Good morning, Ladies,
I have received quite a few requests for ideas for convention attire. I have a post in mind, but I thought since so many of you have attended multiple conventions, I thought I’d ask for any advice you want to share. The post will go up tomorrow morning, so if you have some pro tips, I will take them!
Thank you! Belle
Elise Burns says:
Hi – pro tip #1 – wear comfortable yet stylish shoes – flats because you will likely be on your feet for most of the day and into the evening. Most cities are much easier to get around on foot because of convention traffic. Be prepared to walk quite a bit from event to event.
LAYERS! Temperatures in convention centers can fluctuate wildly. I went to a conference a few weeks back in Austin, TX – it was over 100 outside and under 60 inside.
Also, pick a purse that can hold a laptop (if you want), as well as a lot of writing pads and pens. If you don’t already own a business card holder, now is the time to buy one – you want those easily accessible.
If you’re traveling, picking no-iron clothes is key. MM.LaFleur dresses are great for this purpose. I wore the Nisa at the aforementioned conference.
Flat shoes, or low heels. Cole Haan’s wedges are great for this
I second layers and a multi-purpose bag!
I love a black blazer and solid color separates. A black blazer goes well with dresses, skirts, dress pants, jeans, etc. and always looks put together. I usually default to a bright sheeth dress (think purple, pink, or cobalt) with a black blazer. I also like to bring lots of accessories – sparkly necklaces, bold earnings, scarves, etc. that can take a dress from day time meeting to cocktail reception without requiring a wardrobe change. Scarves are also great layers in cold conference centers.
I have a friend who swears by spray wrinkle releaser for her suits when she travels.
I also always bring a reusable water bottle and extra granola bars or almonds in my bag. Sometimes there aren’t great food/drink options nearby, or you end up eating at odd hours, and I want to be able to quickly grab a snack that doesn’t crunch/smell.
Layers, and pick pieces that all can be mixed and matched. Suits seem to be out, at least at the ones I’ve attended recently. Don’t forget a “casual” outfit that still looks put together for happy hours, meetings at the bar, in the lobby . . . And dress to impress on the plane, you’d be surprised how many fellow attendees you’ll meet at the airport and on the plane.
Flats, Flats, and more Flats!!! Dr. Scholl’s have some nice flats that are more contemporary.
I am also a fan of sheath dresses and cardigans. Most convention centers have the Air Condition on Freeze so it is important to have something for your shoulders.
A nice, sizable tote is important that carry a small purse and laptop/tablet. My fave is the Lo & Sons Seville 15″.
Bring a work appropriate bag with only the essentials. Throughout the conference you may get lots of materials. You want to be able to place as much stuff in your purse while having it organized. You don’t want to be that person that has to put down fifteen bags and folders just to hand someone a business card.
Riot gear, probably.
I laughed out loud. Sad, but also true.
Oh thank you, thank you for this. I am going to be a floor volunteer and they are saying wear really comfy shoes and also dress business casual. For hauling signs?!?
I froze in Tampa (of all places) four years ago. Completely agree with the layers suggestion. I would even go as far as to say it could be a good time to wear hose to keep your legs warm. Also, keep a water bottle on you. Definitely comes in handy at a reception and you need to network while enjoying yourself, or when you’re stuck in a chair during proceedings and need a socially acceptable activity to do to keep you awake. (Let’s be honest, most of the convention isn’t as exciting as what gets the primetime spots.)
You’ve featured the Rebel pendent necklace from Stella and dot a few times.
I find mine perfect for attending conventions as well.
I use it instead of the henious lanyards they hand out. Instantly look more put together than 90% of the attendees.
Please explain: You attach your credentials to it?
Typically there is a hook of some kind that attaches pretty seamlessly. If its just a name tag its really easy. The pendent is typically hidden by the credentials and it just looks like a fancy lanyard, but the weight keeps it centered.
I get so many comments every time.
A mini hairbrush and makeup kit in necessary in your purse as you’ll be going into cold buildings and back out into the summer heat so everything melts/frizzes. Also want to echo all the calls for flats… Not a time to vain save your feet!
Reasonably comfortable shoes–probably low-ish heels and flats.
Nice scarf (for layering–and can be work with a sleeveless dress to a cocktail/HH event).
*Only* bring clothes that are interchangeable — meaning, pick one palette and bring only things that can be work together. (At my most recent conference, I wore this black lace-accented blazer (https://www.nordstromrack.com/shop/product/1404053/rebecca-taylor-executive-lace-panel-blazer) with a black dress, pink dress, and black skirt and white/pink blouses — got tons of compliments, and all outfits went with my one pair of shoes and one pair of flats.)
Bring a larger professional tote to carry around. (I use the Dagne Dover 15″ Tote.)
Don’t forget business cards and a professional case.
Consider bringing nice-quality workout clothes — I have gone running with colleagues at conferences/retreats before, and was glad I had the appropriate clothing to participate.
Don’t forget about a nice-quality casual outfit for traveling on the plans or after-conference activities.
I echo the comments about dressing in layers, but I also bring a pajmina/scarf. If I’m wearing a skirt/dress it can act as a blanket! This is not an attire suggestion, but when I’m at all-day conferences/meetings I make sure to have a hair elastic, bobby pins or a mini hair clip. There’s nothing worse than yucky hair when you’re trying to look professional all day!
Forego statement necklaces. At many conferences you’ll be wearing a lanyard with a big name badge, and you don’t want to get it all jumbled up with a bigger necklace. Plan to make your statement with earrings or a bracelet. And like everyone said above, plan for sub-zero temperatures.
Or statement brooches on a plain jacket.
This will be my first convention, but colleagues have been very helpful in my planning. Non-iron clothes are important as are layers and comfortable shoes as others note. Also, my colleagues have advised me to prepare to change clothes for evening activities. Echo the notion that business casual is preferred – fewer suits and more dresses and blazers/blouse combinations as opposed to fully matched suits. Personally, as a short girl I find this advice hard because I tend to look younger the less professional I go. Any thoughts appreciated, Belle.
Ditto to the layers! I was in AZ recently and it was 110 outside, 60 inside.
Non-clothing suggestion: depending on the type of convention you’re attending, consider bringing some booze with you. I was at a convention at a fairly secluded resort last week, and bringing two bottles of wine for in-room catch up sessions with some colleagues made me extremely popular. Plus, who has the money for $14 resort cocktails? I don’t!
Cleveland resident/ DC transplant here. GOPers can leave the wine at home. Barrio margs are $3 at happy hour and a beer and a shot is $2.50 at Ontario Street Lounge.
What? Is it 1952 there? That’s amazing. Those prices are literally not legal in British Columbia.
A few things: political convention attire, in my experience, tended to be business-style workwear (i.e. tailored dresses and blazers). Pre-parties were a bit more casual (i.e. jeans and blazers, or more casual dresses). I definitely echo bringing multiple pairs of comfortable shoes, scarves, and a wide selection of accessories, so you can transition from day to night without weighing yourself down. Don’t forget to pack a spare charger or a rechargeable battery. There are usually charging stations sprinkled about, but you don’t want to be in the hall missing the action!
If you are in a position where you’ll be relying on catering or convention hall food, I’d also recommend bringing some healthy snacks that travel well. I’ll be bringing almonds, Larabars, snap peas, tea, etc — which can be stored in my hotel room or minifridge overnight. Ditto to the above point about bringing booze, especially if you’re sharing a room with another coworker or volunteer! Always a nice gesture after a long day 🙂
Just invested in a fancy evening suit for fancy evening dinner events at conferences. I’m really happy with it:
Otherwise, highly recommend mix and match pieces (blazers, dresses, etc.). And flats. At least slip them in your bag. Even if you are an ardent heel-wearer like me, the days are long and floors are hard.
I don’t have any political convention specific advice but for work conventions in general, yes to Downy wrinkle releaser. I always feel awkward building all my outfits around one blazer/pair of shoes and end up bringing at least two of each. Not recommending this, just being honest.
Know how to turn your phone to silent. You’d be surprised how many annoying people don’t know or don’t do in sessions where it is requested.
Bring a socket multiplier (or small extension lead with more than one socket) if you have roomin your luggage. “business” hotels tend in my experience to have poor lighting in bedrooms – which along with offering free WiFi in public aresa is presumably designed to lure ersidents into the bar – and often too few room sockets to be able to run the desk light and the computer at the same time.
I attended my first and only convention in 2012 when I was a staffer (and only 22). Along with having no idea how to dress, I was also tasked with attending several prolific events due to my boss being a speaker. At the advice of my mother, I bought several Calvin Klein shift dresses, 2 nice pair of flats and a nice black blazer. Those items carried me through the convention and I don’t cringe when I see old photos.
I live outside Philly and the DNC is going to be humid this year. The humidity/blasting AC combo will not be kind to most.
I was a state political party staffer in 2008, so convention was a lot of work and running around on the floor. Comfy shoes and layers as suggested are critical.
While they comprise 99% of my work wardrobe, I might actually advise against skirts/dresses. You may be climbing up and down really steep stadium style steps to get to the floor or to your alternates in the stands, and a lot skirt styles don’t give you the stride you need to make that climb gracefully. Also, in 2008, it was a LONG bus ride from the assigned hotels to the convention. What they didn’t tell you was that you had to ride the bus- you couldn’t taxi, walk, or take public transit because of security. If it’s like that this year, just be prepared for your day to start and end earlier/later than you’d expect, and dress for comfort on the bus.
I always use political conventions to pull out my (tasteful) political symbol accessories. You’ll see way more extreme examples, but I have the “wishing elephant bracelet” from Stella and Dot and an old vineyard vines silk scarf with little elephants on it that I wore in 2008 and still wear to political events.
I would NOT bring a laptop or a bag big enough to hold one, unless you’ll have access to a backstage room for staging and holding items.
Woolf Jardigan from MM Lafleur goes great with business casual and dressed up for evening events. Suit sets look dated. Definitely wear flats. I also take a pair of cute sneakers that I can wear with dark jeans or black pants for evening walks around town. No matter how comfy your flats are, your feet will be killing you by the end of the day. Take a versatile scarf that can be worn with everything. Avoid thong underwear – unless you are one of the rare ladies that can wear them 24/7, you’ll be sweaty and exhausted and running around nonstop. Comfy underwear make everything seem less bothersome.
Oh: and also a travel charger for phones and tablets. Wall sockets fill up quickly and, if you’re trying to look on the level, then sitting on the floor in a corner is best avoided.
Remember that it will be humid and maybe rainy. A plastic poncho may look stupid but will be far less stupid than arriving at your event soaking wet or late (and takes up less space than an umbrella). Also, in Charlotte/2012, Bliss hosted a hospitality suite with free showers and bath products. IT WAS THE ABSOLUTE BEST.