I attend a professional conference for my day job about once a year. I’ve realized over the years that the outfit planning stage is one of my favourite parts of the whole experience. Of course the mental stimulation and the networking is why I pay the big fees, but I really do enjoy figuring out what I will wear. Maybe this joy is one you do not share with me, but perhaps I can give you some tips to ease the burden if you don’t feel as excited about outfit planning as I do. This year’s local location was a bonus for me because I didn’t have to be concerned with making my outfit choices fit into a carry-on. Whether you’re travelling by plane or not, the planning process still involves some of the same steps.
Plan Your Outfit for Each Day
This step is crucial. It is an amazing time saver whether you are traveling for the conference and need to put everything in a suitcase or you are at a local conference and dressing at home each morning. Planning your outfits ahead of time allows you to save time in the mornings. You will barely need to think about what to put on. If you are travelling, you will ultimately pack less stuff if you have made those style decisions before you put your clothes in your suitcase. If you set out what you will wear for the entire conference before it begins, you are assured you won’t be scrambling to find where you last had your nude camisole or which necklace goes best under your blazer.
Write out every required activity for each day you are at the conference. Pick the clothing items that best fit all the activities in the day, with as little clothing changes as possible. This initial selecting part will allow you to prepare each outfit completely before the conference begins. I like to lay out a complete outfit on my bed and then photograph it with my phone. I include all of the items I have planned for, even jewelry, shoes and under-things like tights, body smoothers and camisoles. That way I can refer to the photos on the day I’m trying to remember what I had planned to wear. Also, I can use the photos to ensure everything gets in my suitcase when I am packing, or be sure everything is laundered and ready to wear in the days before.
Choose Basics That Can Mix and Match
When your basic outfit pieces are in a similar neutral colour palette, you can easily swap out something at the last minute if you need to. Maybe you don’t have time to iron that specific skirt before the first presentation. Perhaps you spill your morning coffee on your way in. It is always helpful if you can change out your skirt for pants in your planned outfit. Neutral basics will ensure all of the pieces still work as a cohesive look.
I like to use pieces of a suiting series as the basis of my conference wear. When you are buying a suit, always check out the pieces in the same or similar fabric choices. I have a conference/interview blazer, dress pants (hemmed to wear with heels) and a pencil skirt, all in the same fabric. This makes my outfit pieces almost interchangeable. I also have a shift dress in a similar, but not matching fabric to my blazer. The dress can be layered over, or under other tops to increase its versatility. Simply stated, this will allow you to wear the dress more than once. For ideas on how to make this happen, check out our post on ways to change up your dresses. To build interest into your daily outfits, add a couple of tops with some special details.
Take Layering Seriously
Try to make it so all of your outfits match with your blazer, a cardigan or a light-weight scarf. You can easily re-wear those layering pieces for warmth each day, if you like. Layers are vital at a conference. Those big banquet rooms can be draughty, and moving between rooms sometimes is sweaty. The ability to adjust your temperature by adding or removing a few layers is important for keeping you comfortable enough to stay all day.
Plan for Outfit Modifications
Don’t let your footwear choice limit your activities. Its no fun if you can’t go with the group to try the lunch spot six blocks away because you are unable to walk that far in your chosen shoes. Take a super comfortable pair of flat or semi-flat walkable shoes with you in your tote each day. Heading outside during your breaks will be much easier if you can switch into shoes you can walk in.
A compact umbrella tucked in your tote can be helpful, especially for conferences held here on the West Coast. Mine folds smaller than my wallet and is a durable, quality brand.
If there are evening events to attend during your conference, think about bringing a simple clothing piece or two that will adapt your daytime wear for night. Try a sequinned camisole to tuck into your skirt and wear under your blazer. Another option is to add soft, loose printed pants to your blouse-and-heels ensemble from the day.
Choose Extras Wisely
Accessories are a fast and simple way to change up your outfits. They are a simple way to add a little of your personality into what you wear. I’ve mentioned that a lightweight scarf can help to keep you warm in an over-airconditioned room or on your breezy walk outside. A scarf will also add visual interest to your work dress. Take off the scarf to wear that same dress with a statement necklace to the evening’s reception.
We can help you put together a week of conference outfits from your own closet. We can plan a shopping trip to suit your conference dress code and your ultimate style goals. Contact us to book your style session today.