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A Guide To Sustainable Style for Summer Internships

It’s time to trade in your jeans for trousers and suits as we get ready to join the workforce using sustainable and affordable methods.

Credit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

Jeans are out, and so are trainers. No, this isn’t some fad summer trend; it’s the dreaded leap into the world of ‘corporatecore.’ ‘Corporatecore is Instagram’s adopted term for work style. Of course, most of us do not have the funds to buy a whole new wardrobe to fit the style necessary for internships. However, there are both affordable and sustainable options out there.

For the first time, alongside thousands of others, I now require a professional wardrobe for my office internship. Dressing appropriately can be daunting, especially when you’ve never had to venture into the workplace before. But before you imagine power suits and ties, more and more outfit combinations are now acceptable in the office. Luckily, you may already have some of these pieces in your wardrobe.

The days of pajamas in lectures and tracksuits in seminars are soon to be long gone as the looming 9-5 requires a touch more sophistication. However, buying the first suit co-ord you’ve picked off the Primark shelf will lead you straight into the open arms of fast fashion. This is not only an unsustainable option but also a bad habit to get into. These clothes tend to be of poor quality and cheap items that rarely stand the test of time. 

Fast fashion at work – internship fashion

When lifestyle changes occur, such as beginning an internship, they usually require a change in wardrobe. Of course, for young people, this is more common as we experience the most changes growing up. Although studies have shown that many people are now more willing to choose sustainable brands and pay up to 10% more for this, barriers to accessibility can still arise due to rising prices. 

@yunaaleee

should I wear this for the first day🤭

♬ lovers rock – Aleena.*-

When clothing becomes a requirement, the quickest and cheapest option is often the most attractive. However, there are many ways to change to a more professional and ethical style without breaking the bank. 

The good news is that purchasing a whole new wardrobe isn’t necessary, especially when many items you already own can be used as smart wear.

Shopping sustainably

Thrifting, borrowing and shopping from small businesses can provide a capsulated, corporate wardrobe which can provide quality and durability, often at a low price. 

With trends coming in and out, not least in the world of ‘corp core,’ buying a completely new work wardrobe really isn’t sustainable, both ethically and financially. Students and those who are often looking for budget-friendly options are most likely to jump on the fast fashion bandwagon. A recent study has shown that, on average, 16-24-year-olds in the UK purchase an item of clothing per week. 

Recycling emblem, surrounded by the sleeves of clothing
Credit: Shutterstock/ HalynaRom

Another way to reduce waste and overconsumption is to purchase some staple pieces second-hand that can be styled variously. For example, a thrifted, dark-colored blazer can be paired with a range of skirt and trouser options. This lowers the number of items required to purchase while also providing the ability to wear a range of looks. 

With the weather hopefully being warmer, linens are an absolute must and luckily, they are in most second-hand stores. Keeping the tones muted and the pieces versatile can increase the likelihood of items standing the test of time. Following the workplace, these pieces can also be worn for a variety of activities inside and out.

Sustainable alternative

Not every work outfit needs to be plain, and a statement piece can add a unique touch. Of course, statement workpieces can be much harder to style, leading you to purchase more things to wear with them. To remedy this, look at pieces you already have and determine what will create an air of professionalism. Remember, comfort is always number one when you wear something for the entire day. 

Another top is to raid your parents’ wardrobes. It really is that simple. It is likely that many parents have been working in professional environments for the best part of 40 years. It’s even more likely that they’ve accumulated some business casual wardrobe items since then. 

Snag your mom’s old blazer or one of your dad’s ties for the office; chances are they won’t even notice they’re gone. It’s no secret that old clothes were made to last, so they are a great option to wear now in a sea of poorly made, cheap pieces. Even older siblings or friends could lend a shirt or two; they were once in your position and will be happy to help. 

Shop small – internship fashion

Independent Gen Z-led brands such as Minka Dink London advertise their items as hybrid pieces suitable for absolutely all occasions. One can dress their best-selling Bonnie Blouses equally up and down, making them a perfect investment to wear to an internship or placement. Another plus is that you can go straight out afterward without having to change outfits.

Many Gen Z-driven clothing brands strive for versatility and have created pieces that you buy once and wear everywhere. These brands understand what is important to young people, from affordability to sustainability to versatility. When creating designs, designers often think of themselves and what they require in their lives, which reflects the hybridity in their clothing. Looks you can wear to and from work can significantly improve cost per wear. 

No Emotions is another small business that strives for comfort, style, and sophistication. Their best-selling silk trousers are another staple piece that keeps you looking cool and comfortable in the office and out. They are also a great investment piece to wear for all occasions. Shopping at small brands can also reduce your carbon footprint, and the quality is often significantly better. 

Sustainability and affordability

Internships don’t require you to turn your wardrobe upside down and return from the high street with bags of poor-quality clothes. When internships are unpaid, the last thing you want to be doing is spending your savings on looking your best. Prioritizing budget and style allows for quality outfits that can be worn in a variety of workplaces and jobs.

Overconsumption among young people, especially those of working age, is contributing to the harmful rise of fast fashion. While many believe that sustainability is not financially viable, it is clear that sustainability and affordability are possible.

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