How To Dress Well on a Budget

By Hillary Kawahara| February 3, 2015

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Dressing like a Pro for your Internship

You’ve landed your dream internship and now it’s time to get a matching wardrobe to boot. After all you have to look the part, and for most of the guys I know with Internships in DC this (and every) semester, looking smart and professional is a pretty big deal. After all, we are interns in the Capitol baby! The real struggle is dressing well on a budget.

Dressing professionally means looking extremely sharp.

You’ll be wearing lots of tailored pieces like suits, blazers, trousers and pencil skirts. These pieces can be pricey (and totally boring), but they really don’t have to be. For you gals, here’s a way to look chic without melting your credit card.

With all of you guys in mind I set out on a hunt for some essential professional wardrobe pieces that will keep you looking stylish and won’t break the bank. To make life super easy for you guys, you can click on the image to shop all of my essential pieces. The best thing about all of my top picks? They all cost less than $70. You can thank me later!


 

For the ladies out there…

There are 6 essentials every gal in the professional world should have in your wardrobe…

1. A great blazer

A great blazer adds that instant professional touch you need to be taken seriously in your internship. Tailoring is key with a blazer, so make sure you pick one that fits well. The best thing about blazers? They look just as good worn casually as they do in the office, so you can definitely get more bang for your bucks.

Black Blazer To Dress Well on a Budget

2. An amazing black dress

Every girl worth her weight in Manolos has a LBD (little black dress), but she should also have a WBD (work black dress). Not only is black super chic and sophisticated, it never goes out of fashion. Sure some people think it’s boring but it’s the color of business (well in these parts anyway) and you can always spruce up your look with an edgy twist or a nice pop of color elsewhere in the your outfit.

black dress To Dress Well on a Budget

3. The perfect white shirt

Girls… if there is one thing you absolutely NEED in your life it’s a crisp white shirt. No explanation needed. It goes with everything… just get yourself one.

white shirt

4. Tailored trousers/skirt

Just like with the blazer, tailored bottoms will also catapult you from intern to seasoned office girl. Wearing a suit is so cliché, so let your creative side run wild and buy separate trousers or skirts (whatever you feel most comfortable in – comfort is key) to mix and match with pieces you might already have in your wardrobe.

Black Trousers

5. Great flats add pizzaz

Let’s face it, no one can actually work and run around in heels all day. Take it from me, investing in a stylish pair of flats will be a lot better for both your feet and your job. I used to be a fan of kitten heels for the office, but I am soooo over them. Flats are the way forward. You’ll be able to get your work done and won’t be in agony all day. You don’t have to go for a boring old pair of black shoes either. You might have a serious internship but that doesn’t mean you can’t fun with fashion. Why not stand out with a statement pair of shoes that will add some pazazz to your look.

Rose Gold Flat Shoes

6. A statement bag

This one is a no brainer. You’re an intern now so you probably have to carry everything including the kitchen sink with you. Accessories make or break an outfit, so having a killer bag that is both practical and stylish will be a great investment. Go for a neutral color you can wear with everything. Neutral Grey Bag

Interns-DC-Calls-to-Action-view properties

For the guys out there, there are 5 wardrobe essentials you need to take you from post room to board room…

1. A Killer Suit

Every guy should have a great suit. There’s just no excuse. You get at least two pieces in one, that you get away with wearing over and over (it’s so unfair!). Suits are such a bargain (you will wear this to your interview and all through your internship) so make sure it’s a good one, that fits you well. The men in the capitol building know how to do suits, so you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb. You can also mix and match the blazer and trousers with different pieces to create many more smart looks.

Men's Suit

2. Neat Shirts

Do yourself a favor and buy a 3 or 4 good shirts, in different colors. You can get away with wearing the same suit over and over but only when you have different shirts (and ties) to mix it up. Burgundy Check ShirtMen's Shirt

3. Sweaters without any holes

Buy yourself a great tailored sweater (or maybe 5!) so you can ditch the suit jacket (best to save it for when you really have to wear it) and still look sharp. In the colder months, you can keep the suit jacket and add a sweater for an extra layer to wrap up against the winter chill. Every little helps after all. men's sweater

4. Ties

Guys… you need more than one tie, or if you’re Edison Lafont – bow ties. Just like the shirts, you should have a few different ties so you aren’t wearing the same thing every day. You get to wear the same suit again and again so you have an excuse…

startiegaptie

5. Shoes

Shoes are the key to dressing smart and looking the part. Many people will even judge you by the shoes you wear, so don’t show up to your internship in your scruffy Cons. Get out there and get yourself a pair of smart, polished business man shoes. You’re in the big bad business world now, dress like it! Men's ShoesWondering how you will possibly get all of these without clearing out your (already very low) bank account?

All of these pieces are from H&M and Forever 21 and they are super cheap. These are my go to stores for internship attire that leaves me with enough money to eat at the end of the week. The struggle is real, people, but at least we’ll look the part. You’re welcome…

Check our my post on blunders to avoid when applying for internships

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