Dressing for Networking Happy Hour – The Smart and Agile You!

4 tips for an easy transition from work wear to happy hour wear!


In our virtual/technological/fast-moving age, meeting face to face has become all the more important as a chance to make that personal difference which opens doors to opportunities.

Sayings like “network, get work” and “work the room” have entered our lexicon and networking happy hours part are part of our job description. You know that any encounter may turn out to be the key to our aspirations and that you don’t have a second chance to give a first impression (a cliché, but true).

You know you should look your best, but you may feel confused about what kind of look to convey.

The Challenges of Networking happy hour wear: do not overdress, do not underdress

Networking happy hours outside the office are not like interviews or corporate meetings, and the strict dress code does not apply.

You don’t want to overdress and look like you’re about to present a financial projection but you don’t want to underdress and look like you’re going to a disco or a picnic. By all means, the latter is worse, una brutta figura, as the Italians say, always concerned to convey the right impression in every context.

Conveying a professional impression and wanting to be comfortable and evening-like is a balancing act. But don’t despair! Here’s the key to the look you want to strike and the tips to achieve it.

The Look for Networking Happy Hour

A safe bet for networking happy hour is smart business casual code. But this should be Plan B, because you don’t really want to look like you are in the office.

You want to keep a professional appearance, but bring out more of your personality and style—and an evening feel. You want a smart and agile look.

How you will caliber your smart and agile look depends on context: a networking happy hour at a bar organized by co-workers is not the same as a networking happy hour at a five-star hotel organized by senior management from a different company.

When in doubt, overdress.

Tips and Tricks for an Easy Transition from Work to the Bar

The key for an easy transition from your work outfit into a smart and agile look is deconstructing and reconstructing with a little bit of pre-planning. You don’t have time to run home, so you’ll need to adjust your daytime outfit.

This is the formula:

Base outfit + items you leave in the office

Tip 1. Un-layer (deconstruct!)

Ditch your blazer, cardigan, scarf, tie, big purse, briefcase … (you name it!) to convey a less formal and lighter look.

Smart shirts for men, and sleeveless dresses for women are appropriately professional, and convey an agile feel. (See the discussion of layering in my previous article.)

Tip 2. Loosen-up (deconstruct!)

Ladies, get rid of your closed toe shoes and annoying pantyhose (annoying for me at least!), put your hair down, and unbutton your shirt a notch but don’t overdo it, you’re not at Club Med.

Gentlemen, roll up your sleeves and unbutton your shirt a notch (see above). You can also decide to leave your tie on and loosen it, or leave your blazer on and pull up the sleeves. (It’s about your style!)

Next- Tips 3-4 and Recapp

Mara Kolesas
Mara Kolesas
Mara Kolesas, Ph.D., is a style with substance expert, based in Berkeley, CA, who provides intelligent styling for professionals. She grew up in Buenos Aires where she breathed style from an early age. She went on to a career in political science, studying for a doctorate in New York City, and later lived in Florence, Rome, Berlin and Beirut, where she pursued my two passions: she studied and promoted citizen empowerment, diversity and inclusion, and she explored small boutiques, helping friends find outfits that gave them joy and confidence. Along with her artistic eye and knowledge of fashion, she brings analytical and social expertise to a field with superficial associations. Twitter

Featured Items