Girlie question - conference clothes!


Hi all,

I know there have been a few threads about this but I've a few questions. I've been accepted to a major conference over the summer and am having such a dilemma as to what to wear (it's my first one) - as if that was the least of my worries!! I'm short and slim - is it acceptable to wear a short - ie just above knee length skirt? I've seen a very pretty one - is softly pleated/ruffled but don't know if it would be too casual. I'll be there fore 4 days so need things to interchange/mix and match. I think I'm too short for pencil skirts and need to feel comfortable. Will most people - female - being wearing suit type combos? I'm envisaging a lot of black and grey! There is a formal conference dinner - do people tend to change for this? Would a dress be the norm? My supervisor is male so can't ask him!

Many thanks

Avatar for Eska

I'm just thinking the same thing, I'm presenting at a symposium on Friday, and am trying to plan out the rght outfit. I want something that feels nice in the good weather, but which is smart, but not too smart! I have the right shoes, but need to build up from there. I'll keep watching this thread for responses. I guess a lot depends on the discipline, I've seen people wearing jeans and t-shirt, but I'd feel to casual in that, I like to feel I've dressed for something a bit more special. hhmmmm...


It's tricky, I've seen people in everything from ski wear to suits! As a student I prefer to be fairly smart, so I tend to wear nice trousers, heels and a shirt/conservative top. Smart suit-ish dresses are good, and I think as long as a skirt isn't too far above the knee you'll be fine, just pair it with a sensible top. Evening events vary a lot, unless there's a big gap before it and/or a note about dress code in the program, a lot of people won't bother to change. If you want to then go ahead, just opt for a dress that's more smart than it's blingy. Last one I went to I wore a black wrap dress. Overall, don't worry too much, there's a great deal of variation at these things and academics aren't always the most sartorially aware anyway!

Avatar for Eska

What do people think about linen? I'm thinking I may wear loose white linen trousers with a mole (v-pale chocolate colour) linen man style blouse, not tucked in, with my braided brown leather belt on the waist, and a pink and torquoise necklace, or some other complimentary accesory. I think I will be carrying a very large soft suede cross over bag in moss green and I have these soft mole coloured suede semi - gladiator style sandals. Only thing is, the linen will crease, which I don't mind at all, but it may make look a bit smart holiday, rather than smartish work?

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In my field, something from next - in the work range is appropriate. I tend to be boring and wear black trousers and a top of some sort. But there are thinner prettier richer (as our conferences also have delegates who are consultants) girls who will wear quite fancy designer outfits e.g. knee high pirate boots, patterned a-line skirt with a nice blouse - which all costs £££. My version of that is the a-line skirts they sell in monsoon.


I've never been to a conference before but I like talking about clothes!

I think that sounds like a lovely outfit Eska - if the weather's still nice I think you'll see a lot of linen - accessories sound good as well. If anything I'm not sure about a linen blouse with linen trousers, maybe a well-fitted cotton t-shirt-style top instead?

As for skirts, there are some lovely variations on pencil skirts around at the moment with draping and ruffles etc, I would probably wear one of those with a simple top tucked in, and medium-height heels. I would probably wear black opaque tights as well to make it look more formal. There are some really nice shirt dresses around as well - try All Saints and Whistles if you want to invest, or Zara and Topshop for cheaper versions. I haven't even started my PhD yet and I'm daydreaming about my conference outfits, how sad!

Avatar for Eska

======= Date Modified 02 Jun 2010 22:31:23 =======
Hi Natassia, that's a good suggestion, about the t-shirt style top, but I want the shirt to cover my bottom, which is quite generous, and I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable if it were swathed in only white! But I will scout about my things and see what I can find. I think about outfits quite a lot! Sad eh, I've put about as much into my clothes as I have into academic prep this time: I've given the paper before.


I will now have everyone here gaping and making tutting sounds. But here goes. I wear jeans and tees. I've done 19 presentations in the last 1.5 yrs clothed such.

this time, I have some money, so for the major conference coming up, best in our field, this June, (in Singapore) I'll get black trousers and a nice top.


Quote From phdbug:

I will now have everyone here gaping and making tutting sounds. But here goes. I wear jeans and tees. I've done 19 presentations in the last 1.5 yrs clothed such.

Good for you :)

And I don't think I have been to a "formal conference dinner" where most people aren't wearing casual wear (including jeans and trainers etc). Academics aren't known for their dress sense...



Some great suggestions thanks! PhD bug - I'd rather wear jeans and a tee but 'feel' I ought to 'look' the part - I also look really young so don't want to be mistaken for someone who's ended up in the wrong place! I'd best get shopping! Now to deal with the nerves...!

PS - I'm quite shy - are people normally on their own at conferences? There is a PhD conference preceeding the main one, so I'm hoping I'll meet some people there.

Avatar for Eska

I'd really like to wear my denim skirt on Friday, maybe I will take the leap and do it! Swap the white trousers for it. I do see loads of people in jeans at conferences.


hi there! I think its ok to wear your short above the knee length skirt :-)
I went to a summer conference prepared with formal wear etc. but I saw everyone else wearing slippers, shorts (!), t-shirt etc. so I left my black heels and wore my sandals instead :-) :-)

I think you also have to see where your conference is--and what kind it is :-)

A few years back I wanted to wear a nice dress for a "formal" conference dinner, but it turned out to be very casual, people even came in jeans and trainers! HAHAHAHA

Just wear whatever you like, wear something that is you


A lot depends on where the conference is - both from a practical perspective and from a where are the other delegates are from perspective (I presented at a conference in April in the middle of Borneo where it was 38 deg and most delegates were Australian or Malaysian) - I wore a linen/silk mix dress for my presentation and a green silk dress from monsoon (sale) for the conference dinner - I had a lot of complements because the colour stood out.  You might also think how long your clothes are going to be in your case and take that into account - when I went to Malaysia my clothes were in the case for more than 36 hours. I have a black wrp dress which can be crewed up and still coem out fine so tghat is a conference standby. The keynotes varied in their dress but most people dressed up more when they were presenting and on the day when there was a visitor from the Malaysian Government (inclduing jackets and ties).  Other delegates wore traditional dress (so long robes for delegates from the middle east on more formal days).

Other people might slate me for this but I think you need to dress more formally if you are a student (particularly if you are / look young and if you are presenting - it will give you gravitas) - I received a piece of invaluable advice in my early career in industry - dress for the job you want not the job you have - so if you aspire to being a serious player in your field dress like one not like a student. That isn't to say you need to wear formal suits but I think jeans are out.  Yes some people (and in some fields this is more common) do dress in jeans all the time but there is a risk that it says scruffy student not potential leading academic - which would you prefer?

I've also been to some VERY swanky conference dinners where long dresses and serious bling were worn by many (female) delegates and even black tie by many of the male delegates - if there is a more formal dress code then it would be indicated but I think you might want to have something a bit dressier - the ideal solution is black trousers, heels and a couple of tops - one dressy one so you can switch if you think people will be less dressy.

Study days are the norm in my field and on thsoe days people dressed as though they were on holiday


Yeah, JC, there's been some discussion here earlier about why jeans should absolutely be out for things like these, for the reasons you give.

It's personal I guess. I keep traveling so much for these projects I work on, and that mixed with conferences means a trip every fortnight, and frankly I've found great responses to the stuff presented/new connections/networks and only positives, so I wouldn't say jeans are hindering me in any way at all. I dont know if I look young, but I am 25. And when I think of it, I think somewhere last yr, when starting out on this all, I decided at some sub conscious level that I would somehow go for the jeans mode.


I think it depends a bit on the field you are working in. I'm an ecologist at heart but I have gone to some biochemistry conferences as part of my PhD and the dress is very different! The ecology people wear shorts, jeans, sandals (we have a professor at uni who has a 'good' pair of nike sports sandals for special occasions.. :) ) and skirts, anything goes pretty much. For these conferences I wear casual clothes, mostly jeans, but always make sure I'm clean and tidy, ie converse trainers are ok, but they have to be clean and not the old battered ones with holes, see what I mean?! :)
For the chemistry conferences people are much more tidy for some reason, I've seen men and women in suits, mostly it's trousers and a top for women though and some small heels.
For the conference dinners, I think it's hard to go wrong with a nice pair of trousers and skirt, something you can dress up or down with accessories. Take whatever you need and modify on the night as necessary :)