Like it or not, you’re often judged by your appearance as well as your professionalism when it comes to work, which means figuring out what to wear to a conference can be tricky.

Perhaps you usually work from home, so you don’t go into an office environment at all, or maybe the event you are attending calls for a more casual – or a more formal – type of business dress than you usually wear. We will give you all the best outfit ideas for your next conference, so you can feel confident in front of a new set of people, whether you’re preparing for an in-person event or a virtual conference.

What to think about when choosing what to wear to a conference

When deciding on how to dress for a conference, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Where is the conference?

We’re all working differently these days. It may be that you travel for business and are heading to a physical, in-person event, or perhaps you are attending a virtual conference.

Either way, you will have to consider the weather and the formality of the venue when choosing your outfits.

What is the conference dress code?

If you have been invited to a conference, you may find that there is a dress code on the invitation – both for the conference itself and any associated evening events. Make sure you follow the code, while adding your own style twists so you can fit in with the crowd – but also stand out!

How long are you there for?

If you will be travelling for a few days, it’s best to consider your conference attire in terms of a capsule wardrobe. That way, everything will go with everything else – making getting dressed each day a breeze. Read on and you’ll see we’ve put together an example conference capsule for you!

Is it just work? Or will you get time to relax too?

Does your hotel have a pool, for example or will you get the chance to catch up with old friends in the destination you are going to. You may want to take your swimsuit, or some more casual wear.

What to wear to a conference or business meeting: example outfits

The style of outfit you choose will depend on the type of conference you are attending. Below are a few outfit examples which should fit in at most conferences, presentations and meetings…

Business casual

If there’s no dress code on your conference invitation, your safest bet is to opt for outfits which are “business casual”. Mix formal elements of business attire with more casual items such as a printed blouse or flat loafers, for example. A jumpsuit is a great option as it can easily be dressed up or down.

What to wear to a conference - business casual |

BOSS Jocalura Recycled Polyester BlazerFraiche by J Tie Front Wide Leg JumpsuitFranco Sarto Hadley Pointed Toe d’Orsay FlatTory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Leather TotePanacea Layered Chain NecklaceFERRAGAMO Salvatore Ferragamo Medium Pavé Gancio Stud Earrings

Formal conference attire

If the conference that you are attending is very formal, this will usually mean a more traditional business suit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still add your own style elements. Think about adding pops of color to make sure you stand out, while fitting in.

Blazer and trousers for a conference |

J.Crew Regent Blazer – M.M.LaFleur The Nora TopJ.Crew Collection Wide Leg Essential PantsTory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Leather ToteSophia Buhai Small Ginkgo Leaf Hoop EarringsTory Burch Floral Skinny Scarf

Jona in an all black outfit for work |

Jona @the50plusgirl above opts for a tuxedo style top, and adds personality with her shoes. This outfit would easily take her from a conference to an evening event.

Steal her look with this similar top, blazer, pants, pumps and bag (another option here).

Video conferencing and online meetings

Many of us are holding meetings via video conferencing tools at the moment. If this is the case for you, then sitting in your home in a full business suit doesn’t seem right. Concentrate on wearing something smart and stylish on your top half. We’d avoid busy prints and patterns on camera.

It really doesn’t matter whether you are wearing jeans, shorts (or even pajama bottoms) on your bottom half, as no one will see. Choose a stylish blouse. And, don’t forget your jewelry.

Outfit for a video conference |

M.M.LaFleur The Antoinette TopBeyond Yoga Practice Space Dye High Waist PantsSOREL Go Mail Run Faux Fur Slide SlipperPanacea Layered Chain NecklaceFERRAGAMO Salvatore Ferragamo Medium Pavé Gancio Stud Earrings

Reception or night out with colleagues

A conference or work presentation often isn’t all about working during the day. You may find that there are evening events too – perhaps as a way to meet other attendees, or to wrap up the event – so you need to factor this in when thinking about what to wear to a conference. You could add a blazer to the dress below for day time, and then wear as it is for evening.

An asymmetrical dress outfit to wear to a reception or night out with colleagues |

COS Asymmetric Gathered Satin Midi DressSARTO by Franco Tracy FlatMarc Jacobs The J Marc Mini BagSophia Buhai Small Ginkgo Leaf Hoop EarringsTory Burch The Miller Square Leather Strap Watch

Lizzy wearing a red mid dress paired with slingback pumps |

Lizzy @whatlizzyloves above (read her style interview here) chooses a red dress. Red is a great choice to stand out at a conference.

Recreate her outfit with this similar dress (another option here), sandals and bag.

Conference capsule: Your conference packing list

If you are heading away for a few days, you will find some of the best pieces to choose for a conference (below), which you can mix and match so you’re presentation ready.

The perfect conference shirts and tops

You’re likely to want one shirt or blouse for each day of the conference but you can take fewer pants and skirts. Opt for plain colors, or stylish prints. Look for luxurious materials like silk which will keep you looking chic, and feeling cool even if the conference venue is hot.

Shirts and blouses to wear to a conference |

M.M.LaFleur The Antoinette TopM.M.LaFleur The Tatum TopKOBI HALPERIN Mila Sleeveless Stretch Silk BlouseBoden Flutter-Sleeve Plisse Top

Greetje wears a white blouse and statement necklace |

Greetje @no_fear_of_fashion above (read her style interview) chooses a classic white blouse, and adds statement jewelry.

Get her look with this similar shirt, wide leg pants, shoes and necklace.

What to wear to a conference: Conference blazers

A blazer is the perfect jacket for a conference. If your work is casual, you can wear your blazer with dark jeans. Or, you can wear more formally with a matching pair of pants or skirt. If you want to make sure you stand out – perhaps because you will be speaking on stage – you could choose a bright color or a print and wear with neutrals.

Take a look at how to fit a blazer to make sure yours looks just right.

If you need outerwear for heading outside your conference venue, a trench coat is a good option as you can wear with day and evening wear.

Blazers and jackets for a business conference |

Urban Coco Open Front BlazerM.M.LaFleur The Moreland JacketM.M.LaFleur The Merritt JardiganJ.Crew Emilie Patch-Pocket Sweater Lady Jacket

Conference dresses and pants

You may prefer pants or perhaps you would rather pack dresses. Either way, one pair of trousers or one skirt per two days should be fine. Dresses can easily be worn for daytime or evening receptions.

Pants and dresses to wear to a conference |

M.M.LaFleur The Jillian DressM.M.LaFleur The Marcella DressM.M.LaFleur The Colby PantsM.M.LaFleur The Horton Pants

Fonda in open front blazer, trousers and pumps |

Fonda @savvysouthernchic above shows how a bright color is a great way to dress up your neutrals.

Check out this similar blouse, jacket, pants, pumps and necklace.

Conference shoes

You should be able to manage with one pair of shoes, particularly if you opt for a neutral shade. However, you may want to choose to pack two – one pair of heels and one pair of flats. You can always wear the flats to travel to your event, and pack the heels so your shoes don’t take up too much space.

Heels and flats to wear to a conference |

SARTO by Franco Tracy FlatBERNARDO FOOTWEAR Square Toe Ballet FlatVince Camuto Hailenda Pointed Toe PumpSARTO by Franco Sarto Vitale Ankle Strap Pointed Toe Pump


Arguably the most important thing to think about are your accessories. If you choose a palette of neutrals – such as blacks, navy and white for your conference attire, you can easily change your outfits each day by adding vibrant accessories.

Accessories to wear to a business conference |

Tory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Leather ToteMarc Jacobs The J Marc Mini BagPanacea Layered Chain NecklaceFERRAGAMO Salvatore Ferragamo Medium Pavé Gancio Stud EarringsSophia Buhai Small Ginkgo Leaf Hoop EarringsTory Burch The Miller Square Leather Strap WatchTory Burch Floral Skinny Scarf

Nora wearing a striped shirt, vest, cropped pants, mules and stylish accessories |

Nora @juststylela above (read her style interview) shows how you could print mix for your conference with a stripe shirt and print scarf. There are more tips on print mixing in this article.

Check out this similar shirt, vest, pants, mules, handbag, necklace, scarf and sunglasses.

A weekend bag to put it all in

Last but not least, if you are going away for a business conference, you will need a bag the right size to put a few days of outfits in. Choose one on wheels that will easily fit into a cabin. That way, you won’t have to wait for your luggage when you arrive at your destination. The BagSmart laptop bag (below) has good reviews for its spaciousness and durability.

BAGSMART rolling briefcase to pack your conference attire into |

BAGSMART Rolling Laptop Bag

Your conference capsule wardrobe

Below you can see many of the clothes, shoes and accessories from above put together in a conference capsule. You can mix and match to create different outfits.

A capsule wardrobe for conferences and presentations |

shop the items on what to wear to a conference below:

Would you know what to wear to conference? I’d love to hear about your own essentials.

Continue reading:

  1. What To Wear To Work: A Professional Capsule Wardrobe
  2. How To Wear Jeans To Work And Still Look Professional
  3. The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Capsule Wardrobe That Works For You

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What to wear to a conference or presentation to look stylish AND professional |

Feature image by Jona @the50plusgirl


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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