Going to a conference or event and wondering what to wear?
I recently went to a conference where they stated the dress code is 'business casual'. It was great to have the guidance, however I noticed that not everyone either saw or chose to adhere to the dress code. Here is some guidance for navigating conference dress codes and putting your best self forward.
Why do conferences have a dress code?
Similar to why businesses have dress codes, a conference organizer has an image they want to portray. They want to make sure you, the participant, gets what you are coming and paying for, and part of that is setting a tone and image for the event.
Why adhere to a conference dress code?
I'm the last person who likes to be told what to do (the rebel in me), so being told how to dress falls within that. However, I always go back to a few things:
What is my purpose for going to the conference?
What do I hope to get out of it?
How do I want to feel if I were to meet a potential client or contact?
What is the image I want to portray?
How to choose what to wear?
At this conference I went to the dress code was 'business casual'. It was so helpful that they were upfront about it, which takes some pressure off choosing what to wear. Business casual is slightly relaxed, but still professional and put together. Because this conference was on a Friday/Saturday I would interpret that as jeans being okay as long as they are not sloppy and you pair it with a sport coat/blazer or some sort of professional top. If the conference was during the week I would say definitely wear dress pants/chinos/skirt/dress.
For me and my style personality, I chose to wear a dress each day (show in these two pictures). I didn't know who I was going to meet while I was there, so I wanted to wear things that I felt amazing in and that I would be proud to be wearing if I had the opportunity to meet one of the speakers.
I believe that style personality and dress code are different, so bring your style personality into the dress code to make yourself feel amazing and confident.
Remember, it takes less than seven seconds to make a first, and often lasting, impression. Be thoughtful of what your first impression tells others, especially when they could be a key contact for you.
Being mindful of the dress code can help you in situations beyond a conference and help you to always be putting your best foot forward. You don't have to hire a personal stylist to do so, but can be an investment that will help propel you forward in other ways. Refer back to the 'Myths of hiring an image consultant or wardrobe stylist' blog series starting here if you are wondering what it's like to work with someone like me!