Dressing For the Occasion: Creating a Professional Personal Style
Making a good first impression matters. It’s especially important when you’re attending a business conference. Even if you’re not on stage, you’re on display as a representative of your company. You’re also representing your professional self. “What we wear speaks volumes in just a few seconds. Dressing to impress really is worthwhile and could even be the key to success,” says Dr. Ben C. Fletcher in Psychology Today.
Schedule Your Personal Style
Dressing with confidence requires some rules. Create a personal dress code for business events. It’s easy to do! Start with a review of the conference schedule. Will there be a team building experience such as a hike? Is there a formal dinner scheduled? The more you know, the better you can prepare. Here is a description of some common dress codes:
- Men: Khakis or slacks, casual button down or polo shirt, loafers or sneakers.
- Women: Skirt or slacks, open-collar shirt, dress, flats or sandals.
- Men: Sport coat or blazer with slacks, dress shirt, open-collar or polo shirt, optional tie, loafers and socks.
- Women: Suit, business-style dress, skirt with jacket, flats or low heels.
Cocktail or Business Formal
- Men: Business suit—vest optional, tie, dress shoes, dress socks.
- Women: Cocktail dress, “little black dress,” long dressy skirt and top.
The Foundations of a Professional Wardrobe
We’ve identified several pieces of clothing that work as the foundations of your professional wardrobe. Review your clothes before the event. Try them on so that you’re confident about the fit and know that they’re good as new.
- Blazer or Sports Jacket: Men and women can dress up or down with a good blazer or sports jacket. It should be a structured jacket in a traditional color—black, brown, or navy are easy to pair with formal and informal looks.
- Dress Pants or a Pencil Skirt: Dress pants for men or a pencil skirt for women are always good options—in black, gray, or navy. These colors work with a variety of casual or formal shirts and blouses, neckties, or understated jewelry.
- Shirts and Blouses: Men should include button down shirts in light colors—nothing flashy. Women should consider knit or silk blouses in a solid color. In both cases shirts and blouses should be comfortable, never too tight or revealing.
- Shoes and Footwear: Wear a comfortable pair of shoes when you’re traveling. Keep the sneakers in your luggage and wear them when you’re at the gym. Men should select brown or black shoes that tie. Match socks to the shoe colors. Low heels or flats in a style with closed toes work well for women. Black and brown are good for professional events.
- A Formal Event: Gentlemen should wear a suit and tie to a formal dinner. Women should plan on wearing a dress. Dressing correctly for this event requires familiarity with your corporate culture. It’s one time when it may be appropriate to show some flair at a professional event.
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