Packing Essentials and Professional Wardrobe Tips

Packing for a summer internship in Washington, DC can seem like quite a daunting task!  The unpredictability of the weather, limited suitcase space, and the  need for comfort while commuting makes deciding what items make the cut rather difficult.

Before you begin your packing list, you should speak with your supervisor about the office dress code.  While some offices are still strictly business attire, there are many that are business casual or even casual.

*Important Note: Casual does not necessarily mean that jeans are appropriate. If your supervisor says that the office is casual, consider asking for examples of the type of clothing staff members usually wear.  Always lean towards over-dressing instead of under-dressing.

You will also want to consider the length and type of your commute.  If it looks like you will be walking for some distance, as is common in DC, then you should pack comfortable shoes for commuting and plan to carry your jacket if you are wearing a suit.  Blisters and sweating will make for a tough first week of work!

*Commuter tip:  It tends to be hot and humid in DC during the summer, which means it can begin to rain at anytime.  Make sure to bring an umbrella with you during your travels.

Once you have a handle of the dress code of your office and what you will need for your commute, there are some simple items that you should make sure to pack to complete your professional wardrobe.



  • Two or three suits – go for the neutral colors, this way you can re-wear them and no one will know.
  • Knee length skirts – make sure they are long enough; a skirt that is too short is unprofessional and will make you standout as an intern.
  • Dress pants
  • Blouses – avoid plunging necklines.
  • Dress shoes/sandals – should have a small heel and fit the style of your office.
  • Cardigans or jackets – can be worn with sleeveless dresses and tank tops. Even though it is hot, you should always err on the side of modesty.


  • Two or three suits
  • A sport coat – can dress up a day when you wear trousers or slacks.  Keep a sport coat with you each day in the event that you have an unplanned meeting and need to look more professional.
  • Variety of trousers – (khaki, grey, etc.) can be interchanged with different dress tops and ties.  Look for neutral pants that are made of wrinkle free material to save time.
  • Four or five dress shirts and ties – avoid ties with fancy or cheesy patterns and stick with solids, stripes, or mild patterns. These are more professional and easier to wear multiple times.
  • Khakis and polo shirts – perfect for workplaces that have “Casual Fridays” or other more informal attire).
  • Business dress shoes

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