By Kirstin Garriss, Desk Assistant, NBC News, Washington, D.C.
It’s about that time again — convention time! A great time for journalists — newbies and veterans — to come together in a city to learn from each other, network, make connections and yes, even have a little fun. But this is not your average everyday workday or even a vacation; it’s weird mix of both. And like most people when they get ready for work and for a vacation, you have to ask the infamous…What should I wear?
Well, as a young journalist and veteran to the conventions (this will be my 4th!) I have a pretty good sense of what’s convention appropriate. Plus, I’ve seen my fair share of the good, the bad and even the ugly of convention attire.
So here are a few tips to keep you looking as clean, fresh and professional on the outside as you are on your resume!
Location, Location, Location! – Every year, NABJ choices a different place to hold the convention and it’s always during the summer months so you already know it will be hot, hot, HOT! So when preparing what to wear for the convention think about the weather
- Before you start shopping and/or packing, check the forecast for the week of the convention so you can get an idea of what the weather will be like
- But regardless of the forecast, ALWAYS pack at least one jacket/blazer that will keep warmer if needed and an umbrella — yes, even if it’s going to be clear the whole time, you just never know
How to TOP it off – As women, we have the options to wear dresses, skirts, tops and pants with our professional attire BUT just because we have all these potential combos, doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with 10 million options. Because we all have various shapes and sizes, it’s good to make sure all your clothes “FIT” — I repeat, FIT, not barely fit or almost fit, but FIT!
- When it comes to our tops, you want to make sure your blouse, button up or professional top fits your body — you don’t want any of your shirts to pucker in middle or near a button, that looks unprofessional and it can give people the wrong impression
- To avoid these mishaps, try buying a top a size up. Yes, I know hearing the words “a size up” is death to us women but it’s actually a great tip to help you look slimmer because the top will fit you well and will accent your curves verse highlighting them in a bad light
- Now, if you get to NABJ and realize that one of your button up puckers there are ways to fix that — safety pins! You can use a small safety pin in between the two buttons where your shirt is puckering and presto, no pucker! This is a great tip to save you some unneeded attention in that area!
- Also look for light and bright colored tops that will keep you cool in the summer heat but still very professional — corals, pastels and even subdued neons are great color choices for women and they go well with neutral bottoms
- And if you want to rock a funky pattern on top, look for patterns that aren’t too big like huge strips or enormous polka dots — both of those patterns are great but in small form
- And remember, too much cleavage is not a good thing, you want to look professional and that is a quick way for someone to get a wrong impression about the professional you really are — so ladies, keep the girls covered!
Pants vs. Skirts vs. Dresses – When it comes to conventions, pants, skirts and dresses are all appropriate choices. Again, it’s all about fit that will make or break an outfit!
- With pants, make sure they fit you and all your womanly curves and your height. If you’re more on the petite side, then you may have to hem your pants but if they’re just a tad bit too long, try wear some heels (that you’re comfortable in) and that will make up the difference. Or if you’re a taller woman, make sure your pants are the right length, you’ll have to do the opposite and wear a great pair of flats if your pants are just the right length
- To make sure you have the right “FIT”, try a size up on your usual pant size because sometimes business pants are cut smaller than usual
- Skirts and Dresses — these options are great for summer business casual. It’s good to shoot for knee length or just above your kneecap – anything shorter than that will look too casual for professional settings
- For skirts, bright colors are in this season so you can dress up a neutral top with a bold colored skirt
- Patterns are great for dresses and skirts, but make sure the pattern isn’t too big much for your body type — smaller framer can handle a bigger print while curvy frames look great with smaller more subtle prints AND pinstripes look great on everyone so no discrimination there!
Blazers, Jackets and SHOES – Always bring one or two blazers that are neutral and go with most of your option choices because even though it’s hot outside, the convention site and rooms can be chilly
- A blazer gives a casual look, a nice professional touch!
- Bring a jacket just in case it’s cooler than expected outside and for bad weather (ie. summer storms)
- SHOES – yes, ladies you can wear your heels but PLEASE wear heels that you feel comfortable in! When you’re networking and making connections, you want to be focusing on those conversations and not how badly your feet hurt
- Also you only need a few pairs of shoes for the whole convention — 1 to 2 pairs of neutral heels (that coordinate with most of your outfits), one pair of neutral flats (that you can use to walk around in), a pair of sandals or sneakers (to wear for sightseeing and casual events) — that’s essential 3 – 4 pairs of shoes but it could be less if you can pack efficiently
- Now don’t get me wrong, you can rock some statement shoes if you want to but just remember a unique pair of pumps or flats may not work with all your outfits and if you’re only trying to bring a carry on, then you want to think neutral shoes all the way!
Packing Tips – The week of convention, layout all your outfit options — top, bottom and shoes (even accessories if you’re like me and love to add those too)
- This will help you pack just want you need and save you more room in your travel bag
- Also pack one extra outfit that you can dress up for the workshops/forums but you can also dress down for other events — this will be a good back up just in case something happens to one of your preset outfits
- I also pack extra personal items because you just never know plus it’s always good to be ready!
These are just a few hints that will help you look great and stay cool while braving the New Orleans heat to make some new contacts at NABJ. If you think your current business wardrobe needs a little bit of a boost before the convention, take advantage of some of these pre-summer sales and stock up!
Some of my favorite places to go for business clothes are:
- NY & Co.
- J.C. Penny’s
- Macy’s — specifically Style Inc
- LOFT by Ann Taylor
- And thrift stores, like Goodwill, Value Village, Plato’s Closet, etc — this is a great way to score some designer and vintage looks without breaking the bank, but make sure you try on anything you like before you buy because there’s no return policy in thrift!