The Summer Intern’s Guide to Shopping like a Boss (Part 1)

This guide will get you through the summer on an intern’s budget, but in a boss’s shoes.

We’ve all been there at some point: eager, bright-eyed summer interns filling in the versatile role of office grunt during the hottest season of the year. And when the heat starts to rise, we’ve all debated whether it was worth it to risk wearing a pair of sandals and shorts or not.

In this mini series, I’m going to cover the summer intern’s guide to shopping, dressing, and owning your style at the office like a boss, rather than the peon that you currently are. Whether you’re on break from school and doing your first experimental internship to see if this is the right college major for you, or you’ve got a master’s degree in journalism and no one’s hiring full time right now (ahem, me) this will get you through the summer on an intern’s budget, in a boss’s shoes.

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Who doesn’t dream of looking this good at the office? Photo by Stella Uzo, @jadorefashion.

Part 1: Shopping

By the end of June, beginning of July (aka now) most big clothing retailers are having their end-of-season sale. Spring’s styles that didn’t sell at full price are now marked down, at up to 70% off. Think of your Forever 21’s, Express’s, Zara’s, Free People, etc.

This is when we hard-working, low-earning, creative stylistas swoop in on our intern budgets and make all Spring’s stale styles fresh again for summer. It takes a little creativity and a lot of patience, but it’s worth it. Trust me.

And here’s why it’s better to wait for the End of Season sale rather than just head to the factory outlet: end of season sale items are only about 2 months old, not all that bad in the world of fashion; factory outlet items are typically more than 4 months old, noticeably “Last season” and a waste of money IMO. If you’re going to buy something new rather than just make do with last year’s items it may as well actually be “new.”

Here’s where to shop your summer intern wardrobe right now.

1. Office Dress

Express is well loved for their work-friendly office dress . Ever tried shopping for an interview outfit at Urban Outfitters? Express is mostly business casual dress, but throw a blazer over any of their dresses and you’re instantly business professional.

Right now, Express is having a 50% off all items plus an additional 50% off all CLEARANCE items (price shown in cart). That’s a huge markdown on styles that are still fresh enough to pull off all summer, and into the fall. And pricey items like blazers, slacks, decent jeans and dresses (all office-friendly) are going to be at some of their lowest prices all year.

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I love the ruffled cuffs and airiness of the fabric on this cotton poplin wrap dress. Photo by Express.com.

Now’s your chance to snag some trendy, flattering and always appropriate dresses for your summer office needs. And at these prices, you can even get one for Happy Hour.

This cotton poplin wrap dress above is one of my faves. It’s youthful, lightweight for summer, and longer in the back, meaning you’re well-covered from any angle. Plus, the collar and cuffs make it always office-appropriate.

2. Dress Pants

Another go-to office look is the dress pant, or slacks. Express is my first choice for this style, because they feature so many different cuts and even describe what each does. For instance, the mid-rise ruffle hem columnists pant, a contemporary take on a style staple. The columnist’s pant is more fitted through the hips and thigh than, say, an editors pant, and a little stretchy in comparison, making them my ideal summer office pant.

 

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These columnist ankle pants feature a little stretch and sophisticated structure, making them comfy and appropriate at work. Photo by Express.com.

The columnist’s ankle pant in fun pastels is a summer office staple, now just $25 (price shown in cart). They come in a gorgeous sky blue and pastel pink, and the columnist cut never really goes out of style. This particular style is cut to the ankles, a high fashion trend right now. Ankle cut slacks look great with heeled sandals, mules, or a classic pump, depending on your office needs.

Additionally, blazers are now 30% off, still pricey but you’re paying for quality at Express.

3. Blazers

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When it comes to business casual/professional shopping for a good blazer, most magazines, fashionistas, or just plain adults think of Banana Republic and J.Crew. But let’s be honest: on an intern’s salary, even those shops are a little out of your league. Thankfully, we have Zara. Always fashion-forward, almost always affordable.

Zara’s seasonal sale is still going, and the best thing about Zara is their decent blazers at half the price of Express.  Zara’s blazers are a little less traditional, in vibrant colors and patterns, so be prepared to up your style game with these. But that’s okay, because you’re a boss and challenges don’t scare you off!

Whether you’re pairing it with a t-shirt and nice shorts, an Express dress, or nothing but Hollywood tape (hey, I’d totally do it if I could get away with it), Zara’s got so many fun blazers on sale from $30 to $60, good quality, and fashion forward.

Shop the styles above at Zara, here, here, and here,

 

4. Work Shoes

This is where I pride myself on being an expert. Finding comfortable, stylish, and affordable shoes for work (not to mention appropriate) is my super power. I’ve had a half dozen part-time, pay-the-bills jobs, most of them restaurant service, and I’ve been in settings that required me to be on my feet for 12 hours. But I’ve also worked as in intern in an office, where there’s plenty of AC, a chair to sit in all day, and room to keep a pair of heels to change into. Whatever your intern needs, I’ve got  you covered.

BTW if you’re not a fan of Zara, leave a comment below on some other brands you’d like to see me share style inspo from!

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Once again, Zara takes the cake for the best mix of trendy, comfy, and appropriate shoes. But I’m also looking at ASOS lately, as they’re just as trendy and get good reviews. I’ve tried Express pumps once and never again. But Zara keeps me coming back for more. From platform sandals to chunky bluchers, I’ve tried it all. Here are my recommendations.

As an intern, you don’t want to walk into the office in a pair of Louboutins. Sure they look great, but you’d most likely be wearing more expensive shoes than even your boss, and everyone knows you didn’t buy them on your intern salary which leads to judgement (sugar daddy? rich parents aka spoiled brat?) and everyone making your work life tougher.

While I advocate for bringing your best style inspo to work with you, I am always cautious about what message I’m sending based on my outfit. I’ll get more into taking style risks, and which risks are better to avoid, in Part 2.

For now here are some great summer intern shoe styles:

For the adventurist seeking comfort and class:

For mostly comfort and versatility: these ASOS flats  my fave is a slingback flat 

For optimum chic comfort: Kitten heels, ASOS kitten mules,  or a low block heel.

For more chic, slightly less comfort: a mid block heelmid-heel slingback , or mid-heel stiletto  (I personally define mid heel between 2-3 inches, high heel starting at 3 inches)

Finally, for optimum chic and comfort over time as you get used to them: high heeled sandals, also here, and d’orsay heels here.

I always love to hear from my readers! If you have any thoughts or comments about the blog, style inspo, style brands, or stories you’d like to see more of, let me know in the comments below! XO