What To Wear To A Conference – 11 Looks That Are Polished, Not Stuffy

Work-inspired fashion has taken a turn for the better in the past few seasons when it comes to being stylish and fashionable. In fact, many office-inspired looks are also street-style friendly so you can get more wear out of traditional work pieces than ever before. Score! Workwear and boring do NOT need to be synonymous. Dressing for a work conference can be different than dressing for the office. You have temperature-controlled ballrooms to contend with, and walking…lots of walking. Wearing the right outfits can make you look composed and professional, but comfort is key too! In today’s post, we’re sharing what to wear to a conference including a perfect marriage of comfort and style. You’ll look reputable and put together with these 11 conference-friendly outfit ideas.

What To Wear to a Conference

Conference Outfits

There’s a decent chance you’ll be traveling when attending a conference. Finding pieces that pack easily, and you can style in multiple ways is a must. This way, you can repurpose the pieces for day meetings or activities and evening dinners or events. Below we are sharing some key basics and outfit ideas to help you dress for a conference. But before we dive into those, there are a few other things to consider as you plan your conference outfits. Keep these tips in mind…

  1. Stick to a color story – This will make it so much easier to swap tops and bottoms creating more outfits with the same pieces.
  2. Dress in layers – If the AC is blasting, you are walking from indoors to outdoors, or if you are experiencing your own personal year-round hot girl summer (thanks menopause) dressing in layers will provide ultimate comfort and flexibility.
  3. Type of conference – If you work in a fashion-forward, creative, or artistic industry consider wearing edgier modern pieces. If you work in a conservative industry, keep things buttoned up but not boring (more on that below).
  4. Wearability – Look for pieces that you’d be excited to wear out to dinner or on the weekends, not just to the office or conference.
  5. Footwear is key – Remember to wear comfortable shoes or booties that you can stand in, walk in, and go the distance in. This is not the time to break in a new pair of pumps!
What To Wear to a ConferenceWhat To Wear to a Conference

What To Wear to a Conference

On-Trend Black Trousers

The trouser trend is still red hot. There are many ways to style them for work or play and they are definitely conference dress code approved. We’re going to show you 3 ways to style pleated black trousers for a conference. This way can choose the option that best fits your personal style. You’ll see how they can work for all different types of conferences.

1) Black Trousers – Traditional

Erin is wearing a chic pair of Favorite Daughter trousers that she owns in both black and beige. These come in Petite and Regular length and Erin is wearing the Petite. With a heel, they are the perfect length on her 5’4” frame. She styled the trousers with a classic striped J. Crew top. The cool cuffs, cropped length (still easy to tuck in), and white collar add some interest. So, it’s not your basic button-down shirt. To edge things up even more, she’s also wearing a super cool waist belt by Elisabetta Franchi (sold out but we’ll link similar). You could also go with a more classic leather, or croc-embossed belt if you prefer. We just wanted to show you how even the slightest modern details and accessory switches can elevate your conference attire. And dressing in a classic way does not have to be boring!

Erin’s wearing a pair of Dior slingbacks with this look, but for ultimate conference comfort, you could wear a kitten heel slingback, black booties, or flats. A pair of platform loafers would also look super chic.

What To Wear to a Conference for women

What To Wear to a ConferenceModern Black Trousers for women

2) Black Trousers – Modern

In this next look, Erin paired the same Favorite Daughter trousers with a very avant-garde cropped blazer by Jonathan Simkhai. This blazer is super modern and edgy…and we LOVE it. The exaggerated and oversized shoulder helps create extra width across the top of your frame which in contrast gives the illusion of a smaller, nipped-in waist. Worn with high-waisted trousers and a black fitted top or tank underneath, you don’t need to worry about exposing your midriff. This is such a fashion-forward and powerful look. Talk about feeling confident! On her feet, Erin is wearing a pair of Stuart Weitzman sock booties. Erin could (and has!) walked miles in these booties but if you need a shorter heel, we’ll link a few additional dress shoe options below.

What To Wear to a ConferenceCorporate Casual outfit

3) Black Trousers – Corporate Casual

The final way Erin styled the same black trousers is definitely the most casual. This outfit is perfect for a travel day, business casual day, or a conference day that is a bit more low-key. She’s wearing an IRO boyfriend blazer that is slightly oversized and a cashmere sweater hoodie that is more fitted. While the blazer and trousers have more of a baggy fit, the streamlined sweater balances them out, so you still look very professional. You could go with any thin sweater that layers beautifully under your blazer. But the hoodie is very intentional and cool. She’s also wearing a casual Free People belt with edgy slats and a pair of New Balance 327 black sneakers. These sneakers are a Team Busbee favorite because they are chic, cool, and insanely comfortable. You can literally run in these shoes, but you see how they still look polished? They sell out crazy quickly, so we’ll link a few retailers that currently have them in stock.

Tailored Black Pants outfitTailored Black Pants conference outfit

Tailored Black Pants

Let’s face it, black pants are the workforce workhorse of your conference-appropriate wardrobe. Period. You need a great-fitting pair of high-quality black pants that fit and flatter your body. You want a pair that is versatile enough to style with blouses, blazers, and sweaters. And a pair that packs well with minimal or no wrinkling.

4) Tailored Black Pants – Traditional

Erin has a couple of favorites when it comes to black pants. Pictured here, are a pair of Veronica Beard stretch scuba pants that sculpt, smooth, and minimize. They have a leg-lengthening center seam and the slightly flared leg is a very flattering cut. These pants are incredibly comfortable too. And since they are wrinkle-resistant, they are perfect for travel. Erin paired the pants with a chic Veronica Blazer houndstooth dickey blazer. Houndstooth is such an accessible and wearable print that’s been on-trend for years. It’s versatile enough to style with your black skirts or even jeans. Since it’s a dickey blazer, you can zip in/out different dickeys to completely change the look from dressy to more casual. If you want to impress your fellow conference attendees, this blazer is SO luxe, modern, and polished.

Finish off your look with a pair of pointed-toe black pumps, flats, or bottoms, everyday jewelry, and a classic black tote bag.

Common Event Outfit Formulas

5) Tailored Black Pants – Modern

Now for another modern but professional way to style the same classic black pants. Erin is wearing a textured, sheer-sleeve top from Anthropologie. This top is a basic with a twist and adds some interest to your professional conference look. You could wear this top under your blazer in case you get warm and it’s a great option on its own after your meetings, for drinks, or dinner. This exact top is limited in sizing but we’ll link a few similar blouses that will give your look the same effect.

Erin also owns and loves the Spanx Perfect Pant and they are, well…perfect for conferences too. See how she styles them here.

Monochromatic Conference Outfits

Monochromatic Conference Outfits

6) Matching Suit

Dressing in the same color from head to toe is a chic way to stand out at a conference. You can do this in pretty much any colorway. So, if you’re tired of wearing black, switch it up! Erin is wearing a pair of tan wide-leg wool trousers and a matching blazer from Banana Republic. The fabric on these pieces is soft and warm but still breathable. The neutral color is very versatile so you can wear the pieces together and then separate them to create other conference-ready looks. The voluminous, oversized pantleg style gives these trousers a modern twist and is perfect for breathing some life into your work wardrobe. They also come in petite and tall inseams. Don’t mind the pant leg wrinkles! Erin took these right out of the bag and shot the images, but the creases mellowed out after a bit! They might need a quick steam straight out of your suitcase.

Underneath the blazer, Erin’s wearing a sleek silk blouse in the same color family. This blouse is a great wardrobe basic whether you work in an office or not…and it comes in navy and black. Just add a tonal or black belt and shoes and you’re ready to conquer the day.

Vest & Trousers outfit

7) Vest & Trousers

Here’s another take on a monochromatic look, but this time with a vest instead of a blazer. Erin is wearing the same Favorite Daughter trousers from the first 3 looks, but this time in beige (don’t forget they come in Regular and Petite lengths!). She paired a classic white button-down with an on-trend vest and left a few buttons undone at the bottom for more of an intentional, stylish vibe. We love this tailored and sophisticated look. Add some simple elegant jewelry and a comfortable pair of shoes and you can rock this menswear-inspired outfit.

Upgraded Twill Pants

8) Upgraded Twill Pants

A pair of khakis or twill pants for conference attire is a popular choice. They are breathable and versatile, but you don’t have to settle for a basic style or unflattering cut!

In this look, Erin’s wearing the wool blazer from look #6…see how versatile it is?! But this time she styled it with an ivory cashmere sweater. This sweater is a wonderful basic and perfect for layering. It has a loose, body-skimming fit, mock neck, and structured padded shoulders. Erin styled the sweater and blazer with a pair of utility pants in a gorgeous dark brown color. They are a classic pair of twill pants with a few cool upgrades like the flattering belted waist and utilitarian-inspired seams and stitching. They run true to size and Erin’s wearing the regular length, but they also come in petite. If this brown color doesn’t work with the other pieces in our work wardrobe, they also come in green, black, tan, and cream.

Pinstripes blazer

9) Pinstripes

Pinstripes, like houndstooth, is another classic “print” that never goes out of style and makes a statement…like you mean business! This pinstripe blazer by Steve Madden has a more casual, oversized fit and looks great with everything from jeans to trousers to skirts and dresses. It’s also super affordable! Erin styled it with a pair of Veronica Beard denim trousers, which would be such a cool and unexpected addition to your conference attire. The fit is amazing and they’re SO flattering.

Erin completed the look with a cool white button-down that has a dramatic, oversized collar. If you already have your basic white button-down and want something a little different, this top fills that square! On her feet, she’s wearing her favorite go-to Stuart Weitzman sock booties. But you could wear your favorite pumps, booties, loafers, or flats depending on the season.

black fit & flare dressVersatile Black Dress

10) Versatile Black Dress

Another wardrobe workhorse we all need in our closets is a little black dress. Finding one that is work-appropriate doesn’t mean you can’t also wear it for other occasions…if you look for a few strategic details. This v-neck, sleeveless LBD by Me+Em is a perfect example of a dress that works well for your conference but depending on how you style it is great for SO many other occasions. It can also work for any season! It has a V-neckline that isn’t too deep and it’s made of a very packable Ponte knit fabric that has some structure to it. It’s a great length and the fit and flare style is very flattering. It also has a cap sleeve for a bit of arm coverage. But you could always layer a blouse or lightweight sweater underneath and/or a blazer over the top. On the right, Erin is wearing a collared knit sweater underneath which is another great piece because you could also style it with black pants, trousers, or jeans. It has striped details at the hem and sleeves and very cool buttons down the front and again on the cuffs. This sweater is body-skimming without being snug and…it’s currently on sale!

Elevated Jeans and a Blazer outfit

11) Elevated Jeans and a Blazer

For our last look, we wanted to share a more casual conference outfit that would also be excellent for travel day. Erin is wearing one of her all-time favorite blazers, the Veronica Beard scuba blazer. While this piece is an investment, it’s a blazer you’ll wear time and time again. The fit, fabric, and cut are just so top-notch, you immediately feel like a million bucks when you put it on. Just trust us! If you are wearing denim for your conference outfit, we recommend sticking with a dark wash pair with no distressing like these Paige jeans. They are dark enough to give a professional vibe but you’ll get a ton of use out of them away from the conference or office too. They are slimming and elongating, and since they are high-rise, you’ll feel tucked in and secure.

If yu’re looking for more women’s business casual outfit ideas, you can find some outfit formulas here. Do you have a favorite conference outfit formula that works for you? If so, please share in the comments. We love hearing from our community!

If you are new here, welcome!  You can sign up for our weekly newsletter and receive ALL kinds of amazing style resources and tips. Just click here to subscribe. We truly have some amazing content coming your way in 2024! Thanks for stopping by!

team busbee

Join the Conversation

One thought on “What To Wear To A Conference – 11 Looks That Are Polished, Not Stuffy

  1. What size knit collared sweater is Erin wearing underneath the black dress in number 10? The size chart on the ME+EM website seems odd. Thanks!

Explore More

Posts You'll Love

20 Flattering Tops for Big Busts And 14 Tips For Dressing a Fuller Chest

Find the perfect tops for your larger bust. Look great and feel confident! Including tips…
Read Post

5 Super Stylish Ski Outfits That Will Take You From The Slopes To Après Ski

Headed to an exciting snowy destination soon? We're sharing five stylish ski outfits that are…
Read Post

Dreaming Of Warmer Weather? These Vacation-Ready Looks Are Perfect For Spring Break

These spring break outfits are chic, packable and SO on-trend for any warm-weather trip you…
Read Post
For Less Friday

The Best Winter Wardrobe Basics On A Budget That Make Getting Dressed A Breeze

These budget-friendly winter wardrobe basics are just the tune-up you need to make getting dressed…
Read Post