When it comes to figuring out what to wear at academic conferences, even though I'm now in my fourth year of graduate school, I don't consider myself an expert. I'm slowly figuring out my go-to pieces that work for basically any conference or other academic event. Last year, I wrote about what I packed for an academic conference in February, and I noticed that I packed many of the same items this time around for my conference in New Orleans. If you're wondering what you should wear at a conference with mild weather in the winter, here's what I would suggest based on what I wore.
As a grad student, I don't "dress up" as much as perhaps the post docs or professors (unless I was there to formally meet potential new employers). I do, however, like to put effort into how I look so I don't come across as a student that doesn't care about being there. I bring pieces that I can mix-and-match with everything else, so depending on the weather and/or the event (presentation, reception, etc.), I have an outfit that will work for it.
I packed 18 pieces, which included my trench coat, Longchamp bag, and umbrella, though I didn't end up needing to use my umbrella. I packed two sleeveless tops, two sweaters, a nice sweatshirt, a vest, a skirt, ponte pants, dark wash skinny jeans, ankle boots, ballet flats, sneakers, two pairs of earrings, and one necklace. I needed six different outfits for the trip, which included two travel days. I brought three pairs of shoes so each pair was worn twice, and I used the same method for bottoms, though I could have gotten away with only bringing two bottoms if I didn't have the space for a third. Links to the items or similar items are below.
Let's break it down outfit by outfit. Outfits 1 and 6 above were the days that I traveled, so I wore my comfy J.Crew 'Pixie' pants (however, these feel nice enough to wear during the conference, too). I had kind of planned the outfits in my head in advance, so I opted to wear my ballet flats for the first travel day and ankle boots for the last. Even though the sneakers are comfy, I didn't want to deal with taking them off and putting them back on at airport security, so the ballet flats and boots were the easy options. I wore my trench coat on the plane and used my Longchamp bag as a carry-on (in addition to my Kipling carry-on roller bag).
Outfits 2 and 3 were worn on days that I did not present, so I decided to wear my sneakers for comfort. Outfit 2 looks strikingly similar to an outfit I wore to the conference I wrote about last year (I actually could have worn that exact outfit again this time if I needed, since I brought the exact same items!). I love layering sleeveless tops under my asymmetrical Helmut Lang sweatshirt. I also wore my jeans because it was pretty chilly. Outfit 3 was not worn to the conference (this was the day I had my bike tour; I changed into Zella leggings for the ride), but it was worn to an evening reception hosted by my department. I changed into my ankle boots for the reception. The vest was the only extra layer I needed over my sweater to keep warm on my ride. It was such a lovely day! (Have you seen the photos?)
Outfits 4 and 5 were worn on days I had my poster presentation; I had an afternoon session and then on the following day, a morning session. I wore my skirt both days because of that. It was also warm enough to go sans tights, though I did change into tights and ankle boots when I wore outfit 4 because I had an awards banquet to attend in the evening. Outfit 5 should have been worn with tights because the conference center was blasting their AC! Plus, it really wasn't that warm outside, especially with the imminent rain (which I did not get caught in, thank goodness). For outfit 4, I wore my sweatshirt again but with my crocheted top and ballet flats. I really loved this look! I'll probably repeat it. I pulled out a sweater for outfit 5 and finished the outfit with my ankle boots and simple necklace. My Longchamp bag proved to be quite the workhouse during the course of the week.
When it comes to deciding what to wear for a conference, it's best to go with basic yet somewhat dressy pieces that have multiple uses (and that also make you feel like a boss lady). Layers and comfortable shoes are also your best friends! Don't be afraid to wear sneakers; I saw a very wide range of attire at my conference.
Since I discovered the packing list feature in Stylebook last year, I've used it ever since. Here's what my digital packing list for the conference looked like (including the outfits above)! Guys, I seriously ADORE this app. I think it's my favorite thing ever. (And no, they're not paying me to say this. I just love it so much!) Scroll down for the links to the items (or similar items) I packed and wore.