- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

On a recent elevator ride I was drawn into a conversation with an exhausted-looking woman, feet clad in 3-inch spikes. Oh, her aching back! Her sore and tired legs! Tough kickboxing class? I inquired. Training for the New York City Marathon? No, she replied. Trade show at the Convention Center.

Say no more. Like everyone who rounds the trade-show circuit, I knew the score. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been tempted more than once in these circumstances to slip into a pair of sneakers and sweats to walk the endless halls or man your exhibit. Don’t. For the sake of your career and the company you represent, it’s important to remain professional in dress and manner, even when business events become physically demanding.

But there is a bright side. Looking good at long-day events doesn’t mean you have to be miserable. You can effect dramatic changes to your overall well-being by adhering to the following basic style for success trade show guidelines:

*When you’re setting up the booth the day before the show, jeans, sneakers and t-shirts are acceptable and expected. No one expects you to lay carpet and rig booths in your Armani.

*Once you go live, it’s time to put your best foot forward — preferably not in a sneaker. Guys, you’ve got it made in this department. A pair of dress shoes is great, but the range of professional loafers with sneaker-comfort from the likes of Doc Martens to Johnston & Murphy to Ben Sherman is almost limitless, and will do the trick.

*Ladies, if you insist on pumps, now is the time to invest in the best, most comfortable Italian shoes, and keep the heels to two inches. But for 10-hour days on your feet you might want to explore some of the less spiky options that will take you well into the evening hours if need be. Explore more comfortable options such as those offered by Merrill (check out its new Spire Flex) or Ecco (ditto its Twilight Envelope Pump).

*Once you’ve found the right shoes, the tough part is over. Depending on your role (manning the booth, product demos or networking) the rest of your outfit may range from a sharp suit to a pantsuit to a fashionable but conservative pants and sweater ensemble. Remember to wear fabric that breathes well (you’re likely to work up a sweat), doesn’t catch on sharp corners, and travels well for easy wear.

Dear Jordan:

I am able to afford to top designer clothes but on the accessories I go cheap because I can’t tell the difference between real and mock. Is this a mistake? Are the fakes obvious to others?

Joelle — Bethesda

Dear Joelle:

Depending on the quality of the item, it can be almost impossible to tell with the naked eye the difference between faux and the real stuff. Nevertheless, whether or not your pocketbooks and belts can be discerned as “fake” is irrelevant, as long as it’s a good match for your outfit.

Dear Jordan:

My colleague comes to work dressed to the nines each day but when she gets cold puts on a ratty old green sweater that she keeps in her office. It looks very unprofessional and she often forgets to take it off when clients arrive. What can I say to her without being rude?

Sandra — Vienna

Dear Sandra:

To get your colleague to dump the frump, commiserate with her about your chilly office and tell her your own embarrassing story about leaving your sweatshirt on by accident. You can make a gentle joke about the incongruity of her attire: “What a gorgeous suit — did the sweater come with it?” And, there is always a new sweater from ther “secret” Santa next season!

Dear Jordan:

I was in a meeting with a diplomat last week and noticed his cuff-link shirt sleeves fell below his suit jacket. Did it not fit or is that appropriate wear? Please advise.

Elliot - Georgetown

Dear Elliot:

It is perfectly acceptable and expected that a man’s shirt sleeves will peek out below his jacket sleeves. (How else to show off those 18 Karat gold cufflinks from your wife?)

Dear Jordan,

I’ve noticed gypsy skirts are all the rage this year. What is the best thing to wear with them? Rebecca — Chevy Chase

Dear Rebecca,

Because of their abundance of flowing material, gypsy skirts, or A-line skirts, need to be paired with a trim, close-fitting shirt or blazer. A tunic or other drape-style blouse will only look frumpy, overwhelming you and the outfit.

Ms. Jordan Speer has been writing about the apparel business for more than nine years. Send workplace or corporate fashion questions to [email protected]


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