May 082008

Someone recently stumbled onto Geeknews by searching for the term:

What do women wear to tech conference

Good question. Any first timer probably would want to know how to act and dress and wants to know what to expect, not wanting to stand out looking like the first timer they are.

And we know how many women (not all) are concerned about their appearances, so it’s natural to expect Ms. First Timer to launch herself at the internet to find out how to dress for success and enable the networking opportunities and at the same time not go overboard by letting her clothing make an incorrect statement (makes me glad to be a guy).

Andy’s general rule of thumb when it comes to how to dress is:

You can’t go wrong with business casual

Here’s my idea of business casual for women:

Business Casual

For a woman this is usually slacks, nice shoes, blouse (not loud), blazer is optional. If you’re speaking at the conference then you should wear a blazer when speaking to the crowd.

For the shoes, don’t wear high heels, not ‘power shoes’, take spiffy looking comfortable shoes because you may be standing in lots of lines for food, registration, restrooms, more food, more restrooms, airport security lines…

Go light on the jewelry, something to complement the blouse. Same thing goes for smelling great, don’t get too flowery. If you must have a scent applied then keep it to a minimum, you’re not here to pick up a date so keep the artificial pheromones at home, please.

I did an image search on Live and Google for women at tech conferences and for the most part the clothing description i’ve given above seems to apply, excluding the perfume.

If you already know how formal or informal your conference is, you can probably make some safe bets wrt dressing down or up as appropriate. For instance, there are some tech conferences that are pretty low key on the west coast of the US and folks can get away with wearing jeans and sandals, though these conferences usually have smelly hippy linux coder types that wouldn’t know business casual if it hit them upside the head.

Below is a promotional photo for the Society of Women Engineers National conference, you can’t go wrong as a women dressing like this at any tech conference. It’s smart, low key yet professional.


Feel free to correct me if i’m wrong anywhere here, while i’m not a conference expert i’ve attended my share and I’ve seen some disastrous attempts to be too dressed up and too dressed down, so aim for the middle with business casual.

 Posted by at 10:18 pm

  4 Responses to “What do women wear to tech conference?”

  1. Attire at a conference typically depends on who the person is. Dress the same way you normally do for work.

    Grad students wear t-shirts and jeans.
    Professors wear jeans or khakis and a button-down shirt.
    Programmers from companies like Google dress casually (jeans, t-shirt maybe with company logo).
    Industry professionals from more formal companies wear suit pants and nice tops, maybe a blazer.

    Conferences don’t have a uniform dress code because there’s so many different types of people in attendance. Your clothes, however, help signify your job. If you are a dressed-up grad student, people may not realize you’re a grad student.

    The exception is if you’re presenting……everyone should dress up if they’re presenting! Business or business casual are expected.

  2. thanks for the tips,
    I’ve been searching the net for a while now for exactly this info

  3. I was at Intersolar North America and one of the women speakers wore a red blazer — with every guy up there in black and gray it stood out in a GREAT way — she also gave a great talk.

    I wore my work uniform — bright colored polo shirt with company logo, hiking boots, kaki pants, and was the most under-dressed person in the room.

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