Image via Alicia Tenise. Check out where her clothes are from here.

College is all about connections. You are constantly networking with your peers, professors, and faculty members. At some point you will go on an interview for either an on campus job or for an internship; or, you will attend a career fair or networking event. Regardless of the event, proper dress is a must. First impressions are very important when it comes to professional meetings.

It is important to first start out by defining what the difference between formal business attire and business casual. Women’s formal business attire is described as a more conservative look where neutral colors and pantsuits and structured dresses dominate. To keep with the professional look, women’s hair should be simple and make up should be toned down a bit. Shoes should always be closed toed and no more than two and a half inches high. Also, avoid wearing gaudy jewelry at all costs-there is absolutely no need for large statement jewelry in business formal attire.

Note that one does not necessarily have to look masculine. While it is a must that one should dress conservatively, this does not mean that you have to wear a matching two-piece suit. It is not necessarily “daring” to wear a navy blazer or bold cobalt blue or burgundy pencil skirt. However, be aware that certain pieces like a hot pink pant suit will make it seem like you are not serious about the position you are acquiring more information about.

Business casual is typically defined by your workplace. At my summer internship it meant that Tuesday through Thursday we were able to wear anything that at least gave the illusion that we were put together. At my current job, however, business casual Fridays mean that the only difference in apparel is that I can wear a cardigan on Fridays rather than a blazer. Typically interviews that are a little bit informal-say that you are meeting someone at a café for an informational interview-call for business casual attire. What is important to note here is that business casual does not mean that you can dress in tight skirts, shirts that show cleavage or are too tight, nor does it mean that you can wear leggings to work.

Image via Alicia Tenise. Check out where her cloths are from here.

Pro tips:

  • Please, whatever you do, leave the low-cut, open back, cutout, mini dresses or skirts in your dorm room. Wear those later on in the evening when you are going out with your friends. They have no place in a professional environment and you will have automatically been cut from the list if you decide to wear anything informal.
  • If you have larger breasts and cannot find button down shirts that cover you properly, either nix them completely from your options or shop around online for sales on shirts like the ones offered by Rochelle Behrens. Other great alternatives to button ups are chiffon shirts with cuff-able sleeves.
  • Your finger nails either need to have perfect polish at all times or no polish on them at all.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your colleagues about typical dress in your office. After all, no two offices expect the same dress code from their employees. However, as Oscar Wilde once said, “You can never be over dressed or over educated.”
  • If you cannot walk in heels (like me) it is okay to wear flats.
  • Boat shoes are considered to be business casual or improper business attire in general. Do not wear them as part of a formal business outfit ever.

As previously mentioned, dress is very important during networking events, interviews, and in the office. As an intern you will most likely be one of the youngest people in your office. The way you dress from the beginning will determine how much respect you receive and will tell your boss and colleagues how important you think this job is.

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the author

Sarah Wiszniak is a student at the University of Connecticut. She is a college writer and video blogger for The Prospect, a national video blogger for, and has her own college admissions blog. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys pondering political theory, crafting, and taking meaningless Buzzfeed quizzes. Her favorite flowers are daisies and she plans on ruling Washington, D.C. one day.

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