How much clothes to pack for a 10 week internship?
May 28, 2009 9:22 PM   Subscribe

How many outfits should I a (24f) pack for an 10 week internship in San Francisco?

I'm working over the summer at an office for which there will probably be, say, one business casual event per week but the office itself has no dress code. I'm asking I guess because I don't know how often your average girl my age repeats clothes. Sigh.
posted by anthropomorphic to Society & Culture (24 answers total)
I'd pack, like, ten or fifteen. The fact that your office has no dress code means in all likelihood nobody will notice what you're wearing.

This really depends on the industry and role, though. I'm also a 24-year-old female, and I work as a software engineer. I think I could wear the same five outfits over and over again, in the same order, every week, and none of my coworkers would have any idea. However, if I worked as a designer, I would probably pay more attention to my appearance and keeping things fresh and fashionable, because looking "design-y" is part of a designer's cred.

I think in general I go about a month at work without repeating clothes. This is just because I have about a month's worth of underwear, so that's how often I do laundry. Then all the work-y clothes are on top again, so I start repeating. I have no idea whether this is "average", though.
posted by crinklebat at 9:30 PM on May 28, 2009

Well, the thing about SF in the summer is that the weather, always unpredictable, is unpredictable on the colder side of things in a lot of neighborhoods(like, I used to wear a wool coat to walk to work in July, and I was pregnant). So you'll want layers, and that may mean packing more than you'd like, but it also means more flexibility because you'll be able to layer the same things in different ways to create totally different ensembles.

It's a generally casual city, and you'll want good walking shoes. I never did figure out how women could prance around the fog-slicked, uneven sidewalked hills in stilettos but I assume they were natives.

It's also a place where you can get away with wearing a lot of black without people thinking you're sad or strange, so that can help extend your basic clothing items quite a bit.
posted by padraigin at 9:35 PM on May 28, 2009

It's in the legal field, but the office is extremely casually-dressed. Still, they're lawyers so I think they're somewhat fashion-conscious. Thanks for your input. At school, my laundry rotation is determined precisely by however many pairs of underwear I have.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:37 PM on May 28, 2009

The easiest way to do this is to pack a lot of pieces that can be worn together in different formations ( black skirt with white button down, white button down with khaki pants and blazer, blazer with black skirt and lace cami, shift dress with blazer, etc. Two weeks' worth of outfits seems about right.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:41 PM on May 28, 2009

Definitely bring a scarf! Makes watching the fog change colors on the 4th of July much more comfortable.
posted by rtha at 9:41 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the advice to pack for the weather variation. I may have been a bit overdressed as a software engineer in my jackets and blouses, but at least I was warm and comfy... until the day I wore a sweater on a company trip to watch the Giants at AT&T park. (So if you're working downtown, or generally on the eastern half of the city, remember that it occasionally warms up!)
posted by scission at 9:43 PM on May 28, 2009

Oh, and you're going to want tights. Tights and/or socks. I'm telling you, it gets CHILLY. Legwear is crucial to your happiness. And the nearest Target is a few freeway exits away.
posted by padraigin at 9:45 PM on May 28, 2009

how heavy a jacket will i need? i'm from chicago.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:46 PM on May 28, 2009

If you're a seriously light packer like me, you could get by with about eight outfits with some mix-and-match possibilities for business, plus about four casual outfits for weekends, one nicer outfit, and an extra sweater.
posted by desuetude at 9:47 PM on May 28, 2009

It's kind of a clammy cold, so you want something that will wick moisture away from your body. Athletic-inspired fabrics like fleece, or just good old fashioned wool. It's not bitterly cold, it's not necessarily down-filled cold, it's just kind of damp chilliness.
posted by padraigin at 9:59 PM on May 28, 2009

Welcome to town. Are you living in town or in a suburb? The western part of the city is cold, the eastern part is sunnier and more likely to be fog free.

In the SF "summer" when its cold I wear either a fleece or a light winter jacket. If I go to Ocean Beach for a bonfire and it's foggy I would wear my full on winter coat, hat and gloves. No joke.

Then the next day it will be 80 and I will be in shorts.

When it's cold it's going to be low 50s and damp.

It will not likely rain when you are out here.

There are great thift and new clothing stores, so if you find yourself too cold or too hot you won't have to go to far to get some new cheap clothes.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:03 PM on May 28, 2009

It's often also windy, so some kind of a shell can be nice to deflect the wind. It's not all that cold but it's unpredictable.
posted by pombe at 10:03 PM on May 28, 2009

Depends on if you're a "cold" person or a "warm" person. I get by with a lightweight (light fall jacket, maybe) jacket and a lightweight fleece or sweater underneath. A scarf is good for warding off the foggy breeze trying to sneak down your neck. It can get into the 80s (or hotter, even, though that mostly happens in June or October), but it almost never lasts more than three days - the Central Valley heats up, and that pulls the marine layer over the coast, including San Francisco. Oakland and Berkeley can be ten degrees warmer; I work 30 miles south of the city, and it's normal for me to leave work, where it's in the 90s in July, and get home to find it 60 degrees - and I live in a warm, pretty fog-free part of the city.

You can see the monthly temps for August of last year here.
posted by rtha at 10:08 PM on May 28, 2009

My office (software industry, sort of) initially claims to have no dress code, but if you read a bit further on their website, they say "we don't have a dress code so much, but, y'know, dress appropriately for business casual". So it might be wise to ask your boss or someone in HR, even if you've heard there's no explicit dress code. (I'm your age, but male, FWIW. I'd rather wear shorts and tees all summer, but no such luck.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:28 PM on May 28, 2009

nah, this place is kind of known for the extreme-ness of their casual dress code. one of my interviewers was in a velour track suit, definitely met a partner wearing cargo shorts. it's one of the reasons i picked it, actually. hope they're ready for my hoodies and skinny jeans. i don't even have regular jeans anymore.

thanks for all the advice everyone. last question for girls: does all the fog = humid? should i bother straightening my hair if it's going to curl back up on me by lunch?
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:59 PM on May 28, 2009

My rule for repeating clothes is two weeks if the item is distinctive. If I wear a bright blue shirt on Monday of Week 1, I won't rewear it again until Week 3. I am a pretty distinctive dresser and nobody has ever noticed this, so it seems to fly. People will notice if you wear something distinctive more than once in a week. Wearing a generic black skirt or khaki pants, on the other hand, nobody will notice.

My suggestions would tend to the following:
(a) Keep distinctive clothing to a minimum.
(b) Mix and match.
(c) Plan a "uniform" of say, generic bottoms and vary up your tops a little. Maybe bring a week's worth of bottoms, two weeks' worth of tops. And probably some sweaters, because:
(d) SF is c-c-cold any time of year, summer included. It was pea soup gray and 50 degrees when I was last there on Sunday. Bring a heavy coat, scarf, wear layers. I'm a big fan of leggings/long underwear under the pants. I think I've been in SF one time in my entire life (note: I grew up in the East Bay) where it was actually kind of warmish. Maybe have ONE pair of shorts if that unicorn comes wandering through, but mostly expect 50's/60's/gray/windy weather every day.

My hair hasn't been affected by the SF weather, though I'm not sure if I'm a good gauge of that because I have loosely wavy hair and even going to New Orleans didn't make it curl too much.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:10 PM on May 28, 2009

damn. i went to college in the area but not sf, how shitty everyone said the weather in sf was is gradually coming back to me.
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:32 PM on May 28, 2009

Oh, folks, she's coming from Chicago-- she'll be fine with SF summer. I'm a 23F in SF, and it's not THAT cold. Yes, bring a few pair of tights to wear under pants when it is 50-55*, but honestly, toward the end of the summer it can get darn HOT here. Plus, you're bound to take trips to Napa, the east bay, the beach... Bring a jacket for walking to the office/home, but otherwise, plan for temperate weather.

I can't speak to the humidity/hair issue (my hair is bone straight). Sorry. Enjoy SF!
posted by samthemander at 12:17 AM on May 29, 2009

@samthemander: heh, thanks. just making sure i didn't need my bigass sleeping bag nuclear winter survival coat
posted by anthropomorphic at 12:40 AM on May 29, 2009

Depends where in SF, too. The west half is significantly chillier than the pleasant Mission. :)

Anyway, I have no trouble with jeans and a t-shirt 24/7, but people make fun of me. It build character. Rar.
posted by trevyn at 2:15 AM on May 29, 2009

Nthing "layers" and "thrift stores," the latter relative to potential need and potential bargains. A friend got an immaculate, gorgeous ruby cashmere sweater in a SF thrift store for the low, low price of $6.

Relative to work and otherwise, never hurts to be ready for wild variances. I've been in parts of the city--I refuse to use The City--and seen clammy, windy cold with house-sized chunks of fog tumbling across a field. I was comfy in fleece over a long-sleeved T over a short-sleeved T, went a few miles to the east end and it was sunny, no real breeze and at least 75. Clothes were coming off like it was prom night.
posted by ambient2 at 4:37 AM on May 29, 2009

Bring color-coordinated clothes, so you can mix and match. SF is a great place to shop, so pack light. "What to wear" is going to be an issue for you throughout your career, so now is a good time to start learning how to shop smart and dress appropriately with a minimum of fuss. At least 2 pairs of really nice dress pants in solid colors, and 5 tops in solid colors is a good start. Then add any specific outfits, so that you have 7 days of office wear. Add a few more casual outfits. Fine gauge cotton is easy, comfortable and looks nice.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2009

@samthemander: heh, thanks. just making sure i didn't need my bigass sleeping bag nuclear winter survival coat

Yeah, you don't. Most people who are saying "oh, it's so cold in San Francisco" may be comparing it to summers elsewhere, not Chicago winters. It's like it's permanently March / October here, with the occasional string of May / September days.
posted by salvia at 7:43 AM on May 29, 2009

As a former Chicagoan who has lived in SF for 11 years now, I'm still shocked at how cold the summer is. It's just plain wrong to be wearing jeans, a wool sweater and a fleece jacket on Fourth of July but you will be doing that, too. Today, in the final days of May, I'm wearing jeans, closed-toe shoes, a t-shirt, a light corduroy jacket, and a leather jacket over all of it. I almost never leave the house without a scarf.

Our heat comes on in June even with the thermostat set to the low 60s. It's COLD and it's not just outside, it's cold inside, too because hardly anything is built with storm or double-paned windows. SO yes, warm clothes but if you go on day trips out to Napa, Sonoma, north to Marin or pretty much anywhere else, it'll be regular old hot, so you'll want warm weather clothes for then.

As for hair, when it's super foggy, my hair does tend to get frizzy, just as it would in the Chicago summer humidity. It's still worth it to me to style my hair (I also use a straight iron most days) but sometimes the fog has its way with my hair.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:48 AM on May 29, 2009

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