Dress without stress

Worried about what to wear during your internship? The Gateway's here to help!
Starting work

It's what's inside that counts. We at The Gateway know that if you've been offered an internship at a top investment bank, Magic Circle law firm or other City organisation they're much more interested in what you think about commodity prices or new financial regulation than whether you're wearing this season's colours, or where you buy your shoes.

But clothes do matter in the City. Those working here use a polished appearance to give them confidence in their often challenging roles and to make sure their colleagues and clients never doubt their professionalism. You can do the same - feeling comfortable in what you're wearing will help you perform at your best, and showing you've made an effort to fit in with the dress code will show your potential future employer that you're taking your internship seriously.

The City can feel like a catwalk at times - you'll find some people demonstrate their competitive instincts and attention to detail not only in their jobs but also by hunting down the best bespoke loafers or sporting a designer handbag in that hard-to-find and über-expensive colour. But there's no need to feel intimidated - as long as you look presentable, you'll find that people only judge you on your work.

To get down to specifics, dress code terminology can perplex - "What does business casual mean?" is one of the great unanswered questions of our age. We'll keep things simple. If no dress code is specified to you, it's suits for men and women, except that women can also wear a smart tailored dress with a jacket. If it's the dreaded business casual, you'll generally not notice much difference - men will still wear their suits, but without a jacket or tie, and women will be in smart clothes too. "Dress down Friday" is the joker in the pack - what people will wear on this day varies considerably, even at the same workplace. You may find it boils down to business casual, especially if it's suits for the rest of the week, but elsewhere you might see men in stripy jumpers, girls in leggings, or even T-shirts and flip-flops. As a general rule for dress down Friday - and for your time in the City in general - always go smart to begin with to ensure you don't make a bad first impression by seeming too casual, as you can always take things down a notch once you have a better sense of what's acceptable.

Remember that, especially as an intern, you may not always know where your day will take you - if that senior person swings by your office and asks you if you'd like to come and meet the client, you don't want to miss out by not looking the part. So if you're not in a suit every day, it's always worth having one in the cupboard for such emergencies.

If you're contemplating a shopping trip before your internship starts, there's no need to buy a whole new wardrobe or to spend a fortune. Your key purchase should be a good quality suit (or, for women, a tailored dress and jacket). Two ensembles are plenty, and you can get away with one, especially if you buy two bottom halves to go with the jacket - you can ring the changes with shirts and tops. Quality is not so essential for non-suit items of your outfits, but note that many in the City say that shirts must be worn with cuff links. And finally, remember your bag - it doesn't need to be Mulberry, but don't spoil the effect of your hard work with that rucksack you use to carry your books around on campus!

We asked two well-dressed City insiders for some sartorial advice

Britt Lintner

Principal at leading hedge fund GLG Partners, and the founder and director of her own fashion label for professional women

1.*Good clothes *open doors and first impressions count! Spend more on quality.

*2. Watch the heel height *- you don't want to look like a hussy! And no open-toed shoes in the office, not even on a hot summer day.

3.Be comfortable and wrinkle-free. Look for garments where the fabric has 2 - 5 per cent of lycra or elastane in its makeup.

4. Stick to solids. Prints are less timeless.

5.Wear dresses - they're practical and eye-catching.

Alex Buchanan

Co-head of Alternative Capital at Mirabaud & Cie and the author of The Game: How the City Really Works

1. Wear a tie - these are hard times and you need to look professional. Suits without ties are for dinner parties, not the office.

2. Don't wear a shirt with a pocket.

3. Don't wear a shirt with your initials on the cuff or the chest. Only do so if you have legitimate claim to a (now defunct) European throne/title.

4.*Look clean *- polish your shoes, cut your hair and have a shave. You're not working for a record store.

5. Don't be garish - you're not at London Fashion Week. Suits should be blue or grey, and shirts should not be purple, green, orange, brown or any other poster paint colour.

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