What to Wear to a Conference in 2024

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corporate women and men sit in a professional conference

There have been a TON of questions on here lately about what to wear to a conference in 2024’s weird fashion era… so let’s discuss! I’ll throw out some topics I’ve seen brought up and I’d love to see you guys weigh in on them in the comments…

In the past, we’ve discussed the five things you must bring to conferences, how to network at conferences, and we even took a stab at what to wear to a beachy conference with a “resort business casual” attire.

{related: The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Women}

A lot of the questions I’ve seen wonder about the following kinds of workwear items:

  • dresses: are they in or out? sleeves? pockets?
  • blazers?
  • can you repeat portions of an outfit (such as wearing the same blazer on two different days)?
  • can you wear tights if it’s going to be cold in May? what if it’s some place like Florida and will be chilly that day — will black tights look out of place?

For my $.02…

Don’t Wear a Skirt or Dress To a Conference Unless You Know What to Wear on Your Legs

If it’s a question — of whether tights are seasonally appropriate, or if the conference is formal enough to require pantyhose — then skip the dress and go for pants instead.

(That said, I’ve said in the past that a work dress with pockets and sleeves is the perfect thing to wear to a conference… and we just rounded up a bunch.)

Wear Blazers and Layers to Ward Against Chilly Conference A/C

I, of course, am always a fan of a blazer (or sweater blazer, if the conference is more casual or if the rest of your outfit is more structured) — and I’d also suggest bringing a cardigan or wrap in your bag so you can throw it on top of the blazer for more warmth. (A wrap can also go on your legs if you’re freezing during the conference

Wear Clothes with Pockets to the Conference

Another big bonus to the blazer (if you choose wisely): you’ll have a pocket for business cards. Otherwise, make sure your pants have pockets!

Wear Comfortable Shoes That Look Vaguely Professional

If you know you’re going to be walking a lot — or that you might be walking many blocks to lunches, dinners, or cocktail parties — you really don’t want to be that person complaining about your shoes.

At the same time, I feel like you can get away with a lot of shoes that might be a little bit fug in the interest of wearing comfortable shoes.

(We’ll put some of our favorite comfortable-but-professional shoes at the bottom of this post…)

A good backup: keep foldable flats in your bag to change into in case of emergency. (I’ve also used them as hotel slippers.)

Don’t Repeat Outfits, But Feel Free to Wear Separates Multiple Ways

I think everyone understands that your conference attire is limited due to packing restraints — so don’t feel overwhelmed to have a completely new outfit. I would try to vary it enough to make it clear that you’re not wearing yesterday’s clothes, though — if you’re going to wear a blazer with pants one day, I’d maybe wear the same pants with a different blazer on day 2, and Blazer 1 with a dress or different style of pants on day 3.

When In Doubt, Look for Conference Photos From Previous Years

There is usually somewhere, whether it’s the conference website or Instagram hashtags, where you can figure out what people have worn at your exact conference. This is going to be your best guide!

I’ve also (carefully) asked women colleagues who I know have attended the conference in the past broad questions like “is this a pantyhose kind of situation?” I say “carefully” because you probably want to have a pretty close relationship with a senior colleague to even ask a broad question like that. (There can also be work politics at play, if only a few people are chosen to attend the conference every year, or whatnot.)

Keep In Mind That Different Conference Days Might Have Different Attire

I think it’s common for the last day of conferences to have a lot more variation in people’s attire because people may be leaving midday for another event. The people who are headed to court or other Big Meetings might be in more formal suits than they’ve worn the rest of the conference — while a lot of people might also be in comfortable traveling attire.

(This is a great time to bust out your favorite pull-on pants for the office if you’re wondering what to wear for the plane! Know your audience, but certain athleisure — like Athleta pants — might be appropriate here also.)

Can You Wear Sneakers to a Conference?

Know your audience, here — for more formal, corporate conferences, I would probably lean towards no, but it could really vary widely… instead, go for comfortable flats like loafers, Mary Jane flats or pointy toe flats.

Another good option here: that subset of fugly-but-comfortable-and-vaguely-professional heels that we’ve called “commuting heels” in the past. (These are particularly great to know about as wide leg trousers have come back into fashion, because they maintain hem length!)

Some of our favorite brands for this kind of shoe include FLY LondonDansko, Eileen FisherBørn, and Miz Mooz.

What Should Women Wear to Speak at a Conference?

This is a slightly different question, of course, but I’ve seen it enough here (because you guys rock) that we should discuss here also. How is it different?

The two main considerations I’ve seen readers note time and time again:

Be wary of microphone cords. For example, if you’re going to be miked with wires and cords, a dress is less than great because a lot of those cords will have to go up through your dress.

Be wary of skirts. Will you be seated during your speech or panel? Or at any point during it? Will you be on a raised dais? Will there be anything solid in front of your legs, such as a tablecloth or a solid podium? If the answer to any of these is “maybe,” then, again, a dress or skirt probably isn’t what you want to wear.

(That said, if you still want to go with a dress, do check out our recent roundup of day to night dresses — they have enough of an impact to be perfect for a leader or VIP.)

For my $.02, I’d suggest that women who are speaking try to convey authority with a blazer or Chanel-like jacket… this is a great opportunity to go for something bold and memorable, but it’s also a fine time to justify something like one of our favorite pricy blazers.

This could also be a great opportunity to bust out a “fun suit” like the ones we feature on Wednesdays… I’ll put some of my latest favorites below. Of course, know your personal brand (and career goals for the conference, whether it’s getting new clients or being memorable as an expert), as well as the general conference attire before getting a bit too wild…

Our Latest Favorite Blazers to Splurge On

Hunting for a luxe statement blazer? 2024 favorites include Smythe, include McQueen, L’Agence, Veronica Beard, The Fold, Armani, and Anine Bing.

Our Latest Favorite Chanel-Like Jackets

Some of our latest favorite Chanel-style jackets for work in 2024 include these, but in general check brands like Chanel, St. John, IRO, L’Agence, Sandro, ba&sh, and J.Crew. On the budget side of things, check out Mango, Express, and White House Black Market.

woman wears 100% cotton sweater lady jacket
J.Crew
Chanel-style jacket in dark burgundy
IRO
green plaid tweed Chanel-like jacket with fringe
L’Agence
pink sweater Chanel-style jacket; woman wears them with ivory jeans
ba&sh

Some of Kat’s Latest Favorite Fun Suits

We round up a fun suit each week for our “Suit of the Week” feature — some of Kat’s latest favorites include this gold brocade number, this blue velvet pant suit, this rockstar-like jacquard suit with tiny birds, and this very unusual print suit from Etro.

brown and black pant suit with tortoiseshell pattern
Theory
medium blue pant suit from Akris
Akris
pale pink and beige abstract floral jacquard suit
Etro
woman in black jacquard suit with leaf print details on it
Lafayette 148 New York

What are the Best Shoes to Wear to a Conference?

I’ve seen requests here for wedges, comfortable heels, comfortable flats, and more! I think most readers would agree that this is not the time to try out those 4″ heels that you’ve only worn in the department store.

I’ll put some of our latest favorite shoes in those categories below… but readers, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

Comfortable Flats to Wear to a Conference

Loafers

As of 2024, some of our favorite loafers for work are from Sam Edelman, Everlane, and Madewell. If you want something more classic, readers love Sperry and Ferragamo; if you want comfort, Vionic and Dr. Scholl’s both have options. Meanwhile, if you want something a bit more feminine or slouchy, the Tory Burch loafers are all really highly rated at Nordstrom (especially this “ballet loafer“)! (Tory Burch also makes a “rain loafer” if you do a lot of commuting in wet weather!)

black loafer with gold bit detail on vamp
Sam Edelman
black loafers for work outfits; there is a gold detail across the top of the shoe
Ferragamo
black loafers for work outfits
Sperry
black loafer from comfort shoe company Vionic
Vionic

Mary Jane Flats and Other Strappy Flats

Ballet Flats and Other Slip-On Styles

Foldable Flats

Comfortable Heels to Wear to a Conference

Wedge Heels

As of 2024 there are a lot of wedge heels for work lately that look great for commuting or learning to walk in heels… Nordstrom especially has a ton from brands like Nine West, Bandolino, and Aquatalia — also checkJ.Crew and Vivaia! Some of our current favorites:

almond-toe wedge heel with stretchy waterproof fabric upper
Vivaia
black wedge heel
Trotters
black wedge heel
Nine West
black wedge heel with ankle strap
Aquatalia

Commuting Heels

If you’re hunting for commuting heels, as of 2024 we’d recommend brands like FLY LondonDansko, Eileen FisherBørn, and Miz Mooz. These help you maintain height for pants hemmed for heels — but with more comfortable shoes for your commute.

Another option: wedge sneakers.

{related: check out our Guide to Comfortable Heels!}

“Comfort” Heels

If you’re seeking “comfort heels,” check out brands like Clarks, Naturalizer, Trotters, Cole Haan, Vionic, and Lifestride! If you definitely want a stable base, check out brands like FLY LondonDansko, Eileen FisherBørn — they’re great as commuting heels (because you can maintain height for pants hemmed for heels), but they may also be just the ticket if you want something more comfortable.

Some of our latest favorite comfort heels for 2024 are below…

comfort heel from Lifestride
Lifestride
nude pumps for work
Trotters
2.5
Margaux
square-toed black pumps
Naturalizer

Low Heels

These are some of our favorite comfortable low heels for work as of 2024… also check out CK Calvin Klein, Trotters, Sam Edelman, and Sarah Flint!

low block heel
Ferragamo
low heel with ankle strap
Anne Klein
black pumps
M.M.LaFleur
low kitten heel with strap across front
Franco Sarto

Stock photo via Deposit Photos / toxawww.

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