20 July 2012

Style Dilemma: What to Wear to a Conference

Next week, I head out to staff a conference booth at a Big Industry Conference in San Diego. All of our Big Wigs are going, and all of our clients' Big Wigs are going. So we have a booth in the Big Exhibit Hall.

Guess who's the Booth Babe?

We all get to wear the ubiquitous corporate logo polo, which is fine, even expected. There is something to be said for corporate branding.We'll have navy blue ones, and a red one, I think. And while I haven't quite gotten to the concept of packing for the trip yet (I'm a night before - even morning-of - packer), I do know that I have a serious hole in my closet that I need to fill before I go.

Or the conference attendees will get a bit of a show.

You see, I'm bottom-less.

I literally don't have any pants that fit. Nor do I have any skirts - at least none that would pair professionally enough with a polo shirt (my new weekend favorite denim mini skirt that hits just below, well, you know, probably wouldn't be appropriate).

So off to the mall I go.

I've been plotting a shopping trip with another recently-reduced girlfriend; we're in search of jeans. We'll also now be in search of conference-appropriate bottoms. To expedite our trip and leave more time for our jeans shopping and, well, the cocktail and dinner portion of our day, I've done a little research. Yes, it's mildly predictable in its sources, but when you're honestly looking for servicable, professional, well-fitting pants or skirts that won't break the proverbial bank, there are a few dependable retailers to which we can turn.

Banana Republic Jackson fit linen-cotton button-tab trousers: The first thought is (regrettably? predictably? sadly?) khakis. That being said, a paler color, the pretty and flattering tab front, and elegant linen blend add a teensy bit of style.

Gap Perfect trouser linen pants: Again with the khaki-like shades (when you've got to pair both with navy and red, the neutral works) and linen elegance. Since I'm flying blind on fit and size at the moment, with this new #healthyme body and all, I'm going to have to try on a slew of choices, I'd expect.

Old Navy The Sweetheart Perfect Khakis: The classic. The original. Serviceable. That being said, if they fit well, they could really do the trick. For this conference.

The Limited Cassidy Linen Flare Pants: True, they're not in the neutral tan zone, but a girl's gotta push the envelope a little, doesn't she? It's possible this fit, with the slightly higher waist and flared leg, could work. Also, a heathered blue would work as a neutral.

I am a Booth Babe, and, in my book, I should use my relative assets to draw people to our booth. That means showing my gams (will also be carefully considering my heeled shoe options, to accentuate my sculpted calves, thankyouverymuch), which means: skirts.

Banana Republic Chino pencil skirt: It's a classic, but I've picked grey here, just for a little twist. A little one. Plus, grey is really, really pretty, and I'm envisioning kelly green bowed blouses and soft autmnal knits on top of this in just a few short months.

Banana Republic Dayna ponte knit mini skirt: I know, I know, it's a mini skirt. I also know that mini skirts may or may not be appropriate to professional activities. But the color is so pretty, the knit forgiving, and, if I try it on and the cut isn't too short, well, go gams go. Pairing it with a slightly lower heel (Lillybee Kates in blush, for example) and that navy polo would have a pretty retro vibe.

Banana Republic Heritage Military pencil skirt: I'm a sucker for anything military. I love the tailored detailing on this, and the tan is just a little softer and deeper than Regular Ol' Khaki. Beyond the conference, this staple has all sorts of styling and accessorizing possibilities.

Banana Republic Welt pocket pencil skirt: The seam. The welt pockets. The color. So it won't pair (in a mildly stuffy conference setting, at least) with a red polo. I think I can swing the navy polo. And it's so very, very pretty.

(Yes, I realize that all of my skirt choices are Banana. What of it?)

So there isn't anything particularly crazy in here, but these choices are all unexpected enough in either color, cut, or detail to satisfy this I-Refuse-to-March-to-Anyone-Else's-Drum Girl. Whether cropped or ankle, on-trend orange, buttoned, or bright, each of these pants (and I must say, I'm really always drawn to skirts first) has a Leetle Something. Not all of them are affordable, but some of them certainly are, and they're interesting enough to add to my closet and I can happily get substantial wear out of them.

Admittedly, this post covers Bottoms. It's specifically for those of you (and me!) who have to wear some prescribed top to an Official Function. What to Wear to a Conference still has lots of answers. There are business casual conferences, business dress conferences, and even, well, there's Comic-Con. For some other tips on conference wear, head over to these friendly bloggers for their takes:
  • Vyque of Fasshonaburu asked three local bloggers to put together some conference-worthy looks, here.
  • Alison of Wardrobe Oxygen authored some basic conference fashion rules, then breaks it down into a few different types of conferences, here.
  • Naina of Style'N shared her fashion conference look, which I think you could definitely take to another, not-as-conservative-but-still-businessy conference, here.
  • Emily of Capital Style dissects the current boys' shirt trend and puts together a look (and some options) I think perfect for a conference attendee who's both professional and stylish, here.


Vyque said...

Push the envelope! Push it real good!

Alison (Wardrobe Oxygen) said...

I LOVE the idea of that Banana Republic pink skirt with the navy polo - it's conference appropriate yet with sass and personality. Also if it's knit fabric you won't get those dreadful creases from sitting! But really, all these choices are great!

Alyson said...

Love, love that pink skirt! I'm in PR so I always like to look professional at conferences or CHamber-type events, however like to mix it up with colorful jewelry or accents. Great, classic choices.

The Confident Closet said...

As a former corporate events manager I have to say this is NOT the time to push the envelope. If your business is in a creative field you have a bit more flexibility, but most corporate "Booth Babes" are required to wear not only the Logo shirt provided but to also wear it with a predetermined bottom. For most that means Khaki or Black pants or skirts. This does not mean that the bottoms cannot be stylish but it does mean that they should be professional and appropriate. Appropriate differs from industry to industry but as an exhibitor please keep in mind that your are representing your company, its products the employees and the executives in attendance. Showing up in an Orange mini paired with your navy polo might make you memorable, but will it make a statement that is consistent with your firm?

I am all for personal style and expressing yourself with it, but as a corporate representative you also have a responsibility to your employer. Select wisely, and your future with your current company (and others that may rely on this company as a reference) as well as future employers will welcome you as a "Booth Babe" and likely much more.

Have fun shopping for something fabulous that represents both your personal style AND the corporate image of your firm. Can't wait to see your selections!

Anonymous said...

I will buy you a drink if you push the color envelope. Wear the red polo with the orange pants or the hot pink skirt! If they are going to make you wear a god awful polo, you might as well have some fun with it! And remember, you are in San Diego, so the carefreeness of California should be observed!

Emily Kate - Capital Style said...

I love the idea of pink or red pants with the navy shirt! Also, I'm a huge fan of Gap's "perfect trouser." Haven't tried it in linen, but the regular old cotton ones fit great! Have fun and thanks for including me in your post!

cea said...

Grey chino pencil skirt, pink welt pocket skirt, slim ankle pant (but not in black), or Gap lava orange pants (my fave actually). The grey skirt and slim ankle pant would be more conservative, the bright pink skirt or orange pants would be professional yet awesome. Any of the above with the navy shirt. I shy away from the idea of a red polo.

cea said...

I have four choices. Two more "conservative": grey chino pencil skirt or slim ankle pant (not in black, though). Two are professional yet awesome: pink pencil skirt or the lava orange pants (my fave, actually). All/any with the navy top. I shy from the idea a red polo. Not that I love the idea of a navy one...

DC Celine said...

All - thank you so much for your comments and thoughts! It helps to have insight from folks across industries, too.

The rebel in me is definitely leaning to the lava and the pink (with the yellow actually falling in close behind), but I hear you, Confident Closet, loud and clear!

Both the grey and the military pencil skirt might find their way into my closet for overall reasons, and oh, hey! they also work for this conference.

Also, I had to keep myself from putting in any skinny jean options. I'm so drawn to them - and they're absolutely not appropriate for even a Booth Babe!

Lemmonex said...

Only in conservative DC would red pants with a blue polo be "pushing it". Now, I know you push it all the time, so I am not hating on how you categorized things, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with veering from khaki or black and still repping your brand awesomely.

Then again, on casual Fridays I usually wear my light grey "Not Your Daughters Jeans" witha faint snake pattern (that everyone loves), so I may not be the best person to ask.