It can happen after a speech, it can happen during a book-signing, it can happen during a conference or class reunion: the networking reception. Ah, the networking reception. What to wear to a networking reception?
This particular reception was one of those late afternoon affairs, too early for the sort of cocktail dress you might wear at a wine & cheese reception. Not a formal dinner, so the evening gown was out. Not located in a bar or lounge, so jeans and other comfy/casual was out. This is the type of networking reception where I was expected to shake hands, smile a lot, inform people that, yes, I was an associate with such-and-such firm, swap business cards as appropriate, but otherwise to sort of blend in and just be a presence in the room.
A speaker of some notoriety was in town and had given a presentation. To be among the entourage of people to mingle afterwards was somewhat of an honor–and somewhat of a wardrobe hassle. I asked one of the female partners at the firm how I could dress appropriately, and she recommended the classic “all black” route. Black shoes. Black hose. Black skirt. Black blouse. Voila. I opted to offset the look with a neutral lipstick and a dark turquoise scarf with a metallic weave.
Here is a little fashion tip I learned, and why I advocate wearing accessories that reflect light: light attracts light. In other words, having a shiny scarf or shiny earrings accentuates the brightness in your eyes, highlights your expressions, and even can help to whiten your smile. This bring attention to your face and more focus on your message. Exactly the sort of effect I hope to accomplish.
I like the “all black” look because it’s appropriate for the winter season, formal enough for both day and evening events, but is also very comfortable. Making chit-chat with a room full of strangers is taxing enough without being self-conscious about what I’m wearing. Another piece of advice to be gained from this experience–find a female is a senior role, and leverage her experience! There are at least three women I greatly admire, who have taken an interest in my career development. None of them work at my firm, so it does take effort on my part to get on their lunch calendars, send emails and texts, and just keep in touch. I cherish the relationships I have with these women. Absolutely worth the effort.
A quick note about the shoes…these are 4 inch heels, but because of a platform on the toe, it only feels like 3.5 inches. Can half of an inch really make that much difference? Ohhhhhh yes! Standing around on the balls of your feet for several hours is so much better than tippy-toes! It only took once for me to learn that the hard way.