After reading my last post on international etiquette, a client of mine brought up another interesting travel-related issue: what to wear! As a successful businesswoman she is often required to travel for various conferences, training seminars, and the like. These events may include a range of activities, such as breakfast meetings, classes, luncheons, cocktail receptions, and formal dinners. In other words, there’s a lot to pack and plan ahead for!
My client has noticed that many people on these trips view it as a vacation and dress accordingly—shorts, sneakers, flip-flops, and skimpy tops that aren’t acceptable in a professional arena. I loved her quote: “I am surprised at the number of people who do not comprehend the fact that seminars and conferences are not vacations; they are business/networking opportunities and, as such, one should dress as they would to have lunch with a colleague with whom they are seeking to do business. In some instances, cruise wear is acceptable but one should not wear shorts, strappy sundresses, or other vacation wear to a conference or seminar; the dress code is never less than business casual.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself! Of course, many of us (men and women) struggle to fit outfits suitable for these myriad events in our overnight luggage. Here are a few tips that I have relied on over the years.
-Focus on versatile basics. Pack pieces that can easily be transformed for day to night, or informal to formal. A black sheath can be reworked with jewelry or a scarf, while a black pencil skirt or trousers can be dressed up or down with a variety of blouses.
-Opt for lightweight fabrics. Linen, jersey, and silk will take up less room in your suitcase, and make you feel more comfortable to boot. If you’re worried about wrinkles, call ahead to confirm that your hotel has on-site dry cleaning services, or, at the very least, an iron.
-Map your trip out. Before you go, look at the itinerary and calendar of events. Figure out what level of dress you’ll need for each event, and determine whether certain items can be “recycled.” For instance, I may bring a fitted blazer to wear over a silk dress for a reception, a pencil skirt and button-down blouse for a meeting, or a more casual solid tee and dark boot-cut trousers for class.
-Think “casual chic.” Yes, you want to be comfortable. But how would you feel if you ran into a corporate bigwig in the lobby while you’re wearing yoga pants and a ratty tee? Instead, find more tasteful ways to be casual. Swap your flip-flops for ballet flats, or glam up a fitted solid tee (no logos!) with a statement necklace or scarf.
For more tips on this situation, read my book Executive Image Power, which features a chapter called “The Perfect Pack” by my colleague Julie Kaufman.