How to Dress for a Conference
Attending a conference is a great way to learn about new ideas in your industry and network with other professionals in your field. Conferences usually only last for a few days, so you want to make sure that you dress appropriately so you can put your best foot forward. To help you decide what to wear, check if there is a conference dress code, or do a little research about typical attire for conferences in your field. Then, whether the conference is formal, business casual, or even more casual, you can plan your outfit accordingly and feel confident that you are dressed to impress.
[Edit]Assessing the Type of Dress
- Ask a colleague for advice on how conference attendees usually dress. Ask your boss or more experienced colleagues to find out how attendees tend to dress for conferences in your field. In most cases, conference attire is business casual. However, there are some exceptions. Asking people who have attended similar conferences can help you get an idea about what to expect.
- For example, while academic conferences tend to be business casual, at a fashion industry conference, you may be able to wear more statement-making attire. Asking colleagues is a great way to help you get a better idea.
- Take your role at the conference into account. In addition to your field or industry, taking your role at the conference into account can help you assess the type of dress you should wear. If you are presenting, for example, youll like want to dress more formally than an attendee since all eyes will be on you during your presentation. Similarly, if you are a conference organizer, speaker, or have a management or executive role, erring on the more formal side will help ensure that you look professional and pulled-together.
- In addition, youll likely want to dress in a more formal outfit that is simple, sleek, and professional if you are hoping to make new contacts to help you find a job.
- While you may be able to get away with a more casual shirt or dark denim as an attendee, for example, try to avoid these types of more casual pieces if youre role at the conference is more public and hands-on.
- Check if there is a conference dress code. Look on the conference website or check any conference-related emails to see if the organizers have implemented a dress code. While dress codes are less frequent these days, they are still implemented for some disciplines. If there is a dress code, it can help you determine what is appropriate for that specific conference.
- For example, if the dress code is described as business formal, you will likely need to wear a work-appropriate suit and, for men, a tie or bow tie.
- Look at the activity schedule and venues for clues. If the dress code isnt immediately apparent on the conferences website, look at the conference schedule to see what activities are planned and where they are taking place. This can help give you a clue about how to dress.
- For example, if the conference is taking place at a 5-star hotel, you will likely want to choose a more formal outfit.
- If the conference activity schedule includes a long walking tour, you will need to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Therefore, you can likely choose a more relaxed, casual outfit.
- Consider the typical dress for conferences in your field. In general, conferences in a given industry or field tend to have a similar level of formality. Therefore, even if you arent able to find any information on a specific dress code, youll likely be able to assess how formal you should dress based on whats typical for your field.
- For example, conferences in business-related fields, such as finance and business management, tend to be more formal. Therefore, if you are attending a business management conference, youll likely want to choose a more formal outfit, such a business suit.
- Conferences in personal wellness-related fields, on the other hand, tend to be more casual. If you are attending a conference on yoga and mindfulness, for example, you will likely be able to wear more casual attire, such as jeans and a sweater.
- Check social media for images of past conference meetings. Many conference organizers post updates about conferences on social media these days, including images of presenters and attendees. If you are unsure what to wear, searching on social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook can be a great way to look at pictures from past years of the conference to see what people tend to wear.
- One way to check social media for conference images is to search for the conference account.
- If the conference does not have its own social media account, try searching for relevant hashtags.
- Choose standard professional attire if you arent sure what to wear. You really cant go wrong with timeless professional pieces. If you are having a hard time figuring out what to wear, go for items that are clean, professional, and neutral.
- A fitted blazer and slacks, for example, is appropriate for almost any professional conference and is a great outfit option for men and women alike.
- If you are a woman, a sleek pencil skirt paired with a neutral button-down and pumps is a classic option that is appropriate for almost any professional setting, including a conference.
- Wearing neutral, professional basics also makes it easier to mix and match your outfits. Therefore, you wont have to pack all new pieces for every day of the conference.
[Edit]Dressing for a Formal Conference
- Wear a more formal outfit than you do for work. In general, it is better to be overdressed for a formal conference than underdressed. While you may be able to get away with a cotton v-neck tucked into your slacks on laundry day for work, at a conference, it is important that you put your best foot forward. You only have a few days to make a good impression and if the conference is formal, you need to be sure that you are following suit.
- As a general rule of thumb, if you are questioning whether an item is too casual, dont wear it. Even if your office is more formal and you have worn this item to work before, for the conference, stick to items that are completely in-line with the dress code or what is expected.
- It is particularly important that you dress appropriately when youre presenting. As a result, when choosing what to wear to present at a formal conference, go for an outfit that is strictly professional, even if it means wearing something more conservative than you normally would.
- Avoid distracting patterns or color schemes. Instead, choose pieces in more neutral, professional color tones, such as black, white, nude, or navy. When attending a more formal conference, you want people to pay attention to you and your work, not your outfit.As a result, avoid wearing any items that may be distracting.
- Even if you love your favorite hot pink or psychedelic print shirt, for example, save it for a social occasion.
- If you want to add a pop of color or bit of visual interest to your outfit, you can add a colorful but still muted and appropriate accessory, such as simple emerald earrings or a patterned pair of loafer socks.
- Choose a professional suit for an easy formal option. Whether you are a man or a woman, a well-tailored business suit will make you look sharp and professional. Conferences are often just as much about networking as they are about sharing ideas. Wearing a clean business suit in a muted tone and pattern can help you make sure that other conference-goers see you as someone respectable and important.
- If you are a woman, you can mix up your suits from one day of the conference to the next by switching out your slacks for a pencil skirt or simple silk midi skirt.
- If you are a man, while it is perfectly acceptable to wear the same suit more than once, make sure that you pack enough shirts and ties to mix up your outfit from day to day.
- Go for a classic black dress if you are a woman. If you own a classic black dress, you can easily turn it into professional attire for a formal conference by adding a neutral pair of heels and pantyhose or tights. Make sure that you choose a dress that is not too short (preferably one that hits below the knee), or that shows too much of your chest (boat-neck or high v-neck cuts are good options).
- To ensure that your black dress is business formal, avoid more flirty, flared cuts. Instead, focus on options that are straight down like a pencil skirt.
- If you want to cover up your arms, wear a chic fitted blazer on top of your black dress. This will instantly elevate your dress into more professional attire.
- Wear simple and neutral closed-toe shoes. To help complete your formal, professional look, select shoes in classically professional styles and in neutral-toned colors. While you may love your new pair of peep-toe wedges if you are a woman, or navy blue boat shoes if you are a man, for a formal conference, try to keep your footwear as simple as possible.
- If you are a woman, black or nude pointy-toe pumps with comfortable mid-high heels will look perfectly professional and complement almost any formal conference outfit.
- If you are wearing a business suit, classic dress shoes or loafers are a great option that will go well with your suit and keep you looking sleek and professional.
- Choose simple, understated accessories. When finalizing your formal conference look, avoid selecting any jewelry or accessories that are too large, bright, colorful, or distracting. Instead, focus on choosing accessories that subtly add to your outfit and that are in-line with the professional tone of your outfit.
- For example, if you are wearing a tie, choose an option with a small, simple pattern, such as a small plaid or dot pattern, that comes in a muted, neutral color scheme, such as a navy with a subtle red or dark green pattern.
- When selecting your jewelry, for example, avoid any large costume-style jewelry. Instead, focus on simple, professional pieces, such as a sleek leather or metal watch or thin gold hoop earrings.
- If you plan to accessorize with a bag, focus on finding an option that is both practical and professional, such as a simple tan leather tote or a brown leather briefcase.
[Edit]Getting Dressed for a Business Casual Conference
- Choose less formal fabrics and styles in professional cuts. When you are attending a business casual conference, you still want to look professional. To dress more casually but still present yourself well, choose items in more relaxed, comfortable styles and fabrics that still look put together and professional.
- Remove or replace 1 or 2 standard business-attire items. If you want to wear more formal pieces but tone them down, you can remove or replace 1 or more formal pieces of the outfit with more casual pieces. That way, you will be able to utilize your more formal conference attire and make it feel more appropriate and approachable for a casual conference.
- For example, if you are a man and plan to wear a business suit to a casual conference, skip the tie. You can also choose a more relaxed style of shirt, such as a simple plaid, rather than the more formal crisp white button down you may usually wear with your suit.
- If you are a woman, you can replace your suit jacket with a cardigan sweater, or wear a silk or cotton blouse to make your suit pants or skirts more causal.
- Add in elements of your personal style. While you want to look professional and appropriate at the conference, you also want to feel comfortable and confident in your outfit. Business casual conferences allow you to exhibit a bit more creativity with your attire. Adding just a touch of something unique or personal can make your outfit a bit more casual by showing more of your individual style.
- At a business casual conference, feel free to get a bit more creative with colors and patterns. While you still want to keep things fairly muted and professional, you can add in a fun accessory or colorful top to give your outfit a bit more pizzazz.
- If you are a man, for example, you could select a tie or pocket square in a color or pattern that suits your personal style.
- Avoid wearing anything overly trendy or revealing. While business casual conferences allow for a bit more flexibility, you should still steer away from wearing any clothing pieces that are too trendy, revealing, or impractical. While you want to feel like yourself, you also want to present yourself as a professional who takes their job seriously.
- To help you decide whether an item is too trendy or revealing, consider whether your boss would wear it to a conference. If the answer is no, you should probably choose something different to wear yourself.
- For example, avoid wearing any tops that are too tight, low cut, sheer, or cropped.
- While trendy items, such as platform wedge shoes and cropped flare jeans, might look great for a night out with friends, these items are best left at home when you are packing for a conference.
- Try khakis with a crisp shirt and blazer for a clean-cut look. Instead of a business suit, try clean-cut, fitted khaki trousers with a crisp shirt and a tweed or cotton tailored blazer. The fabric of the khaki and tweed will make your outfit more casual than a formal suit, but the tailored fit of the trousers and blazer will keep you looking sharp.
- Go for a midi skirt with a cotton turtle neck top. For a more feminine look to wear to a business casual conference, try a midi skirt in a less-structured fabric and fit, such as a flowy silk fabric. Wear your midi skirt with a simple cotton turtle neck or tie-neck top and classic nude or black pumps for an on-trend, stylish business casual look.
- Wear tailored cropped pants for a structured, less formal option. Instead of suit pants, try a pair of well-tailored cropped pants. The cropped cut will keep your outfit from looking too formal, while the tailored fit will ensure that youll still look pulled together.
- To complete your look, pair your tailored cropped pants with a silk tie-neck blouse and flats.
- Choose dark wash, tailored jeans if you want to go more casual. If you want to wear jeans to a business casual conference, choose jeans that are well-tailored and come in a darker wash, such as a dark blue or black. While wearing denim will immediately make your outfit more casual, you can still look professional enough for a conference if you choose a well-structured darker wash.
- Make sure that you avoid any denim that is faded, ripped, frayed, or baggy. While you may want to tone things down for a business casual conference, you still need to make a good impression. Faded, ripped, frayed, or baggy jeans may send the message to other attendees that you dont take your career seriously.
- Pair dark jeans with a blazer, collared shirt, and dressier shoes for a relaxed but still professional look.
[Edit]Going Casual for a Conference
- Avoid wearing any pieces that are wrinkled, stained, or ripped. While dressing for a casual conference gives you much more flexibility in your attire, youll still want to make sure that you look professional and appropriate. As a result, avoid wearing any pieces that are wrinkled, stained, or ripped even if the ripping is purposeful. Instead, stick to items that are clean and well-fitted so that you can present yourself well even when you are going more casual.
- For example, avoid any tops that are cut-off or frayed at the bottom or sleeves. While cut-off cropped tops are great for lounging and running errands, such items may send the wrong message at a conference.
- Choose comfortable, work-appropriate shoes. When you are dressing down for a more casual conference, choose shoes that are casual and comfortable, yet covered-up. Even for a casual conference get-together or activity, youll likely want to avoid flip flops or sneakers, as both options can instantly make your outfit a bit too informal. Instead, focus on finding shoes that will complement or even elevate your more casual outfit.
- Ballerina flats or lace-up boat shoes, for example, are both great options that pair well with jeans or a simple dress for more casual conference.
- Bring an extra layer in case youve dressed too casually. If you are attending a more casual conference but you arent quite sure about your outfit, bring a slightly more formal item that you can wear on top of your outfit to make your look a bit more professional. A simple cardigan sweater, tailored blazer, or classic beige trench coat are all options that can instantly elevate your outfit if you get to the conference and feel a bit underdressed.
- By bringing an extra layer, youll also have option to put on your sweater or jacket if the conference rooms get a bit chilly.