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Functional Fashion: Accessories for the All-Day Conference

All Day Conference

All-day conferences are great for professional development and networking, but they’re also a lot like triathlons: the right gear can make or break you. So the next time you get approval to attend one, don’t just wing it. With the right planning, you can optimize your endurance and make the most efficient use of your energy.

Your mission: Accessorize for the day-long conference.

Unlike our two previous Functional Fashion articles in which we tackled supply closet organization and business attire on a budget, this one is ALL about the accessories. But before we get into our round-up of conference must-haves, here are a few basic tips for getting yourself dressed:


You know the importance of layering when dressing for tasks like reorganizing the supply closet. The same goes for conferences. There’s no predicting what the temperature will be in any given auditorium or lecture hall. Dress yourself in layers and you’ll be prepared for both sauna-like conditions and arctic temps.

Wrinkle-Resistant Materials

This is not the day to bust out your favorite linen suit. You’ll likely be standing up and sitting down all day long, so wear clothes that keep their shape and don’t easily crumple.

Compact Outerwear

Unless your conference has a coat check, you’ll likely be carrying your coat with you. Leave your puffy jacket at home and wear something you can easily fold up, put in your bag or drape over your arm.

Now let’s get down to the business of accessories.


The trick here is to channel your inner Goldilocks. You need something big enough to hold your laptop/tablet and personal items, but not so big that it’s pulling on your shoulder all day and knocking over other conference goers.

moleskin bag

This bag from Moleskine ($198) is durable, functional, and, just like Moleskine’s famous notebooks, timeless. It holds laptops up to 15” in size and can be carried as a shoulder bag or a backpack. It also includes multiple storage compartments and a separate collapsible bag that can be used to tote the conference swag you collect throughout the day.

Twill Snap Backpack from Everlane

If you’re looking to spend a little less, the Twill Snap Backpack from Everlane ($65) with leather detailing is a sleek and sturdy alternative. A padded interior compartment holds laptops up to 15’ in size.

Business Card Holder

Conferences typically have some kind of built-in networking opportunities, so you’ll want to have your business cards handy. Keep them crisp and accessible with a smart business card holder. Etsy has a great selection; no matter what your personal style is, you’re sure to find one you like for a reasonable price. Here are just a few options we liked.


Holds 25-30 business cards.

fabric business card holder


Holds 15 business cards.

minimalist business card holder


Holds 25 business cards.

crocodile embossed business card holder


We’ve talked about the unpredictable nature of conference temperatures. In addition to wearing layers, a scarf or shawl can also help you adjust to shifting climates. If the air conditioner’s cranking, you’ll be happy to have something to wrap around your neck. If it’s sweltering, a scarf is easy enough to stuff in your bag.

nasty gal oversized scarf

This oversized scarf from Nasty Gal ($40) can also double as a shawl or (if you’re really chilled) a lap cover. The hounds tooth pattern and silk/wool blend is classic enough to still feel professional.

Italian Joes Jeans Scarf

For the fellas, this Italian made striped scarf from Joe’s Jeans ($68) is a bit of an investment, but will add interest, color and warmth to an otherwise ordinary outfit. The “Bordeaux and Orange” stripes are fun, but still feel professional.

Refillable Canteen

Remember that this is an endurance event. Staying hydrated is crucial. You likely already have a refillable water bottle you bring to the gym, but you may want something a bit more sleek for professional environments.

Contigo jade purity water bottle

The glass and stainless construction of this water bottle by Contigo ($14.99) feels like an appropriate upgrade.

Compact Umbrella

We really hope it doesn’t rain on your conference day. But, being prepared for inclement weather really does pay off. Nothing is worse than sitting around in wet clothes all day. You’ll want to have a durable umbrella that also folds up into a compact package (not the kind that simply collapses).

Travel Blue compact umbrella

This one from Travel Blue ($19.99) also includes a little pouch, which will keep you from dripping all over your fellow conference attendees.

Remember: with a just a little bit of planning and functional accessorizing, your day-long conference is guaranteed to be a success.

Have you successfully accessorized for an all-day conference? What are your fashion must-haves?


  1. Great tips! I usually come prepared to conferences, but hadn’t considered the handiness of a scarf! Totally bringing one with me next time! :)

    1. Glad you found this post helpful, Leslie. I love the card holders too! I want them all!

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