area and there are tons of thrift stores with all sizes and lots of nice clothing. How much work will I miss to take a day off to go thrifting? Do I have the money for gas for thrifting? If you do find a suit at a thrift store, you still have to spend more money to have it dry cleaned before you wear it for the first time.
One might be able to get away with a snappy vintage suit, but again, most of those have been picked over and snapped up by savvy second hand sellers like me. Those are all somewhat easier to find at Target, TJ Maxx, etc, but again, not ultra cheap. Yeah, most of the people I know who shop at thrift shops regularly do it for fashion reasons — and they spend their time combing through the racks and finding nice pieces. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of clothes I have found at a charity shop that even fit me — and neither dress was a suit.
Some jobs require more professional attire, and that is for some fields a crucial part of developing work experience. If a nursing student can use part of a student loan to buy a stethoscope, then a finance intern should be able to use it to buy a suit.
You need advice on how to care for it so you can get buy on two or three , etc. This is strange to me, being in the UK, because a conservative dress code is actually the easiest thing of all — throw on your school uniform without the identifying patch! Yeah, in the USA school uniforms are mostly for private schools, either of the rich or the religious variety. So, shirt, skirt or trousers pants in the US , sometimes a tie, cardigan and blazer. So by the time we are in a working environment we have an idea about what a professional look should be.
Make-up on the other hand is a whole different issue. Me on the other hand I know how to vary my make-up looks. YES thank you for pointing this out. I know for a lot of women those button-downs can be kind of a problem! That set off some question marks for me. This sounds like an unusually strict dress code, even for a formal office, and they definitely need to be very explicit with the interns up front. To fit my chest the rest of the shirt ends up too big.
Or an very large and baggy shirt with no gaping hole. Neither would look right. Button downs are really menswear. Every conservative office I am familiar with and my husband was in law not only allows but tends to be dominated by silk blouses, or shells under suits for women and for women with womanly figures button downs are always problematic and often require expensive tailoring.
Button downs are standard dress attire for men; they are not standard dress attire for women. As I said in a comment below, button downs look inappropriately sexy on me. A long-sleeved shirt in a fabric with no stretch would be uncomfortable in the right size, and it would be a nightshirt in the next size up. I like my shoulders, just not shopping being a pain. Link for jeans and shirts aimed at athletic builds meaning muscular, not just slim. Oooh trying these out! Yeah, this was the part that struck me as odd.
Another kind of shirt or blouse under a jacket would be acceptable in most work enviroments — even formal ones — so they should be really clear about this requirement or even consider changing it. Yeah, I was going to ask about this. I can only wear them as an outer layer, where you only button the bottom half of the buttons and then have a nice conservative neckline of another top underneath!
They are not available off the shelf for my body type. I feel much more polished an professional in a blouse without buttons. A nice shell, dressy t-shirt, surplice blouse, etc should be fine. If a place insisted on a suit and a true button-down shirt everyday, that would be weird. This is where being up front, like Alison says, is really important— in most cases, wearing smoked liner or falsies to work is unlikely to be noticed, let alone get you in trouble. Its not even leh-thah! There are all sorts of low- to heavy-makeup application styles that can work during the day in the office.
But those styles should not look the same as you do when clubbing. I also wore these clubbing tops and stretchy blank pants to church when I was a teenager — they were conservatively cut and thick fabric, despite being form-fitting, so in my mind if it was fancy enough for church it was fancy enough for a formal dress code!
Look up nikkietutorials and Jaclyn Hill on insta. Off that you can go home or you can find something in the closet that works. Or send them into a back room to sort mail or something. Interns need clear directions more than they need choices. I will allow it today, but not again. After that, send home, but if it continues then disciplinary action. Yes, they are young, but they should really be learning the norms of the industry they are joining.
Some of the younger ones tried wearing them and got sent home for dress code violation. Well, some of them started doing it on purpose to get sent home. They thought even time off without pay was better than working. So they quit doing that and let them work. Rather than stocking clothes for them, maybe recommend that they keep a simple sweater in their desk at least. And describe what kind of sweater would be helpful. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful answer, Alison.
There was some supervisor weirdness about addressing it. I wore jeans every single day of high school, and was horrified at my first temp job interview to discover that skirts get shorter when I sit down. I think they should cover this concept in geometry! I grew up in a middle class household, but my mom is a social worker and my dad is a scientist.
I was going to say something very like this! Yeah, I definitely had this issue as an intern. This is why I like the photo suggestion upthread—having clear descriptions can help. Regarding the visible underwear, if I was given such a rule, I would probably either sweat in a thick black jumper every day or run my supervisors crazy with questions about what exactly is considered visible underwear…. I… I like that. Very boring and simple. My daughter, who was a very thin, tiny teenager was able to get away with things that flouted it, while more developed girls were cited for things that were actually technically permissible.
They made a good effort at it, but in the end enforcement comes down to individuals. Yes, diagrams and pictures are so much clearer. Just all my what. I was at a corporate training event last week where people from all corners of the country are present to be trained. Friday was some special employee-appreciation day, so jeans were allowed. One of the training presenters was a heavyset man who had his button-down shirt tucked into his underwear, which were visible about an inch above his jeans the entire time.
Does accidental underwear flashing count as being against dress code? My dad does this all. My mother has given up on reforming him. There was a teacher at my high school who wore black underwear under white pants. I did not need to see that.
Or that flowered, waist-high underwear will show under homemade orange, elastic-waist, double-knit polyester pants when you are solving math problems on the board in 7th grade. My daycare has a supervisor who dresses uber butch and is openly gay — she wears visible superhero themed boxers with baggy pants. Me too, in theory. I was thinner than my body image had me believing. When moving, my underwear was on show. I wanted to die, given that we were in a meeting. How did I look at that muffin top and decide to walk outside like that?
This is why when low rise pants were in, I stocked up camis whenever they were on sale. We had a new legal fellow who deeply offended our community advisory board because the upper part of her boxer-briefs were showing.
It was a really frustrating and awkward conversation. We had a tarantula come in once…we are an office not a zoo. Here I was complaining about the tank tops and 3 inch shorts.
We had a very young employee wear fleece Tweety Bird pajama pants in to work on a friday. She did not understand why it was unacceptable.
Which left me really wanting to see someone successfully pull off plaid hair. Some of this is compounded by the weird stuff clothing stores sell — even reliable ones like Banana Republic and JCrew. The tops are off the shoulders or sleeveless, skirts are too short…pants are too niche to wear to work. They looked like normal pants material, but were basically a career-pant jegging.
I have come to the conclusion that if I want a simple black or navy or grey blazer with shoulders, a back, and no lace I will either have to spend hundreds of dollars or get it custom made. Like, hey, I can see the lines of stitching on the undershirt! I am so sick of the tops with the cut out shoulders! I keep seeing cute, work appropriate shirts, then I pick them up and see that they have no shoulders. Last night I went out shopping to find an interview outfit and came home empty handed because of this.
Did you check out: I HATE shopping for professional clothes really any clothes. I will buy new ones only when I absolutely cannot avoid it any longer. Like, whyyyy are they all cropped?? It works the other way around, too. I am happy ankle pants are in because I just buy regular pants and they are so short, they hit me at the ankle…. They would be fine in my office, but I just.
I like cropped pants because I can wear them with all the shoes I own. Non- cropped must be hemmed to a specific shoe height which limits me. Weirdly, Limited Express, all the way in the back, has decent pants the Editor kind and last time I was searching for a plain black skirt to match a jacket I already had, they were the only place that had knee length black pencil skirts. But the pants in neutral colors and simple skirts, they got. I was JUST looking for clothing for work online because well, its time for a refresh.
And I like to wear shell tops, cardigan and black trousers to work. And a nice dress or two in a wrap or just a simple cut. Im tallish with an athletic build and there is not a damn thing out there for me. What happened to Nordstrom!? Im not asking for the world here I just need simple easy separates that I can toss on in the morning that look dressy enough but not too dressy not that kind of office?
This is driving me CRAZY lately — I needed a few new work tops and everything has a cutout or a ruffle or something else weird going on. The Limited before they went out of business was my go-to for work clothes in my early 20s, but over the years their clothing got less and less work appropriate possibly contributing to their declining sales?
I was still religiously buying their pants when they closed up, but nearly all their tops were either blatantly inappropriate or so trendy as to be dysfunctional as long-term work clothes pieces. No wonder young women are confused about what is office appropriate! Not the most thrilling work attire, but they fit and they would meet most dress codes. But for someone just starting out, especially with an unpaid internship, they are probably too expensive. Coldwater Creek has nice clothes.
If your office allows quarter-length sleeves there are a lot of beautiful tops that fit p-pls sizes. Plus some really nice pants. Back-to-school shopping for a teenaged girl has a lot of the same problems. Do they even make jeans without holes in them anymore?!
Literally as basic as possible. You would think that the simplest thing would be the easiest to find, nope… Eddie Bauer has become my go to…. That was literally actually literally impossible. Several somethings had to give. For plus size, Lane Bryant, Ellos too. This has been driving me nuts when it comes to tops. I am so confused as to where all of you are shopping.
Or is my idea of what you all are looking for completely off? It sometimes depends on the location. I imagine in a lot of stores, the ordering manager has control over how much of which items to stock, based on historical sales, and how to present them on the floor.
The other one has tons of good work clothes, in addition to some pretty high end casual wear. That brand is very casual, young, and trendy—cold-shoulder tops, tops with weird ruffles, sheer tops. Neither one of us saw the connection between that brand and the more office-wear oriented Jones New York. But somewhere in the Corporate hive mind, there was a reason.
Also, have you been shopping this year? Every single shirt at Old Navy last weekend either had a cold shoulder or a giant ruffle or was sleeveless. OH god no, not the peasant crap again! If you are in any way busty then that look is Not For You. I have never seen it this bad. I could not get a simple work appropriate tshirt.
I lost 2 Saturdays to that search then just gave up and decided to work with what I had. No polo shirts for women. These comments give me hope that I might be able to build a new wardrobe. Over the next few weekends I hope to find exactly the clothes you are all objecting to! Thanks to a bi-lateral mastectomy, I went from well-endowed to oddly-lumpy almost-flat over a noticeable belly. Almost none of the dresses and tops I own are appropriate now. It has been super difficult to find things that fit and look nice.
I can always wear a shrug or jacket over a top with cold shoulders or cutouts, and bring on the boxy floaty tops with high necklines, and ruffles and bows front and center! Have you checked out the Allora collection? Boden is often quite affordable — for Boden — on eBay. They have plus sizes that are generously cut. Just check a UK size conversion to make sure. Have you considered having a guide with a few places to shop? Having a list of places that offer workwear appropriate items in a variety of sizes and price points if you can manage might help your interns.
Maybe the safe way is to wear colored tops instead of white. Or accessories, whatever it is. I thought everyone else in the office just genuinely liked boring clothes and had money to shop at grown-up stores —not me! I was the kind of person who wore stuff with cats embroidered on it and rainbow-coloured kneesocks with performance-material cargo skirts. Luckily I was in a pretty low-key environment but I am sure my coworkers constantly cringed when they saw me.
I was very kindly sent home by my manager when I was an 18 year old new employee at a bank because I was wearing knit top that you could see my bra through and it had a slit that showed my bellybutton.
But I had like no money, my parents were completely unhelpful in this area, I never had had fashionable clothes. Luckily the bank was near a shopping mall and I was able to buy something else to wear on sale. It was just sheer luck I had worn something appropriate to the interview that got me the bank job. I literally needed someone to tell me what was not okay to wear.
No see-through shirts, not clothing that exposes arm pits, stomach skin, legs above the knee, collar bones, etc… for this very conservative job. I wish I had known before starting because it would have saved me from being really embarrassed.
How do you get to age 18 without thinking about what dress is appropriate for what ocassion. And how DARE you suggest a uniform? No need to go full Internet snowflake there. I DID wear a uniform, which was why my understanding of fashion rules was stunted. Even the shaved swear words thing.
While the internet can be a helpful resource for figuring out dress codes especially if it brings you here or to Corporette, for example , it can also create information overload.
In my incredibly brief Google search, I found a few helpful resources but all text, no pictures , and the third link in my search results was to a slide show with stuff which would not fly in most offices including formal shorts.
Eh, googling those terms can still find you some pretty terrible stuff. But boy, look around on that topic online and see and the horrible no good very bad examples and advice out there. The dress code here is strict even by strict dress code standards, so even someone who did all the right things could really easily be breaking the rules by wearing a non-buttoned shell blouse under her jacket.
I Googled things like that years ago and the results were hilariously unhelpful. There have to be good resources out there for people who are entering the workforce now — like AAM! Maybe we should encourage Alison to put together a gallery of clothes that are acceptable for different industries.
For future visitors to her website. And we can all help her populate it by sending in photos of acceptable and unacceptable in our industries. She could pick the guest curators, and do the final publishing. That would be fun! I can send in a pic of my friend who regularly wears superhero, princess, and novelty fabrics skirts to work in an elementary school setting. I think this is a really common disconnect.
But the micro dress is a thing at these events. Which is especially funny given how dweeby preteen boys are! They may be fine for church or a nice dinner or at a wedding, but not in a situation where not only suits, but button down shirts for women is required.
Exactly — I was going to say this. Often church dresses will be more floral, frilly, and not professional. Wearing plain white or black button-downs every day is so boring. The women in my office can wear cute dresses with fun patterns, and I can wear patterned button-downs and cool ties. Yes, spring Confirmation had lots of mothers in cut out shoulders and body fitting pants!
Funeral today had tie dye shirt and bright blue sweatpants. I go to a hypertraditional Catholic Church that shares the church building with a more mainstream branch of the Church. I used to use a clothing subscription service, and learned quickly that putting a note that I wanted outfits for a church occasion Easter, in particular needed clarification- my first go-round yielded cute outfits that might be fine for a brunch, but either too casual or cut wrong neckline or hemline-wise for my participatory role in a Catholic Mass.
That would also be inaccurate for my church because of very modest-feminine dresses and head coverings. I used to work with an organization that helped disadvantaged people find employment. Nearly all of the men we worked with had a fairly conservative suit in their closet. They could wear the same suit to church, a wedding, a funeral, or to a job interview. None of the women had a suit in their closet. They all had something they could wear to church, to a wedding, or to a funeral, but generally that was three separate outfits, none of which were appropriate for a job interview.
I graduated high school in , and because of the grunge era and this being pre-Britney and Spice Girls, if I had to dress up, it was going to be very basic, not a summery church dress or going-out dress. I remember a couple outfits I had. I may be an outlier! I think I owned all of the outfits you mention!
But my parents were very weird. I was teased by peers for my clothes my entire childhood. They also were very unhelpful in many things. My mom had major depression so she just mentally checked out on some very key mom things. I grew up in a rural area and in a blue collar family. We had very few dress up occasions, and the clothing I wore to those was appropriate for high school and never work.
I remember the panic of being invited to a Bat Mitzvah for the first time in 7th grade. I literally had nothing to wear and my mom had to drop a fair bit of money on a cute dress from Express which I uh…. Neither of those are business casual appropriate. I remember those high school dress-up occasions. However, back in my day it was totally okay to wear a suit-style top and matching dress shorts with nylons, because early 90s to a high school awards thing.
I also wore dresses better suited to a fancy church event than to an office — again, early 90s. This would be unprofessional some places? So a sheath dress would be totally fine, as long as you had a matching suit jacket, or at least a coordinating blazer.
I think this is very much a socioeconomic thing. But classism relies on subtle cues for sorting people into us and them. I realize they are young, just starting out in a professional environment, and unaware of professional norms, but they do need to develop a self-awareness that extends to the environment around them. I have to agree with your first point. I got to that point with an employee and it came down to the fact that I had written out a guide, showed examples of sample clothes they could pick up for very cheap, pointed out other employees and how what they wore was acceptable and why, ect and this person just was not getting it almost willfully it seemed.
So we sent them home a few times and they came back wearing proper attire. Personally, I think there is a middle ground where this is part of what you teach the interns or new employees.
You start with explicit instructions on things you can and cannot wear, then remind them they will need to use their judgment if they run into something not on either list, and you help them understand how to do that i. This is a big change to them! Another long term option would be to work with their schools. I used to teach undergraduates in a College of Business and we would emphasize professional dress, often providing materials, pictures, etc.
It was actually part of the curriculum for one of our core courses. I remember one professor who would let the guys know to grab a friend or two and head to Joseph A Banks during their suit sale. Back in the early 80s, when I was doing an internship, we were all called to a meeting the semester before the internships started. When I was an education student all the Drama and Dance students were kept in after a lecture to be lectured at about appropriate clothing for our upcoming teaching practicums which included the fact that we MUST wear underwear top AND bottoms for females.
We all looked around boggling at each other, about the fact that we were singled out for that! Not one of us failed our practicums, but a lot of Maths, P. E, English and Visual Arts teachers did!
Most of the debate is whether my workplace would be okay with them. I wear purple hair, my work loves it. The trick is to do salon-level purple and not Manic Panic purple.
My mom turns 60 next year and has silver hair — like, fashionable silver, not just grey — with blue and purple streaks. Cool hair has no age! I knew a girl once whose strawberry blond hair was naturally a beautiful shade rose pink.
Obviously, some of these items are definitely not within professional norms. I know you can get pieces at Goodwill for fairly cheap, but these kids are in college. No one is going to have a full suit, except maybe some of the male students if they have ever needed one for a funeral or wedding.
Depends on your field—when I was in school, most of the business students seemed to own multiple suits, and wore them for class presentations. I went to college about miles from home and could only fit, like, five tshirts and a couple of pairs of jeans in my suitcase. I dropped a public speaking class in college because they wanted you to do your presentations in a suit. No room in my suitcase to bring one, no room in my budget to buy one.
I so agree with this. Suits are incredibly expensive. Are you paying your interns? Can they afford a suit on that salary? I think college career counseling offices actually tend to do a fairly good job in this area, recommending suits for interviewing or career fairs. If not, they should apply for internships elsewhere. My career center actually had a suit library you could borrow suits from before the career fair or maybe they let you keep them?
Thrift shops are not a panacea for workplace dress code problems. Yes, all of this! Then again, nursing students need to be prepared to buy a stethoscope. And they can use their financial aid to get it.
The whole thing needed drycleaning at least every couple wears. Even if you get several suits for a song at a thrift store, drycleaning suits weekly is going to run you a LOT of money. My first internship, my mom went with old-school rules on business casual and I had wool skirts, blouses, vests, and nylons. Way overkill for where I was interning, which basically was business casual means no jeans, and on dudes buttondowns preferred to polos but company polos were def.
When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to go on a week long trip to London through the business school. Maybe then can get away with wearing the same suite 2X a week, with a different shirt under blazer? You can still require conservative dress: I agree with this. It would take me a while to build up a wardrobe if I got a job where I had to wear suits every day, even now.
I would have been screwed if it was expected of me at a college internship. I could maybe fake it a bit more with dresses and jackets. Upset is a bit too far, but when someone is this UN-self conscious, erring a bit on the other side strikes me as no great tragedy.
In particular, guys, no brightly colored undershirts and no profanity shaved into hair. Women, no visible undergarments, no skirts above midthigh, no tank tops or sheer blouses, no exposed midriffs or backs, and please use conservative, professional makeup that includes natural lipstick and eye shadow shades. Banana Republic is a good place to look for affordable professional wardrobe pieces. Yeah all of this applies to everyone. Keep it gender neutral.
If everyone wears a suit and a button down, it sounds like the dress codes are pretty much identical for males and females. No purple lipstick or visible underwear no matter what your gender is. Unless the OP is talking about cotton tank tops or something? Yeah, that part surprised me to. Another argument for making the dress code very, very explicit!
A button-down has buttons that allow you to fasten the tips of the collar down to the shirt. A button-up is any shirt with buttons up the front. Is this a language difference or something? You mean my closet is full of the clothing equivalent of unicorns?
I was being semi-facetious anyway. The OP probably means button-up anyway, since button-downs are less formal. Yeah, I was going to say that requiring button downs for women is way outside the norm, even in a conservative field. That being said, in regards to tank tops, there are some that are appropriate and some that really are not, even in less conservative places, and I assume she is talking about those cotton tank tops that on some people are just a little too low.
When it is that far outside the norm, they really do need to spell out their expectations for interns and expect people to be unhappy. If told to wear a suit to work, I would automatically wear a shell with it instead of a button down. They can be a little annoying for those of us less-endowed as well. Depending on where the buttons fall, there can be some unfortunate gaping from a side view. Safety pins from the inside of the shirt.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how no manufacturers have focused on resolving this gaping issue! New York and Co recently had a button down style that included a little snap to close the bosom gap. I bought like half a dozen shirts in that style because of it. Do you have a link to the style online, or remember what it was called? I do the same. One time our AC went out one day mid summer and I finally caved and took my blazer off.
The inside temp was 95 plus. HR woman actually came up to me to talk to me about it. Everyone was soaking in sweat in the office. Taking the dress code a bit too far there! I remember being so livid. Button-up blouses are, in a lot of cases, a tricky proposition particularly for women. I wondered if it meant a thin cotton or lycra tank top that looked like it came with your exercise gear? Because yeah, when I wore suits to work I always paired them with silk shells.
I would think pullover blouses under a suit jacket would be acceptable in any circumstance. I work at a law firm and regularly wear sleeveless shirts and nicer tanks with a jacket. As a petite, thin, and busty woman 30F bra size , it is nearly impossible to find button-down shirts that fit both my boobs and my shoulders. I actually have about a half dozen that look professional! A button down will generally make me look FAR less polished than many other options. Considering that the dress code described sounds particularly conservative, interns really do need it spelled out.
It would be nice to send specific information about the dress code before their first day. Also, pointing out that office wear on TV shows tends to be inappropriate. That may be what some of them are basing their choices on. I have so much sympathy for young women trying to dress professionally. In my 20s, I bristled so hard at the way button-down shirts made me look thick-waisted and masculine. I also had no idea what an acceptable alternative could be. If I were one of these interns, I would respond really well to being given concrete alternatives.
Will crew-neck tops made of non-stretchy material work? Would a crew-neck sweater work? That sort of thing has always been helpful to me.
As a well-endowed woman I bristle at button downs on principle. Not really an option, financially, for interns. The few I have, I typically have to pin in place. Same with the suits. But then, I am fortunate that I do not work in a field that would ever require this kind of a dress code. If I move and people around me move, at some point someone can see something from the hole between the buttons.
Only way to avoid that is a brooch or something to close the space between the buttons at the crucial spot, and still there are the more unusual peeking places left. Not busty, but my shoulders at a skeletal level are wide for my otherwise small frame. VintageLydia when I lived in Shanghai I developed a good relationship with a seamstress you can get clothes made custom easily in China and I told her I was determined to find a way to make button-downs look good on me.
Button down shirts only would be my nightmare dress code. That requirement would truly bug the flip out of me because it would require me to spend a TON of money on shits and the subsequent tailoring to avoid popping out. I also find them terribly uncomfortable. I am always hot so wearing a long sleeve plus blazer would kill me.
I usually wear a pencil skirt and a blouse and sometimes a blazer depending. Or a dress with a cardigan. If the dress code is that persnickety, someone will notice. I prefer tie-neck blouses and nice shells instead. If they are unpaid interns they may literally not be able to afford the correct clothing so leave an opening for people to negotiate something that is passable from their wardrobe. After all if they arent being paid it isnt fair to expect the same work wardrobe spend from them.
This is a good point. Forcing an unpaid intern to drop a bunch of money on a new wardrobe is a great way to weed out socio-economic diversity in your intern pool.
I think it makes sense to have the strict dress codes for interns from a business perspective, but there also needs to be an awareness of how that impacts your prospective candidates as a whole as well as who will be disproportionately affected.
I worked in an upper-scale department store that had a strict dress code, and we sent home people who violated it each and every time. After all, interns are there to learn. Or maybe a lunch and learn the first week. I think a PowerPoint with some exaggerated examples could help keep it light. By pointing them to where the appropriate clothes actually are, LW would be no only helping the interns meet the dress code immediately, but also empowering them to build an suitable wardrobe as they enter the workforce and get more disposable income to build a wardrobe with.
If LW can find that place this season and come back and tell the rest of us, that would be great. I know, what is the deal with the length of skirts in the stores these days?
I would love something that was knee length without having to pull the waistband to my bra. Worst case, maybe link them to Corporette though even Corporette showcases some items that are a little too immodest for my work tastes? It helped to picture myself in the position of someone being told that their clothing was not office-appropriate, and how that might feel. I had a friend help me select some of those items, another donated several nice and posh-looking blouses… so I sorta have a set of uniforms now.
At first I tried to adapt my old wardrobe to fit these rules and it was SO difficult. Finally I bought myself a few mix-and-match pieces that adhered to my new dress code and that made my life much easier.
Provide this to all interns when you review your dress code. Yeah — the guy wearing brightly colored t-shirts under a button-down definitely sounds like a case of someone trying to make do with what he already had, and I suspect a fair number of the other incidents are the same thing. Also, my college was in a rural-ish area where there was literally nowhere to buy a good interview suit — my auntie took me to the nearest large city, which was 90 minutes away.
We have an intern this summer. On jeans day, she wore one of those shirts with the shoulders cut out. This was two months into her internship. HR gave her an orientation on her first day and I assumed they had covered it because her clothes until that point had been fine. But if we get an intern next summer, I will spell everything out on day 1. Those cold shoulder tops are everywhere now! I pulled what I thought was a cute shirt off the rack but then it had those stupid cutouts.
She looks like a pirate. Come to think of it, I could totally get away with that, since my office has no dress code. Also, is visible thong, more like a little gaping waistline on someone with a curvier shape who has to lean over and you caught a glimpse?
Also, I question whether the tank top under a jacket is worth debating. Are you going to discuss fiber content differences between the two garments? Is a cotton knit sleeveless shell okay under a jacket? Is a buttoned shirt really only acceptable? If you have large breasts these can be more problematic. I think you should stick to the blatant stuff and let these young women learn how to dress for the job they want by observing the finer details of what other women wear.
I think I know what she means by some of these and fair or not these young people will be judged in the industry in question. When it comes to the tank top under the jacket, what I did in college was a low-cut spaghetti strap cotton tank top that nicely set off my, ah, assets. I started my career at a big 5 consulting firm straight out of college and have worked in business suit attire-only situations. I have spent a lot of time in a lot of different Fortune companies because of my role as a consultant.
Even in business attire-only situations, there truly are a range of interpretations seen and people still manage to express some individuality in their presentation. The best advice I got was to dress for the job you want and look to more senior women for your style cues.
If I had an older woman sit me down and try to micromanage the makeup on my face, or the need to wear a buttoned blouse instead of a shell under my jacket when roughly zero buttoned blouses can accommodate my curves without gaping buttons , I may have missed out on a very successful career in consulting and now selling consulting services. It would be a major turn off to have an office-mommy take that kind of extra initiative. Could OP be very specific with interns when it comes to violating the clear rules, but in matters of taste give more general examples of what is accessible and appropriate?
Please, OP, take a moment to contemplate where the boundary lies between your own personal preferences vs. OP is not responsible for the rules of the industry and her company though.
She acknowledges that in a perfect world appearance would not matter. She says clearly that suits and button shirts are expected for everyone and that is what the dress code is. So no matter what her personal feelings are of which there is no indication in the letter the fact is that button shirts are the dress code.
Interns are being sent home and not taken seriously because of their violations of the dress code. I do agree with one point. I do wonder about age. I actually do learn toward believing you should be able to pick up on cues, but you do make a good point about the age issue.
It can be incredibly hard for women to find clothes that are work AND age appropriate. The compassionate thing, actually, is to explain to interns that they will not get jobs or get promoted later in life if they do not present themselves in a professional manner — and of course, that differs by industry.
Maybe neon pink hair looks edgy in one office. Both because it can come across as sexist, and because the guys deserve guidance too. I was reviewing comments to see if anyone mentioned this aspect. Even though LW says that there are more issues with female than male interns, making sure to focus on the dress code for both in a fair way is really important. Just an idea but if the interns are coming from the company coordinating with the college, perhaps suggest to the college to go over appropriate dress with these students.
Maybe the colleges can do a work enviornment class — appropriate dress clothes, use of social media, etc. Then emphasize it again on the first day.
State that after the first day there are no more excuses. When I was an intern I was slightly older than the rest, think 23 vs About once a month there had to be a meeting with the interns about appropriate dress.
I was never told to attend the meeting because, surprise, I read the handbook! Out of probably interns only 3 of us were consistently dressed appropriately for the company. It was extremely surprising how it never really seemed to sink in to some people. There are some comments here debating the makeup issue, or the smaller points of the dress code. But whatever issue we might take with these standards, they are not set by OP, but part of the larger mindset that comes with an industry.
A conversation about smokey eye shadow now might prevent getting rejected in an interview later on, when the stakes are higher for our interns. Obviously, they might decide that some of these norms are unfairly restrictive, but they should at least be explicitly told what those norms are so they can decide what trade off they want to make. Like I would have thought maxi dresses were a no-go for work but a woman superior to me wears them all the time so I let myself wear them on occasion too.
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