What to Wear to a Conference

As part of my job, I attend a lot of conferences. I’m heading to one this weekend in fact, and by December, I’ll have been to about ten this year. Before my current job (which I started in 2017), I had never really traveled for work. But the non-profit/association world is one with a lot of travel and meetings, so I had to learn quickly what to pack. Conferences are full of long days, meetings, networking, and being on your feet. So where do you even start with packing?

Conference updated

This is the entirety of what I would suggest for a 5-7 day conference trip. You’ve got options to mix-and-match, professional options, and comfortable options. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Anne Klein Faux Wrap Dress | Penelope Cap Toe Pump | Chloe Scalloped Ballet Flat | Kate Spade Stud Earrings | Roman Holiday Statement Necklace

To me, there’s nothing better for a travel day than a wrap dress. It’s comfortable on a plane ride, looks professional, and can be dressed up or down. If you’re headed right to a conference from the airport, I’d suggest a wrap dress and ballet flats during the travel. Keep your pumps in your purse, and change shoes once you get to the conference. (And as a practical matter, make sure to always keep your flats in your purse during the conference for easy comfort adjustment.) This outfit can also be worn to dinner with colleagues and coworkers.

Speaking of shoes – make sure your accessories are minimal. I like to bring three pairs of shoes (flats and two sets of pumps), and just a few pieces of jewelry. Stud earrings can be worn all week long, and a couple of different necklaces to pair with different necklines is all you need. The less you have to think about accessories, the quicker you can get to those 7:00 AM meetings.

Important Meetings
Tahari ASL Gray Suit Skirt | BR Silk top | Ketina Druzy Pendant Necklace | Kate Spade Stud Earrings | Penelope Cap Toe Pump | Tahari ASL Zippered Peplum Skirt Suit | BR Satin Tank

A suit is always a must-have when it comes to professional conferences. Inevitably, you’ll have a day where you’re meeting with important contacts or have to give a presentation yourself. You really only need one suit, but I’ve included two options here.

The first option is your basic suit – everyone should have a traditional suit in black, gray, or navy. Pair it with a blouse that brightens it up and you’ll be ready to meet anyone.

The second option is my favorite, though. How great is this suit? I love the peplum shape and asymmetric zipper. This is a suit that someone with a lot of confidence would wear. They know they belong, and don’t have to downplay their femininity to take charge. A black top goes with the purple well, and this top doesn’t need a necklace.

The great thing about these pumps is that they have both navy and black in them, meaning they go with just about anything. If you bring both black and navy clothes with you to the conference, these shoes will do double duty.

Sessions and Networking
BR Drapey V-Neck Top | J.Crew Cameron Slim Crop Pant | Ketina Druzy Pendant Necklace | Nic + Zoe On the Go Blazer | Penelope Cap Toe Pump | Chloe Scalloped Ballet Flat | Kate Spade Stud Earrings | BR High-Low Hem Top | J. Crew Marled Crewneck Sweater | J. Crew No. 2 Pencil Skirt

Now we get to the bulk of the conference. You might be sitting through educational sessions, manning a booth in the exhibit hall, or attending networking events. You want to be comfortable, but be able to easily dress up your outfits at a moment’s notice.

The first outfit is simple navy slacks with a royal blue shirt (a color combo I’m really loving these days). Add heels and a blazer when you need to be a little more professional, and relax a little in flats when you sneak off to get the free coffee that will get you through the next few hours.

The second outfit is actually two in itself – I couldn’t decide which I liked more. Green and navy go perfectly together, and this is another set that can easily add a blazer to dress it up. If you’re attending conferences in the winter, a cream sweater goes beautifully with the skirt as well.

Day to Night
Boden Mia Ottoman Dress | Kate Spade NY Vivian Pump | Kate Spade NY Stud Earrings | Roman Holiday Statement Necklace

Finally, you always need a little black dress with you. This sheath is professional enough to take you through the day at a conference, but is also perfect for transitioning to an evening reception or networking event. When you have a simple black dress, I love to add interest with shoes. While animal prints can sometimes be a little garish, if you stay with natural colors and a reasonable heel, they can be a fun addition to a more subdued outfit.

Is anyone else on the road a lot for their work? What are your favorite types of outfits for work travel?

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