Don't be fooled. There is a right and wrong answer to this question. Networking events are great opportunities to build relationships, and ultimately promote your business, but first impressions are key, and you want to make sure you're making the right one.
First and foremost, dress for the occasion at hand. If it's a formal gala, formal attire is preferred (that counts as a networking event because you never know who you'll meet), as opposed to a workshop, seminar, or panel discussion which may call for a more casual look; but careful, too casual can easily turn a potential client or collaborator off. A reliable ensemble to fall back on when preparing for any event where professional relationships may be formed is business casual: that can include a tailored dress, boot-cut jean or pant with a casual cashmere sweater, and or low drama heel or wedge. It's appropriate, but not stuffy, while still showing off your personality. Also, choose solid colors instead of prints to avoid appearing too busy or overly eccentric. People tend to prefer to do business with bold attitudes over loud ones.
I attended the Young Female Entrepreneur event - deets coming soon - a few weeks ago and wanted to look sleek, but not boring. I took a chance and chose to break out my Margiela double-man pant (they could literally fit 2 of me). You know, the one’s I camped outside of H&M for during the Margiela for H&M premiere! They had been hibernating in my closet up until the event; hanging like the icons they are on their monogrammed Maison Martin Margiela pant hanger. Because the pants are slightly avant-garde, I went for a fitted black turtle-neck to avoid looking too architectural - I didn't want to scare anyone away by jabbing them in the jugular with a jaunty Balmain type shoulder - and completed the look with a classic mule. I was soo pleased with how well the styles came together - let's just say I shook some strong hands that night!
So next time you have an event that could bring potential prospects to your business, think sleek, chic, and simple for your ensemble: that includes hair, shoes, jewelry and accessories. It's a sure fire way to guarantee you snatch up, or give out a shit load of business cards!