With vaccines readily available and the world opening up again, conferences are back in full force. I am literally sitting in a hotel room as I type this, waiting until the breakfast buffet opens up.
On a personal level, I'm interested to see how other conference-goers are going to dress. Will they remember how to dress up? Will they be ready to ditch their sweatpants? Will they even fit into anything but sweatpants? I'm speaking from personal experience on that last one.
Despite what changes in clothing bring us, one thing will remain the same: packing for a conference can be hard. Some of my most common image consulting clients were folks traveling to conferences. The thought of having to put everything you might need to represent yourself for a week of intense networking in a roller bag is daunting, to say the least. Luckily, I'm here to make it a little easier for you.
While you can most certainly make outfits out of blue, black, and brown...it can be difficult to pull off with small wardrobes (aka: outfits for a week). I recommend starting with one color family: either blue/brown or black. This will be your core color and will make everything else so much easier.
Now, you're going to choose several bottoms and a dress in the color family you choose. If it's a 3-day conference, I recommend one bottom and a dress (or two bottoms if a dress isn't your thing). If it's a 5-day conference, I recommend two bottoms and a dress. Bottoms could be skirts or pants. For the visual examples, I'll keep it simple with a 3-day conference.
Here's what that may look like...
If you chose blue/brown:
If you chose black:
You'll need one top for each day of the conference. Make sure any top you choose can be worn with any bottom that you pack. This will give you ultimate flexibility. If you're overwhelmed trying to put together outfits, choose tops that are solid with classic silhouettes. It's a lot easier to match a white blouse with a pair of navy pants or a khaki skirt than it is to match a floral shirt to the aforementioned bottoms.
Remember!! You can wear a pair of pants twice. I promise no one will notice, especially if they are black, navy, or khaki. As long as you don't wear them back to back (wear the dress in the between-day) then no one will pay any attention.
I chose three tops: a classic white button-down, a tan button-down, and a pink sweater. If it's a more formal conference, I recommend bringing a suit jacket that can be worn with any of the tops/pants and with the dress. You won't wear the suit jacket with every outfit, but you could potentially.
Like the brown/black wardrobe, I choose three simple shirts and a blazer. Choose any colors that you like. I just went with pink to keep it all easy.
Accessories are where you can really start having fun. A chunky necklace can easily add interest to your outfit and show off your personality- all while taking up a fraction of space in your luggage. Pack as much (within reason) jewelry and scarves that you have room for, but keep the shoes simple. One or two pairs of shoes that match your main color (eg. brown or black) are perfect.
Once again, I went pink because it was fun. You could easily choose another color or keep it neutral. I also just chose gold jewelry as an example. Choose jewelry that works best for your skin tone.
Notice how you can mix and match the scarf with different pieces to add interest. Likewise, these funky shoes are professional but still make a statement.
Remember, every conference is different. You may have a golf outing that requires other clothing or a beach networking session. Whatever the case, try to pack a variety of simple garments that can all be mixed and matched to create different looks.
You'll also want to pack clothes that you feel comfortable in and that portray your brand. Think of the top 3 words you'd want someone to describe you. Try each outfit on and ask yourself...Do I look...(insert each of the 3 words). If the answer is 'no', don't pack it!
Happy conference going again!