How to Dress for Success: Networking Style

Do you have an upcoming networking event that you've been invited to participate in, but don't know what to wear?  It can be tricky to find the perfect outfit for meeting people and sharpening your professional network, I recently attended a networking event at Detroit's Cobo Center for the North American International Auto Show. I was able to interact with different bloggers, car company executives and other automotive employees.  I was a little anxious about what to wear, but three ensembles I wound up choosing were a hit.

Networking is more casual and less stuffy than a job interview or an employment fair, so you don't need to commit to a boring suit or unmemorable and bland look.  My looks received a lot of compliments, and I felt they accurately represented me as a professional and polished life + style blogger.  Below, I'll share a few photos of each outfit, and some tips on how to select the right look for your next networking event!

Edgy Vest:

Emily Essentially | Fashion | Edgy Vest
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Edgy Vest
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Edgy Vest
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Edgy Vest
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Edgy Vest
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Edgy Vest

Long Line Houndstooth Vest - [The Limited, closed] Similar Here  ||  Heather Grey Turtleneck - [The Limited, closed] Similar Here  ||  Faux Leather Pencil Skirt - [Express]  ||  Opaque Black Tights - [Loft]  ||  Black Suede Booties - [Nordstrom, sold out] Similar Here  ||  Reversible Faux Leather Tote - [Nordstrom]  ||  Pearl Cluster Necklace - [The Limited, closed] Similar Here  ||  Cable Bracelets - [David Yurman]  ||  Gomelsky Double Wrap Watch - [Shinola]

TIP: Find Classic Prints/Silhouettes with Modern Edge

Look for pieces that have classic prints or silhouettes and have a modern or edgy twist. Case in point - this houndstooth vest has a long-line silhouette that lends itself to the recent trend of long vests and coats. This black pencil skirt has a classic silhouette in a faux leather fabric.  Pairing these together  Each piece alone would enhance the outfit, but when put together, the ensemble created a stylish and polished look that made an edgy statement! 

Adding in the heather grey turtleneck helped to break up the bold print and black leather, with the neckline keeping the look classy.  I like the slouchy gathered look of the neckline rather than folding it over in half like I did in elementary school.  The opaque tights elongate my frame and make me look taller since the black is uninterrupted from waist down all the way through the boots.  The pearl and classic jewelry accents are classy and sophisticated, yet show off my sense of style, while the reversible tote is not only convenient to carry my portfolio, but is versatile for both black and brown-based outfits!

Bold Monochrome:

Emily Essentially | Fashion | Bold Monochrome
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Bold Monochrome
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Bold Monochrome
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Bold Monochrome
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Bold Monochrome
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Bold Monochrome

Navy Sequin Pencil Skirt - [Ann Taylor]  ||  Navy Necktie Blouse - [Nordstrom Rack, sold out] Similar Here  ||  Opaque Navy Tights  - [Loft]  ||  Navy Mary Jane Heels - [DSW, sold out] Similar Here  ||  Beaded Bangles - [Bourbon & Boweties]  ||  Gold Apple Watch Sport - [Apple]  ||  Gold Apple Watch Cuff - [The Ultimate Cuff]

TIP: Choose a Monocromatic Palette in an Unexpected Color/Texture

When people think monochrome, they usually think black.  Most modern-day women have plenty of black in their closet because we've always been told black is the most figure-flattering.  But for this look, I wanted to make a bit more of a statement. I went for a more unexpected, head-to-toe rich navy monochrome ensemble that played with texture.  This sequin navy pencil skirt adds some sophisticated class to the ensemble and catches the light beautifully.  The lady-like tie neck blouse is sheer, but works well with a camisole underneath.  Paired together, the airy texture of the top and the substance of the skirt juxtapose against one another in a feminine, yet powerful way that exudes confidence, class and style.

I again went with an opaque tight, this time in a navy hue and some classic Mary Jane navy pumps to keep the monochrome trend through and through.  The all-over navy keeps my silhouette slim and elongated, and makes me look taller than I am - which is always a plus in networking situations like this!  I kept the jewelry minimal, but showcased my unique Apple Watch cuff that is often a conversation piece, and added some simple bangles to compliment the gold of the other accessories.  Although navy isn't far from black, the unexpected blue really makes a statement in a professional way!

Animal Print Frenzy:

Emily Essentially | Fashion | Animal Print Frenzy
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Animal Print Frenzy
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Animal Print Frenzy
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Animal Print Frenzy
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Animal Print Frenzy
Emily Essentially | Fashion | Animal Print Frenzy

Neon Leopard Dress - [Topshop, sold out] Similar Here  ||  Black Suit Jacket - [Ann Taylor] Similar Here  ||  Opaque Black Tights  - [Loft]  ||  Black Platform Pumps - [Nine West]  ||  Chartreuse Wrap Belt - [BCBG, sold out] Similar Here  ||  Gold Apple Watch Sport - [Apple]  ||  Gold Apple Watch Cuff - [The Ultimate Cuff]  ||  Gold & Stone Hoop Earrings - [Kendra Scott, sold out]

TIP: Pair Classic Suit Elements with Bold Prints/Accessories

This may be the boldest of the three looks, but it still felt professional and polished for the event.  I wore this leopard-based ensemble on the last day of the meeting, once I had surveyed the scene and knew that something like this wouldn't be too loud.  The leopard print dress was fun because it isn't in the typical brown color family, and features some bolder purple/green hues.  I paired it with my classic suit jacket to dress it up and add some polish over the bold pattern.  

The belt was one I've had for years and happened to match the chartreuse green in the leopard print, so to define my waist from the sheath dress, I added it as a fun accent.  Again to keep the look more polished since the print is rather loud, I added opaque black tights and simple and professional black pumps to add height and slenderize my frame.  I finished the look again with my gold apple watch, and felt daring enough to add a touch of flair with some funky gold hoop earrings.  These peeked out demurely from my hair and added a little punch of style to the look!

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  • Wear comfortable shoes!  If you're going to be on your feet all day (like me!) you want to make sure to rock heels/shoes that won't kill your feet or cause blisters.
  • Think through hair and makeup.  If you have a tendency to fidget with your hair when you're nervous, put it up in a classy ponytail or bun, or pull it off of your face.  Don't be afraid to throw on some lipstick and a little extra mascara to enhance your features and get noticed from across the room.
  • Bring pen/paper and business cards!  Always be sure to bring a pen and paper or a laptop to networking events when appropriate so you can take down notes to jog your memory from speakers or conversations.  Be sure to have a good number of business cards too so that you can exchange with those you meet.
  • Wear a watch.  As you can see from above, I had a watch on for each day.  In case your phone dies, you will want to make sure you aren't late to any meetings or important group engagements throughout the day.
  • Don't be afraid to show off your style!  Like you see from the photos, I wasn't afraid to mix in some more fashion-forward pieces like a leather skirt or a leopard dress in a professional manner.  Just be smart, no short hemlines or plunging necklines.  When in doubt, skip out - or tone down with a more professional piece like a blazer or tights.

I hope this post is helpful to those who have upcoming networking events and want to be stylish yet professional in this setting!  I know it can be hard to know what to expect from these types of things, so I always err on the side of more dressy/professional on the first day to feel out the crowd before introducing more stylish pieces into the mix.  Above all else, have fun, be yourself and don't be afraid to strike up conversations and introduce yourself!  Even coming from an introvert like me, you never know what types of connections you might make that will help you in the future.

Emily Essentially