The last post on this Academic Conference series focus on the conference socials. You know, the gala dinners, evening concerts and so on.
The thing with academic conference socials is that you may want to dress formally but “gala” does not necessarily…what am I saying? It really does not mean red-carpet-like ceremony.
Then, as a woman in academia (or just anywhere really) you might want to wear something that neither hides or over-exposes your femininity. Unlike what many people may think, you neither need to dress like a man to be respected by your peers, or use your female attributes to get you where you want to go.
You may also not have the opportunity to change from your day wear. Usually, there’s plenty of time but if you’re staying far from the conference/dinner venue, you may want an outfit that transitions well from day to night.
Besides these considerations, conference socials are great opportunities to network, reinforce those connections made over lunch or in-between sessions, and finally talk to that presenter you didn’t have the chance to meet.
However, there will be hundreds of people there. In academia, we often forget the wheel of colour exists! I need to remind myself constantly that, in a sea of often neutral colours, a pop of colour can really help you stand out.
A conference dinner is also a place where you may meet your next research partner or employer. Yes, you may have to consider you might find yourself having an informal job interview, right then and there.
So you might want to be fancy, but not too fancy; cute but not too cute; professional, but not too formal. It is a party after all.
It is as much of a challenge as it sounds but you can keep these criteria in mind when it’s time to make a choice.
I personally think dresses with classic and elegant shapes work very well in these circumstances. A skirt in a semi-fancy fabric with a blouse can also be a good choice.
A cardigan can make the outfit look less formal during the day, and, to make it easily party-ready you can replace the cardigan with a shawl or pashmina. You can also keep some jewellery (a necklace, bracelets) in your day bag and add it to your outfit before dinner.
I read here the other day a great suggestion regarding your bag. You may not want to have all your conference materials with you during the party so if you won’t have time to go to home/hotel and change, why not keep a clutch or smaller bag inside your day bag? When it’s time to party, just put your essentials in the smaller bag, and leave the day bag at the reception/cloakroom.
Again, if you don’t have time to change before the party, choose shoes that can be comfortable but still look party-ready. The materials and colours are key. Anything metal-like has a fancy air to it, and I don’t think you can ever go wrong with black!
For me, this translates into something like this: