Corporate Events: Here’s How to Dress for the Occasion
Corporate events are like marmite: you either love the opportunity to put on your finest and network or you dread the small talk with complete strangers. Regardless of preferences, one thing is certain: once the invitation comes through the post it’s very difficult to decline, especially if you’re summoned by the CEO.
Our friends and partners at Birch Associates Events have 25 years of experience in organising events, ranging from award ceremonies and conferences to Christmas markets, weddings and christenings. Event organisers tend to work in the shadows, making sure everything goes well, and they notice the little details that make some guests stand out, including their sartorial approach to the occasion. So, we asked them to help us put together a quick guide for you!
4 steps to choosing the right outfit for a work do
1. Is there a dress code?
Usually, organisers make things simple by stipulating the dress code on the invitation, which isn’t a suggestion but a requirement. The most common dress codes for corporate events are:
Black tie – Reserved for formal evening occasions, like award ceremonies, it consists of a tuxedo and bow tie.
Business – Very common for after-work socials and conferences, you are expected to wear a suit and tie
Business casual – You can lose the tie and probably the jacket as well. Make sure your shirt is top quality, clean and ironed.
Casual – can be used for a variety of occasions, including daytime fun activities. Your nicest pair of jeans and a shirt should be ok.
2. Is it ok to dress down?
Many people, especially at the start of their careers, make the somewhat catastrophic mistake of assuming that these events are mainly aimed at senior leadership so it’s ok for them to dress down. Absolutely not and, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. You are expected to make an effort and your manager is watching you and trying to ascertain whether you should be given more opportunities to mingle with decision makers.
3. What happens if I turn up in the wrong clothes?
Let’s start with overdressing. The main problem here is turning up in a tuxedo when everyone else wears a business suit. Technically, this is extremely unlikely to happen as black tie events are clearly marked as such. If you turn up in a business suit and everyone is slightly more casual, you can tone down your outfit by leaving the tie, waistcoat or jacket at the cloakroom.
Underdressing can be very awkward so our only advice here is make sure it doesn’t happen. It’s always best to go up a notch than down one!
4. What if I don’t own suitable clothes?
You can always borrow or hire a tuxedo or business suit but, as you progress in your career, it’s important to start building a wardrobe for such occasions. Take a look at our collection of business suits and, if this is your first suit, consider going for navy or dark grey which will see you through many different occasions.
Business events are an excellent opportunity to meet new people outside the confined space of a meeting room and, hopefully, forge more meaningful relationship. How you carry yourself in these occasions is important and can make all the difference in your career progression. If you want more outfit options, we have an entire blog on dress codes and don’t miss our series on the all-important business etiquette starting with how to exchange business cards like a gentleman.