By  on June 6, 2008

It's that time again: interns are swarming the halls of publishing companies across the city, eager to learn, work hard and make memorable impressions on the higher-ups.

And once they arrive, editors know how to spot them: "You always know the first day of a new crop," said Ann Shoket, editor in chief of Seventeen. "It's a bunch of girls dressed to the nines that want to make a really strong impression. They're wearing heels, ridiculously short skirts, they've got their new handbag, makeup done, their hair done. They're definitely dressed to see and be seen."

Young men are just as overachieving: "If we have a guy in the closet he's going to wear a suit or sports jacket the first day," said GQ creative director Jim Moore. "And then we pull them aside and say that, 'Hey, you look great but you might want to dress more comfortably.'"

While some interns leave lasting sartorial impressions on editors, others sometimes miss the mark. To help interns survive the summer without a fashion faux pas, WWD compiled a guide to dressing for success. A general rule would be to avoid anything too tight, too short or too casual (if you can wear it on the beach, leave it at home). Below, editors provide more detailed dos and don'ts:

- Do dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Lucky editor in chief Kim France observed that, in general, interns often don't dress to really impress. "I'm really surprised that they don't overdress. Some of them show up right on point, but they never show up too professional. The best thing to do is take a cue from the editors of the magazines where you work." One example of a way-too-informally dressed intern was a young woman who worked at Elle. "Last year a girl showed up with a bikini top on with a little jacket over it," recalled Elle editor in chief Roberta Myers. "It was definitely a bathing suit. Probably not appropriate, unless you want to work for Hawaiian Tropic."

- Don't even think about wearing flip-flops.Nearly every editor expressed how much they loathed seeing flip-flops in the office. "The flip-flop thing gets me," said GQ's Moore. "They're rolling clothing racks and can roll it over their toe. If you really have to do the sandal thing, go for something more constructed, like a John Varvatos sandal. I don't care if you wear Birkenstocks. But I think a thong is for the beach, not even on the streets of New York. There's something about having your feet exposed to the elements." Seventeen's Shoket agreed: "I'm not a fan of flip-flops in the office. You should not dress like you're going on the Jitney to the Hamptons. I'm fine with another kind of sandal."

Ballet flats are generally accepted, especially on interns working in the fashion closets. "We do embrace a ballet flat for the interns, because they do have to pound the pavement," to return and pick up clothes, said Vogue senior market editor Meredith Melling Burke. But others still prefer the gesture of wearing heels to the office. "I don't recommend wearing flats," said Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour executive fashion editor at large. "Some of the interns look great in flats. But heels send a signal, and I like the signal that they send. But the truth is, a lot of them are running around, so they do keep ballet flats in their bag. Ballet flats are for outside of 4 Times Square."

- Do keep underwear under your garments.

"The fashion interns are going to be crouching in the closet and bending down, so you need to make sure your underwear stays below your waistband. You need to make sure that you're not flashing your underpants to the messengers," said Shoket, advising against flashing a "whale tale" — when your thong comes above the waistband of your pants in the back. "We've had whale tale sightings in the past." Also keep all bra straps covered. Exposed lingerie, said Vogue's Burke, "was only cool on Carrie Bradshaw in 'Sex and the City.'"

- Don't go too short.

Shorts are a point of conflict for most editors, with a majority voting not to wear them in the office. "I would rather someone not come in [wearing] shorts. They can wear jeans, sneakers, a crumpled-up button down that's been sitting on their futon for a couple of days if they choose. But no shorts," said Dan Peres, Details editor in chief. Vogue's Burke believed a longer-length short is acceptable for women. "You can look very polished if it's a crisp city short. Short shorts, there's a line you have to draw." Michelle McCool, Cosmopolitan fashion director, also believed the city short is an acceptable look "as long as you're not wearing them with a strappy sandal. And no cutoffs."- Finally, do have a look.

The interns who have been most memorable have been those who've had their own signature style while abiding by general rules of decency — and editors do reflect fondly on such standouts. Glamour's Schwartz will even write about their inspiration on her blog. "I had this incredible intern. She wore shorts, she could even wear a romper, and look amazing. I love when interns take fashion risks. One day she would come in and look like Heidi. The next day she'd look like Sarah Jessica Parker in 'Sex and the City.'"

"A lot of kids will abandon their personal style for a couple of days, or they'll try to be too cooky," said GQ's Moore. "Both are inappropriate. If there's one thing that I would encourage, it's to wear something every day that is about their personal style. One guy wore a tie every day with a long-sleeve shirt, a short-sleeve shirt, with a cardigan or suspenders. That was always fun to see what he'd be wearing."

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