The annual conference-wear post

I've done this several times now, but still find that your opinion is more valuable than my thoughts on conference wear :)

This year's Spring convention shirts have arrived. They're wide and short, and entirely disappointing after last year's attire.  

The suggested dress code is the company shirt (two days black, Friday white), with "nice jeans" (blue or black), and cowboy boots are encouraged (it's a western them, in Nashville).  Jean skirts are permitted for us women.

Here's my first pass at options.  Coming up with jeans that I feel comfortable in for presenting (I'll be presenting twice, on two different days), is weird...

#1-#3 - Jean skirt option:  two with shoes (sheer black vs. opaque hose - sheer is baggy and I'll be picking up a replacement), one with boots (not cowboy, but as close as I have on hand).

#4-#5 black bootcut jeans.  I think this is my best bet for professional looking jeans, but it's a lot of black - how can I mitigate that black-ness?

#6 black shirt with skinny jeans and boots.
#7 white shirt with skinny jeans and boots (one with necklace, one without).

#9-#12 - both shirts, with and without a statement necklace in company colors.  Does the necklace improve anything?


This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    #1 and #4/5/6 - I really like the proportions. I don't love the shirt in white, but it may be *friendlier* because it's white.

  • L'Abeille replied 5 years ago

    You're right, that's a lot of blackness. Can you wear a bolo tie, outside the black shirt collar, to break up the darkness? Is the skirt black or indigo?

    Personally, I would wear black shirt, skirt, tie and boots for one presenting day, and white shirt, black jeans for the other, with black shirt, blue jeans for the listening day. But you can get away with less contrast than I can, especially with your hair as an accessory.

    Are you allowed any go-with other than jewelry? A vest or long skinny scarf? Also, I'd wear a leather belt in bright brown or cognac with the all-dark outfits, even with the skirt.

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    Hmmm...what was wrong with last year's design. Sheesh?! They got it (somewhat) right and then they had to get it wrong?

    However, you are stuck with what is. I like #1 and hope it will be comfy. I also like 4/5 but wonder if there is any chance that you could break up the black with a pair of green(ish) shoes. Unlikely, I know. But. Worth considering. WIll it be nearly sandal weather there? 

    The necklace works with the white shirt. I don't like it so much with the black one. 

    I do think your fab new hair adds a bit of pizzazz to this whole ordeal. You are going to look really pretty regardless. But I feel your pain on the new shirt design. Or lack thereof. 

  • merwoman replied 5 years ago

    oh the conference that should have been taking place again in Toronto...except it's not :-(

    I prefer the jean skirt with the footwear/hose in 1 and 2.  For me, the sheer hose is not the best match with the casualness of the outfit. Also feel the same way about the necklace - your shirts (with logo) seem too casual to pair up with that beautiful necklace. I prefer the bootcuts as well. Your beautiful smile and sparkling eyes are your best accessories!

    Congratulations on two presentations!

  • Olivegreen replied 5 years ago

    The boots and the clunky shoes balance the shirt, the more delicate footwear looks odd. I think you need to skew masculine in the styling here, and given the construction business, you could probably go tougher on the jewelry vibe, some heavy silver and leather?
    You will still probably be one of the few women there, so no need to skew girly, you will stand out. Love the hair, that is the best accessory and indicator of feminine individuality, in my book.
    Hope you have a great time away.

  • amiable replied 5 years ago

    Ahh - Thanks for the suggestions - I hadn't thought of a long necklace over the black.

    I have to wear black for both presentations, alas (the code is black on Wednesday and Thursday, white on Friday.  I have no idea why.  But my presentations are Wednesday and Thursday, so black it will be).

    Yes Sue, it really should be in Toronto!  And with last year's clothes, Suz!  (I think they didn't like the cost of the nicer clothes, maybe?  But they wouldn't have had to get any but one lady "new" clothes...)

    I will plan on wearing #1, and #4-#5 (maybe with something to break up the black...) on the two black shirt days.  Is the white shirt okay with the skinnies in #7-8, or would it go better over the skirt or black bootcuts repeated?  (I can repeat the skirt and the bootcut, but the skinnies will be bagged out at the knees after one day).

    Also, my new specs are correct and adjusted to my head now, so I'll be sporting them as well!

  • Joy replied 5 years ago

    Only photo 1 is showing up :(

  • Rambling Ann replied 5 years ago

    Maybe a blue belt to break up the dark on the black days?

  • amiable replied 5 years ago

    Just bought a blue bandana (keeping the western theme).  I may try it out and post more pics :)

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    I think you did an excellent job with what you were given. I like #2 slightly more than #1 but if they want boots, you might as well give them boots. The blackness with the bootcuts doesn't bother me. I like the idea of a necklace with the white top. Feel free to ignore my nosiness but what are you presenting? I have no idea what your job is!

  • Summer replied 5 years ago

    You've done really well with this.  My favourite looks are:  1 - love the skirt with boots, 4&5 and 9&10.  I think the necklace adds a little personality to the shirts.  You look very polished and professional. 

  • amiable replied 5 years ago

    Shevia - I'm a software developer, and serve the structural steel industry (buildings made out of I-beams).  My specific task within my company is to make my software play nicely with other software in the same industry.  

    This Spring, we have a new collaboration with AutoDesk (which is probably the only software in the industry that anyone outside of structural steel has heard of, because they're everywhere else too), and I'll be highlighting that integration in an AutoDesk seminar.  The second presentation will be part of our own seminar, highlighting some of our integrations with several companies.  

    In addition to that, I'll be leading meetings with eleven other companies and any customers that attend to see what the other company and we do together and who want the chance to have an ear from both sides of the equation together.  I expect the disgruntled customers to be well represented at those meetings :)

    I realize it's a very small niche that I'm in - did any of what I said make sense?  (Basically, I'm a computer programmer, and I'll be presenting my own work to customers and other companies).

  • Traci replied 5 years ago

    For the black top I like the skirt and boots look.  I love the necklace with the white top.

    I was at an event like this recently where all the presenters were wearing corporate gear in not so feminine shapes.  One of the ladies stood out in her pairings of the polo shirt with a nice, long cardigan, knee length pencil skirt, thick tights (I am in Wisconsin) and a pair of fun patent leather boots. I liked seeing her personality and femininity come out even within the constraints of a uniform of sorts.  Everything was in black, so there was nothing too flashy until you started really paying attention to her thoughtful choices.

  • Neelie replied 5 years ago

    I love the idea of a bright bandana with the darker outfits, and even with the white shirt to bring in some colour!

  • Olivegreen replied 5 years ago

    Oooh, bandanas, right on trend and lots of color. Great idea!

  • Sharon replied 5 years ago

    I vote #1, #4 and #7. I think the brown boots ground the outfit  and add a little colour in #1 and #7 and the boot cuts look great. And I love the bandanna idea.

  • Joy replied 5 years ago

    I like 1 and 6 best ( the boots) and love the idea of a blue bandana to add some style and color. With your hair, new specs and wonderful smile, you will look fabulous.

  • Gaylene replied 5 years ago

    OK, first of all a disclaimer: I am all about image management at conference presentations, especially if you are a female in a male dominant environment. If you feel differently, then ignore everything below.

    My vote would be for the back shirt/denim skirt/opaque hose outfit for Day 1. To break up the somber vibe, I'd add a bandanna, or scarf, tied cowboy style in the company colors to draw attention to your face. You'll stand out in a mostly male environment, but in a "I'm a female who is comfortable working with the guys" kind of way. You establish your position as a member of the team without dressing like a guy.

    On Day 2, especially if you might be dealing with ornery customers, I'd adopt a more kick-ass look by pairing that black shirt with skinny jeans tucked into boots. Black shirts and boots convey power and control to a lot of males, especially when worn by a woman (Maybe leave the whip at home? ;) ). I'd soften the vibe by wearing another scarf--this time in shades of blue and brown--to lighten the black around your face and bookend the bottom part of the outfit. The scarf also helps your audience recall you as the team player from Day 1.

    On Day 3, you surprise everyone by reinforcing your femaleness and versatility by wearing your white shirt with the necklace and black jeans. The necklace continues the theme, but with a twist. Your final outfit is neat and professional--but with echoes of the Day1 team player and the Day 2 kick-ass troubleshooter. The intent is for your audience to walk away with the image of a friendly, but very competent, female who is relaxed and at home in a male dominant environment.

  • amiable replied 5 years ago

    Gaylene - Thank you!  You articulated exactly what I want to convey at this conference, that I'm competent and comfortable in an all-male environment, but also confident and friendly.  

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Thanks for satisfying my curiosity - you are quite amazing! Gaylene's advice sounds excellent. 

  • abc replied 5 years ago

    Wow, Gaylene got you sorted out for sure!  What great advice, down to every detail.  

    FWIW, I followed everything you said, I work in software too :)  Good luck and enjoy the conference.

  • shiny replied 5 years ago

    My vote is for #1, #6, and #7. 

    I like the white shirt - looks fresh!

    And I like the necklaces. 

  • texstyle replied 5 years ago

    Love all the advice so far and wonder, can you wear something under the white shirt? It's a little bit sheer in photos (if that matters) and you could change up the vibe with a cami or tank under it maybe.

  • amiable replied 5 years ago

    I definitely have to wear something under the white shirt (I have a cream cami under it in the photos - it's very sheer).  Thanks for the reminder to pack a full-coverage undershirt!

  • celia replied 5 years ago

    I had some ideas before reading Gaylene's answer, after that I was like 'You go girl!" :)
    The conference should definitely be in Toronto again. But I am sure that you will make some awesome presentations

  • unfrumped replied 5 years ago

    Love all the boots outfits best. I really like #1 a log as an outfit, go figure, so I'm torn between it for one of your black shirt days vs wear the tights with skirt and do the skinnies/boots for another black shirt day. But then you'd wear boots all 3 days. Pack both options (top 4 outfit options) if you're a mood dresser or take the temp of the gathering.

  • Daria replied 5 years ago

    I'm very late to chime in so I don't have much to add besides that I quite like #6. :)
    I do sympathize - I attended a computer graphics conference last year, and shirt options my company chose were about as bad as yours. I also had to purchase bottoms to go with the tops, because nothing in my wardrobe was suitable/appropriate. Good luck - I'm sure you'll look your best no matter what you choose to wear!

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