Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.
If you hold a full-time job in the fashion industry, chances are you had to kick professional ass at a bunch of internships before you landed there. As we've discussed on this very website, there's no secret formula to landing the job — or, your next internship before the job — of your dreams. But, we can tell you right now that it's important to "dress for the job you want," as the adage goes, and take wardrobe cues from the higher-ups at your place of employment.
Dressing for a role in fashion can be tricky, of course, because this business is generally much more casual than, say, finance. But just because we can wear denim to the office doesn't mean we should take that sartorial code and run with it — for interns (who are often working to earn a permanent position), it's far better to err on the side of caution.
Many interns, it seems, have not heeded this advice. Just ask mega-stylist Kate Young, who told us about an intern she once had whom she called "Spring Breaker." Said Young: "She wore high-waisted, acid wash jeans and crop tops, sometimes with beads, every day. And [my then-assistant] would be like, 'You have to wear black on a photo shoot,' to try to get her to tone it down, and it would be worse — underwear-style short-shorts and a crop top. And it didn't help that Terry Richardson would [ask her], 'Can I take your picture?'" Hoo-boy!
So, we at Fashionista put out feelers among our friends, colleagues and former co-workers in fashion to cull together the 10 most blindingly inappropriate, borderline offensive things they've seen interns wear. (Quotes have been left anonymous to protect the offenders in question.) For those, scroll through below — and please, by all means, feel free to add your own horror stories in the comments.
The Urban Frontierswoman
"We had a summer intern show up in a blue, velvet, skater-style, long-sleeved dress with a Davy Crockett raccoon hat. After a few hours of no one saying anything (in person, but it was all over Gchat) she turned around and said to no one in particular, 'I really thought someone would comment on my outfit.'"
The Dirty Hipster, Literally
"When I was an intern, there was one other intern, this guy, in our photo department, and he left for a week to go to Coachella. He was a bit hipster (before it was cool) anyways, but I swear he came back and he wore the same ripped jeans and dirty black T-shirt for weeks. I don't think he showered. They kept sending him to run errands because of the smell. (They couldn't say anything because his dad was a big-time photographer for the magazine.)"
The Outfit Repeater
"I've certainly had problems with scantily clad interns in the past (backless minidresses are rarely okay, guys!), but I've also had a huge issue with interns who don't dress up enough. To wit, one semester I worked with a girl who showed up in the same jeans, flip-flops and baggy T-shirts every single day. (And this was before the whole jeans-and-a-tee look was A Thing, mind you.) Our office was casual, but not that casual. It was clear she put little to no effort in her appearance, and that reflected upon the unimpressive quality of her work."
"Let me preface this by saying I worked in a very creative place where personal style was celebrated — it really took a lot to raise eyebrows — so summer interns had free rein with their looks. But there were two girls who stand out for pushing things too far: on her tamer days, one wore a straw gardening hat with a big plastic flower, and another oscillated between latex American Apparel leggings and super-short cutout booty shorts."
The Blair Waldorfs
"One of my first 'real' gigs was at a fashion magazine, so understandably, many of the well-to-do interns would wear designer labels head to toe — I'm talking Chanel, Tory Burch, Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang, all topped off with a Céline bag. I'll let you in on a little secret: Most of the assistant- and associate-level staffers that supervise you as an intern could never dream of affording such luxurious pieces with their salaries (even if they are treated to freebies or a press discount). This showy display is the easiest way to give your boss a bad taste in his/her mouth about you — and it's career suicide to have a reputation of being spoiled or entitled. No one will blink an eye if you carry a designer bag or have a nice pair of shoes, but keeping your daily looks understated and modest is the way to go. Let your work ethic speak for itself."
The Cocktail Waitress
"I had an intern at my fashion magazine's features department show up the first few days in her 'going out' clothes. She wore a body-con dress with a cropped blazer over it. When she carried files around the office, my bosses told me they thought she looked like she was carrying around a tray of shots to serve at the local bar."
The X-Rated Romper
"We've had a few pretty horrific experiences with intern attire in the past few years. Prior to each intern starting, we let them know that, as we are a fashion PR firm, they can feel free to dress 'trendy,' but still must appear office-appropriate and professional. Apparently, a few have had very liberal views on what 'office-appropriate' is.
During the warmer months, we once had an intern come to work in a super-short romper, which was questionable, but mostly fine — until she sat down to organize samples and it was very clear she had no underwear on. We ended up having to send her home early because it was so apparent and uncomfortable."
The Highly Off-Trend Athleisure
"This past semester, we had an intern who wore head-to-toe sweats. And I'm not talking about an on-trend Adidas tracksuit or anything — more like huge, oversized college sweatshirts and sweatpants with stains on them. Moral of the story: It's always better to be a bit overdressed than underdressed."
The Birds and the Bees
"A crop top. But no outfit will ever beat the time I looked up from my desk and saw two interns making out."
The Bodycon Uniform
"Ages ago, when [redacted] had a closet full of interns (well, messengers... pre-lawsuit), there was an intern who literally wore BCBG body-con dresses like it was no big deal. No one understood how she was hired."
These responses have been edited and condensed.