MEMORANDUM · Mar 15, 2016

What To Wear To A Client Meeting

So you’ve got the whole workwear thing down for a regular day at the office, but now your boss wants you to start wining and dining clients, and you’re like… ummm is the Witness Protection Program taking applicants? Because I have nothing to wear.

If you saw my tips on interview attire last week, it’s worth noting for starters that all of the same basic rules apply to client meeting attire: (1) you should wear a well-fitting, tailored ensemble; (2) you should be in polished, practical shoes; (3) you should go for minimal, fuss-free hair, nails and makeup; and (4) you should finish it all off with simple, classic accessories. But while your interview outfit says “I’m not an axe murderer as evidenced by this crisp grey suit, so you should probably let me work for you,” you need a client meeting outfit that says “Someone is paying me to do stuff for them, and they’ve also determined that my pro-fresh style and above-average social skills will not humiliate them in public, so you should listen to what I have to say.”

You with me? We’re aiming a little higher with this one.

Now that you have the job and have earned the responsibility of representing your company in front of current and prospective clients, you might want to take your professional style up a notch from worker bee to girl boss.

While you want to stay clean, crisp and conservative, today’s ensemble illustrates that you can introduce a little more color and style into your look for client meetings. By amping things up a bit, you can subliminally send the message that your ability to tie a cropped double-breasted black blazer and salmon sheath dress together with a coordinating black and gold waist belt is surely proof of creative thinking, good analytical skills and sound judgment. Right?

Ok maybe not in those exact terms, but there’s no question looking the part not only visually reinforces command of your position and the subject matter, but it also enhances your own confidence and sense of self. And we’re all about the good feels, here.

Unlike dressing for an interview, at this point, you know your company, you know your colleagues, and you probably know your clients too. While you still want to make sure you’re dressed appropriately and professionally, you’re now in a position to make more advanced styling decisions beyond the basic grey/navy/black suit.

But when stepping beyond the cookie-cutter office attire, where do you start? For women, this can be a dicey process especially if you work in a business formal environment, because you don’t want to go too far in the creativity department and sacrifice polish or professionalism. Start by carefully considering your audience. When meeting with clients, you want to dress to the same level as the client, or one level above. If you’re meeting with the suit-wearing type, you don’t want to be in denim and a blazer. However, if you’re meeting with hoodie-wearing entrepreneurs, you may not want to be in a formal black suit. Always err on the more formal side, but don’t overdo it.

Once you’ve figured out the basics of what’s appropriate to wear to the meeting, you can have fun with color, print and texture within those bounds. With a conservative silhouette (like my sheath dress today), you have more room to be playful with print and color—assuming you don’t go nuclear and start colorblocking neons. When I was first working in finance in NYC, I got unexpectedly pulled into a client meeting when I was wearing a (basically) neon coral blouse, and the client asked, “So, are batteries included or sold separately with that top?” Hilarious, bro. Message received.

Instead of the standard black suit jacket (like this one) that I might wear to an interview, I opted for a cropped, bouclé, double-breasted version. The texture of the jacket plays well with the texture of the pale salmon pink sheath dress featuring architectural lines that give it a little extra oomph than your average plain jane sheath. I married the two together with a black and gold waist belt, and black accessories. For footwear, while I might wear a classic pair of simple black pumps to an interview, this pair of detailed ankle strap pumps adds a bit more interest for a client meeting ensemble.

I shared this salmon sheath dress perfect for client meetings on instagram recently as part of my ongoing 30 Dresses in 30 Days series. It’s actually from Rent the Runway, a service I’ve used many times for special events (weddings, formal events, cocktail parties, etc.). However, I only recently uncovered their selection of clothing and accessories for other occasions (like work events) as well. If you’re wining and dining clients on the reg, you probably should invest in some client-ready professional attire that you can get a lot of use out of, like all of the dresses I’ve listed below (especially this one on sale!). However, if these business occasions occur only once in a while, renting the right outfit can be a more cost-effective option. RTR has a ton of pieces that are awesome for work, including the dress I’m wearing today. They also have tons of blazers, pencil skirts, pants, and even jumpsuits that could fit the bill as well.

DRESS: Moschino c/o Rent the Runway | JACKET: c/o St. John | SHOES: SJP Collection | BELT: old, similar HERE, HERE and even more HERE | BAG: M2Malletier | BRACELET: old, similar HERE | EARRINGS: Juliet & Company | LIPS: Nars (Bansar)

Additional favorites that are perfect for client meetings:

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