6/19/14

What NOT to Wear: Convention Edition




Both the national conventions of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council for the Blind (ACB) are quickly approaching. I put forth effort each year to make sure I am ready for the NFB convention by having nice, neat and professional clothes to wear throughout the week, I hope you’ll do the same. So often I hear, from sighted and blind people alike, “Why do you care so much about what you are wearing, it’s a blind convention?”
 
I usually giggle a little but have grown to despise this response.

Whether you are at a convention of fully sighted people, or 3,000 or so blind people, the reality is the same. You should always make yourself look professional and distinguished at any professional convention or conference.

I have cringed watching people walk into the doors of the grand ballroom, at general session, in jeans, a tank top, baseball hat and flip flops….sigh! It’s not good and does not help with people misconceptions about blindness.

To be blunt, this kind of attire is unacceptable at such a gathering.

Despite the fact that there are sighted people at these conventions, who do indeed notice the poor, unkempt dressers, it also makes other blind attendees look bad. Yep, I said it, by dressing like you’re going to the zoo/ballpark/gym, you make the rest of us look less distinguished.

There should be a certain sense of pride that comes with how you dress and how you present yourself. I’ve heard that fashion says who you are without saying a word, it’s good advice. It has nothing to do with brand names, clothing sizes, body shapes…or degree of vision, but has everything to do with taking pride in oneself and one’s organization.
By dressing down, and not dressing appropriately, you are showing disrespect for the very organization/business you claim to support.

I am told often by others that they wish they could dress like me, that they wish they had my body type or had money to shop and be stylish. The truth is, these are all excuses!
I don’t spend much at all on clothing, I own one pair of designer pants and that’s the extent of my designer collection. I am a bargain hunter and rarely by anything at cost. I’m frugal to the core because, well, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes. It’s a complete myth that you have to have money to have good taste or look nice. I have purchased clothes from Walmart and Target (on a regular basis) and spend a lot of time at TJ Maxx and Ross searching for clothes and cheap prices. It’s very doable to look nice on a very tiny budget. 

You can be the poorest of the poor and still look nice.

When you are preparing for convention take time to learn what it means to dress business casual, semi-formal, formal and business attire; NONE of these include t-shirts or flip flops, that I can tell you right now (sorry to bum you out).

When you are attending general session, there are a few rules of thumb you should take into consideration. Ask yourself these questions about the outfit you plan on wearing:
1.     Would I feel comfortable if I ran into a future employer in what I’m wearing?
2.    If I were asked to come up to the podium, and speak to the audience, would I be embarrassed because of what I’m wearing?
3.     Would I wear this to a fancy office building for a serious meeting?
4.    Would I feel comfortable if I ran into a federation leader in what I’m wearing?

These are just a few questions but ones you should ask yourself when attending general session, or any other important meeting.

I am a big believer that is always better to overdress than underdress. If you are questioning if what you are wearing is too casual, bump up the look with different shoes or a business-like top.

Some may say that I often overdress for an occasion, but I would rather that reputation than one in which I’m called a slob or unprofessional.

Here are just a few ideas of what NOT to where at the upcoming convention:
ü  T-shirts. T-shirts, no matter how funny or awesome you think they are, they are not appropriate for a conference! Business attire does not include t-shirts, even if (well, especially if) they have some cute or funny saying on them. Wear them after the meeting, but NOT to the meeting. T-shirts have never been, and never will be, business casual. I know you love that Whozit shirt, or Braille Rocks shirt (as do I), but don’t wear it to general session!
ü  Shorts: There are very, very, very few shorts that should be worn to a business attire event. Some women’s shorts are designed to be long, of suit material and are to be worn with heels, but these are not too common. The general rule is NO SHORTS to a business meeting (which includes general session). And for the love of cupcakes, please do not wear jeans of any kind, especially cut off jean shorts to a business meeting. Ew!

ü  Maxi dresses. Some of you just gasped. I too love a nice, long, comfy maxi dress but here’s the scoop. Many maxi dresses are made of light weight, cotton material meant to be worn casually with flip flops or sandals. Not to ruffle your feathers, but many should not be worn to business meetings. If you do wear a maxi to a meeting, you should top it off with a shrug or cardigan and nice dress shoes. Disclaimer: There are some maxi dresses out there that would work for a conference, just be careful and choose wisely.
ü  Flip Flops. I know, I know, you LOVE your flops but…DO NOT WEAR FLIP FLOPS TO A BUSINESS MEETING! I do not care how much bling they have or how “fancy” they are, they are still not fancy enough for a business meeting or formal occasion (like a banquet). Please, please, please don’t do it!
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/34/32/31/343231beb83ab3f2a899d2c75f6b0e3b.jpg
Photo: Flip flop wreath. The tutorial can be found here.
ü  Hats. This one’s mostly for the guys. I’m sure you have a lot of awesome NFB hats floating around right now that you’re just dying to wear. Wear them all you want, just not to general session. Showing your NFB, or favorite sports team pride, is okay, in the right setting.
ü  Spaghetti straps. There is a fashion debate in the world about whether one can wear sleeveless tops to meetings. I think you absolutely can, if it’s the right style, fit and is meant to be a business blouse. Spaghetti straps however, are an absolute NO for me. Spaghetti straps are very thin straps that hold your top up, they do not look classy or professional and should not be worn any meeting at the national convention. If you do have a tank top or spaghetti strap top, that you’re dying to wear, cover it with a cardigan or shrug. A sleeveless top can be totally classy and in good taste, but spaghetti straps have no place in a professional setting!

Anyone having to re-think their wardrobe? I hope none of you are too disappointed about what’s on the list of things NOT to wear to national convention.

Remember to dress to impress. Whether you care at all about fashion or not, looking professional is a must. Dress in a style that suits you, while keeping in mind that you should be putting your best professional self together.

4 comments:

Becky Andrews said...

Love this!

Anonymous said...

Great post--I too am often frustrated by the misconception that all blind people are unkempt or perpetually poorly dressed. So annoying.

I'm curious about your strong feelings related to general session, though. If you're a board member, scholarship finalist or presenter, it's obvious that a more distinguished, professional look is necessary for this part of convention. But for those thousands of people just sitting in the audience from 9 to 5, I'm inclined to be more forgiving. When attending events like the job fair, small group meetings or networking events, or (obviously) the banquet, I'm very careful to dress appropriately in business casual. But I'll admit to having worn a pair of jeans to general for comfort and practicality at least once during my two trips to convention! :P

Briley said...

Girl, you get an amen from me! Every year, I see more and more people just looking... like they're going to a theme park, not a business event. The workplace in general is getting a little less formal, but that doesn't mean flip flops are ok. I know convention is over, but I'm catching up on blog reading ;). Also, love your points about shopping on a budget. Sighted people even make that excuse, and it's bogus. I got a super trendy jean jacket shrug the other day for $14 from a clearance rack. It just takes some time. XOXOXXO

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