Comprehensive Guide To Networking Attire

Congratulations, you’ve signed up to attend a networking event! You’re going to pack your business cards, put yourself out there, and make some new connections to advance your career. The only problem is, you have no idea what to wear. 

Closet of clothes

Is it better to err on the side of caution with an ulta-professional outfit, or should you be daring in hopes of standing out? Professional Network Connections’ comprehensive guide to networking attire will help you make the crucial clothing decisions that will both let you fit in with fellow networkers and make memorable first impressions. 

  1. Do your research.

Chances are, the networking event you’re planning to attend has been held before. Many times, these things occur on a recurring basis: annually, semi-annually, monthly, etcetera. As a result, you have the opportunity to do some online sleuthing to better anticipate the vibe of your upcoming event. 

Cellphone showing social media photos

Look on the hosting company/ organization’s social media for photos of past attendees. Take note of the attire most people are wearing, and you’ll automatically be able to establish a formality baseline. If nobody seems to be wearing a suit, chances are, you won’t want to wear one either. 

  1. Dress to Impress. 

Luckily, networking event organizers often anticipate questions about the dress code and provide some form of guidance ahead of time. Usually, an event will be classified as casual, business casual, or business attire. It is also possible that an extra special event could be classified as a black-tie event, but these instances are rare. 

Casual: Be advised, just because a networking event is “casual” does not mean you have the liberty to show up in athletic wear, cargo shorts, sports jerseys, or anything like that. You still want to dress to impress, so keep your clothes neat, well-fitted, and free of logos. Just don’t feel pressured to dress up as it might make you look out of place in this instance. 

Business Casual: Now you’re stepping things up a bit. Choose a collared shirt, blouse, or khakis. Add simple heels or leather shoes. Ladies, you might want to consider a dress or skirt, and men, you probably want to tuck your shirt with a belt. 

Business Attire: Look for items in darker colors like charcoal gray, navy blue, or classic black. These will make people perceive you as someone who’s professional. Make sure your items are tailored to flatter your body. Suits, ties, blazers, professional dresses, button downs, dress shoes, heels, and hosiery are all appropriate. 

Suit tie and pocket square

Black Tie: Consider these uncommon soirées the chance to look red-carpet-ready. Men, you’ll want to arrive in a suit or tuxedo. Ladies, you’ll want to wear an evening gown or cocktail dress. Shoes and accessories are encouraged, but again, it’s unlikely your average networking event will require such extravagant attire. 

A simple google search can give you more specific ideas about what to wear for each of these dress code categories, but now you have a basic understanding of each. 

  1. Incorporate layers. 

If you find yourself feeling unsure about what might be too formal or too casual, dress in layers. Throw some extra jewelry in your purse. Bring a jacket or blazer that you can easily take off or put on if necessary.

Consider rolling your sleeves or untucking your shirt to dress an outfit down. Accessories like scarves, hats, and watches can also play vital roles in changing the aesthetic of your look without your having to run home and change or feel out-of-place. 

  1. Add bold accents. 

Woman with red lipstick and red earrings

Lots of articles and tutorials will recommend you dress in solid colors when going to networking events. However, simple is not always best. If you do nothing bold with your attire, you make it easy to blend in and be forgotten. This is not a job interview. You want to be daring enough to be memorable and make lasting impressions on others in the room. 

Ladies, incorporate a bright lipstick, a piece of statement jewelry, or a lively print. Throw on a pair of unusual shoes. Choose a handbag in a vibrant color. We’re not advocating that you do all of these things, of course. You don’t want to look crazy or unprofessional, but you do want to get people looking at you to take the edge off. Plus, wearing something that reflects your unique personality can make introductions much more approachable. 

Men, you can manage this trick as well. Try wearing a pair of printed socks or an interesting watch. Add a pocket square to your suit, or find a shirt in a less generic color than white or gray. Don’t shy away from your favorite tie or feel like you have to go into a networking event clean shaven. Being yourself counts for more than you’d expect.  

  1. Refresh your grooming. 


This advice goes without saying for most people, but it essentially means that you should give a few moments to refresh your personal hygiene before heading into a networking event. It’s easy to let one sneak up one you, especially if you find yourself heading straight from work to an evening obligation. 

Comb your hair, trim your beard, re-apply deodorant, look out for stained clothes, and check your teeth and breath. You’ll be talking with a lot of new people, and you don’t want the garlic pasta you had for lunch to interfere with gaining new clients. You should always go into a networking event looking and smelling neat. Try to keep your outfit wrinkle free, peek in a mirror, and pop a mint or two before going inside your venue. 

  1. Avoid common pitfalls. 

While you want to be sure you don’t smell unpleasant, avoid wearing strong perfumes or colognes. Allergies to scented products are becoming more and more prevalent, and you wouldn’t want to be remembered for making someone’s breathing difficult.  

Additionally, try not to stand out so much that everyone is staring. You’re in a professional setting, not on a date. Ladies, keep your makeup and hairstyles sleek and simple. Make sure your clothes aren’t revealing too much skin; let your personality do the talking. Men, keep those clothes fitted because nothing makes you look more unkempt than dragging hemlines, baggy pants, or super tight shirts. 

  1. Remember what matters most. 

These tips are important as they will help you feel more confident dressing for networking events. However, the most important thing for you to remember as you prepare to engage other professionals and put yourself out there is that your abilities matter so much more than your looks. 

Two men shaking hands

If you look fantastic but are unwilling to initiate conversation, you’re going to leave your event feeling defeated. People are more interested in your perspectives than your appearance, so even if you get your clothes all wrong, don’t give up and abandon ship! Stick around. Shake hands. Tell people about what you do, and ask how you can help each other. 

Are you feeling prepared to register for an upcoming event? Keep and eye on PNC’s full calendar, and get ready to practice networking in your strategically selected attire. We look forward to seeing you soon!
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