Meeting new people makes me feel really anxious.
I am always here for an empowering #girlboss gathering. I am always searching my newsfeed trying to find my next opportunity mix, mingle, and exchange business cards with cool women in business like myself. The problem is that networking is essentially talking to people you don’t know and striking up a conversation with a stranger has never been my strong suit. If you are gun shy like me showing up and looking like you belong can actually start conversations you would have never started on your own.
What Do You Wear to These Things Anyway?
There are so many variations of business meet-ups there is the networking happy hour, professional development talks, lunch and learns, and full day professional conferences. From my own experience, all of these events have a relaxed professional feel. Just because you can wear jeans to something doesn’t always mean that you should.
A look that speaks to others always makes you stand out without being overly ostentatious. Do use this opportunity to incorporate pieces of your wardrobe that show off your personality because that will turn into a talking point when you and others are struggling to segway small talk into asking about your business endeavors.
Top Ten Tips to Make Your Outfit Speak
- Plan ahead. I feel like I am always saying this but it helps. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that your go-to outfit has a broken zipper or doesn’t fit the way you remember. If you are shopping your own closet be sure to make time to have your items dry cleaned or professionally pressed. Low on cash? Ironing in advance will save you a few pennies but who wants to iron at the last minute?
- Start your search for the perfect separates now. Invest in a blazer I know it’s hard finding the perfect fit and to make it easy for yourself shop where they have in-store alterations. (Nordstrom Rack, K&G, Nordstrom all have on-site alterations)
- A great pair of non-denim pants, and stay away from khakis without any lycra content because who wants to iron? I know pants are hard for many body types as a plus size tulip shape here are some of my favorite pants: Eloquii Kady Pant (Gena Fit) Pant, New York & Co. Wide Leg pant size 18, Target Ava & Viv Slacks. A shell,. in non-old lady terms, a shell is an undershirt made of woven fabric that can be worn under a blazer. Having a few will help you mix and match separates and stretch out your semi-professional looks so you’re not constantly searching for new things to wear to an event.
- Spice up a dress. I love the trench coat inspired dress pictured above. I am wearing a patterned bodysuit underneath for additional coverage of my arms. Also, what are the chances I will run into another woman wearing the same bodysuit under my dress? Pretty slim. Finding a great dress is so easy but when your buying clothes from major retailers someone else may have also found that same great dress adding additional interest to a look also helps you stand apart.
- Crisp, is the word I associate with all business functions. Look for pieces that have suiting elements but aren’t actual suiting. Look for suiting patterns like tweed, pinstripe, and plaids that look inspired by menswear. The menswear-inspired pattern will give an item with more of relaxed silhouette a business feel so it feels relaxed but still looks professional.
- Great flats, I know I have on heels in this post but do as I say and not as I do, LOL. After going to several conferences last year I learned the hard way your shoes need to be comfortable. There can be a lot of walking and standing at these events. I love these flats for spring: here, here
- Be comfortable. You’ve been warned this is not the day for your good girdle, shoes that hurt your feet, or dresses with buttons that are in distress.
- Keep it young and fresh. It’s ok to bring relaxed elements to your office staples. That’s what this networking look is all about. Wear a date night blouse with slacks or if you want to rock a t-shirt and jeans to a happy hour mixer pair that combination with your suit blazer. Even better pair low top sneakers with your suit for a fun twist.
- Have fun with accessories. A pop of color, a cool pin on your lapel, or unique jewelry are all awesome pieces that will draw attention to your look in a good way. Just remember to keep wear these pieces in moderation. Remeber this should be an accent to your look and not overkill.
- My biggest attention-grabbing secret. A power bag. You’ve heard of a power suit. Well, what about a power bag. Sometimes it’s designer and sometime’s it’s not. It’s usually in a standout color or has ornate hardware but it always grabs attention. I can’t tell you how many networking contacts I started conversations with after getting a compliment on my bag. This convertible tote is perfect because you can wear it all together or unzip the front pouch and wear it as a clutch.
Your outfit can only say so much
Keep in mind that your outfit may start the conversation but you will have to close the deal. Smile, try not to look deeply uncomfortable (hardest part) and be confident you deserve to be in the room. This is your chance to extend your circle and make some new contacts. I always find that people are often just as nervous as I am. Making your outfit work is just you getting into character so it’s not a Banna Republic blazer it’s a cape helping you step into the role of Super Woman. You got this girl!