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Tips on Appropriate Business Dinner Attire for Women

This article was written as a response to the question: What do women wear to a business dinner?

Dressing appropriately when attending a business dinner is as crucial, in our professional careers, as being prepared with the right information at hand when attending a business meeting. So, when thinking about what to wear to a business dinner, one must take into consideration various factors that will dictate what would be most appropriate for that specific occasion. Just as there are different types of business meetings, there are different types of business dinners. Some business dinners are quite informal, especially if they take place immediately after work as you would not really be expected to run home and change. However, business dinners that have been pre-arranged or that take place during a business conference or convention, do tend to be a little more formal and wearing the appropriate attire will set you apart from the rest.

By now you are probably thinking that this is more complicated than you anticipated and how much easier it is for men who just have to worry about whether or not to wear a suit, or if a tie is optional. However, don’t look at it that way, the fact is that it is a time when we, as women should celebrate our femininity and see it as an advantage since we have so many more options than they do, when selecting what to wear. Most of all, we must be smart in our clothes selection, because what we wear says a lot about who we are.

Always remember that how you are treated will depend a great deal on how you are dressed -- sad, but very true. Unfortunately, as much progress as women have made in the business world and as much equality as there is supposed to be, all of us working women know that this is yet to be true. You want your clothes to project a professional image, even if it is during an evening function. When you have reached a position in your organization where attending business dinners is part of your line of work, then you are even more immersed in a male dominated environment since most of the higher positions in the corporate world today are still held by men. Therefore, you must go in there and use your appearance (the way you have dressed) as another tool in projecting yourself as a professional, because this is not only accomplished by the way you express and conduct yourself, but also by the way you dress. You want your outfit to say “I am a smart, capable, and professional individual, and I am here to conduct business the same as you are.” The last thing you want is to dress in such a way as to give the wrong impression, that because it is after hours, it is “party time.”

So, first and foremost, we must take into consideration the time of the year (the season) when selecting colors and textures. This is most important for evening events as the attire tends to be a little dressier and wearing the wrong color for the season, for instance, would be a bit more noticeable making you "stick out" as not knowing how to dress.  Keeping that in mind, consider next who will be attending the business dinner and where will it be taking place. Is it with business executives or other high ranking officials from out of town? Is it at a conference? Or is it less formal, such as a local chamber of commerce or other local business organization’s dinner meeting?

If you are having dinner with out of town people or you are at a business conference, more than likely the business dinner will take place at a nice high-end restaurant or even at a hotel’s conference center. Therefore, dressier business attire would be the way to go. I would suggest a nice tailored dress, raw silk or linen for Spring and Summer or a wool/rayon blend for Fall and Winter. Navy and black dresses are always appropriate year-round as they definitely command professionalism. Regardless of the season, panty hose, pumps, and a small clutch type purse, would complete the professional evening attire

If you are attending a less formal business dinner, a casual business suit, a skirt and blouse, or even dress pants and a silk blouse would be appropriate. For Winter and Spring, dress sandals (no panty hose) have become more acceptable for business evening events, when wearing skirts. By all means, avoid wearing the big bag-type purses. Aside from being cumbersome to deal with at dinner tables, they give you the ”mom look” (you know, moms have everything you ever wanted or needed in their bags!!) and even tough there is nothing wrong with looking like a mom, a business dinner is not the place for that “look.”

Again, remember how much more important it is for a woman to wear the right kind of clothing to a business function than it is for men -- men are assumed to be professionals -- we have to prove that we are. When selecting what to wear at your next dinner meeting, keep in mind that above all, your goal is to leave behind a lasting, positive impression of your business etiquette and professionalism.

Guiding thoughts, guiding words, for guiding minds…….maribelclarissa

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Comments (2)

Thanks for the tips! voted up!

Chinwe Sheila Ikpoki

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