What to Wear to a Homecoming Networking Event

Networking at homecomingWhat should you wear to an alumni networking event right before homecoming?  How should you figure out what to wear?  Reader M wonders…

I am attending a networking event in a few weeks and am a little bit confused on what to wear. It is part of my university’s homecoming, and is right before the homecoming game (soccer for my school). I don’t plan on attending the game. However, I worry that a suit or something I would typically wear to a networking event will be too formal. This event is on a Saturday prior to a men’s soccer game. What attire is appropriate for such a mixer? I worry that a shirt representing my school will be too casual, but am not really sure what will avoid being too dressy. What are your thoughts?

Tough question, Reader M. I would first encourage you to go with the easy route: call the recruiting/alumni/other people who are setting up the event and ask what suggested attire is. See if you can find pictures of what people have worn previously, or see if you can ask a friend who has attended in previous years (use it as a general check-in for networking purposes anyway!).

Failing that, here’s the thing: the description for the event really matters.  If it’s described, as say, “mix and mingle with other young professionals,” I see that as the school facilitating both networking and flirting, and I would say that any attire is fair game so long as you don’t show up looking like a Kardashian or other Insta-star.  (In other words, leave your latex dress or see-through skirt at home.)  After all: you could be going out to a date after the event, you could be coming from a brunch with girlfriends, etc, etc.  BUT: if the event is described as, say, a “professional networking event,” then I’d say that does raise your game, and would suggest wearing something with pockets for business cards, and pulling at least 50% of your attire from your work wardrobe.

I will note that at these events — particularly at a homecoming thing on campus — it may be totally appropriate to wear school colors to show your spirit.  I recently went to an event at my undergrad institution (Northwestern) where we were encouraged to wear purple, and I did because I happen to have a purple blazer that I love and hardly ever wear otherwise.  Imagine my surprise when I showed up and the entire room was women in full-on purple.  (Thank goodness I didn’t take it more loosely!) For my $.02 I wouldn’t wear a shirt that bore the name of the school or had school insignia on it (such as a polo shirt), but that’s me.

If you’re really at a loss for what to wear, I would suggest wearing whatever feels more comfortable to you: a sheath dress, hopefully with pockets, with casual-ish shoes (such as booties with tights, tall boots, etc) — or your best jeans, dressy-ish shoes (they don’t have to be office appropriate, but probably a step up from sneakers), a business-appropriate top that may be in your school’s colors (this depends on your school spirit), and — possibly, depending on outside temperatures — a blazer or sweater instead of outerwear that you keep on or take off depending on the inside temperature.

Readers, what are your thoughts on what to wear for a Saturday evening event with your school? In general, how can you tell if the event is intended to be used as a mixer vs. a networking event? What are your thoughts on alumni school spirit attire in general? 

Pictured: Autumn Passageway McMaster University, originally uploaded to Flickr by Bobcatnorth.


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  1. I think this sort of depends on the culture of your school. I would probably wear something like dark jeans with ankle boots or wedges and a nice, maybe silk, top in my school’s color. You could bring a jacket to wear if you arrive and feel a bit underdressed.

    • Anonymous :

      This is what I was thinking. It’s right before the game, so I would wear what is weather appropriate to the game. Avoid a t-shirt or polo, but wear something in your school’s colors that is cute. A dress with a jacket, a cute top, whatever you feel comfortable in. I would personally go with nice dark jeans, riding boots, and a top that is not low cut but also cute. My school is also pretty casual though, so more formal schools may need something more dressed up. Most men who go to my school’s football games are in tan slacks and a polo this early in the season. I would expect for them to wear similar to an event like this.

      • Anonymous :

        Also (I miss the editing feature!!!!) I can’t imagine showing up to ANY school sponsored sporting event and not wearing school colors. This boggles my mind that it wasn’t at the top of the list of things to wear, ESPECIALLY if it’s on campus. I would almost be offended if someone showed up at an event like this and didn’t have on school colors, it would totally kill the mood. Maybe it’s a regional thing, or maybe my school is just more into itself than smaller schools, but even the men/women that come to games dressed formally wear school colored suits and sheath dresses.

        • Shopaholic :

          I think this is totally school-specific because to be honest, your almost offense is baffling to me because my undergrad wasn’t like that at all. My law school was but not for the grad programs so I don’t even know if I own anything branded anymore. I’m so proud of both of my schools but the school colors thing is not a thing across the board.

        • Yea, your bafflement is baffling to me too. While I certainly wouldn’t feel weird wearing school colors (which is why I suggested the OP do so), it definitely wouldn’t be a requirement. I went to one of those southern schools where every woman wears a dress to football games, but it didn’t matter which color.

          However, I do have friends (University of Texas) who wore burnt orange in every single photo I saw of them on game day.

          • I would be fascinated to learn what school took football seriously enough for the women to wear dresses to games, but not seriously enough for the dresses to be in school colors. That sounds contradictory to me. But I went to an SEC school, so I’m baffled like Anonymous is.

          • Little Red :

            I’m not a UVA alum but I know that women used to wear and perhaps still do wear dresses to football games but not necessarily in the blue and orange school colors.

          • Anon for This :

            University of Richmond – best be wearing your finest for tailgate

        • Anonymous :

          Yeah relax. You went to a big football school. this is before a soccer game. Your school is a small small small minority in this regards. Most schools arent color crazy. take like 10 steps back

        • jumpingjack :

          I’m also baffled by the bafflement. I’m forever devoted to my undergrad alma mater, but I don’t think I’ve ever specifically worn the school colors. Definitely a school culture thing.

        • My undergrad is super obsessed with itself and its particular shade of blue, ahem, but I can’t imagine someone showing up without school colors (as long as not rival colors) would kill the mood. If that’s the case, everyone just needs to grab a drink and calm the heck down.

        • I’m not sure I even know my undergrad’s colors.

        • Wildkitten :

          My school does colors. I would not go to a school event not wearing the color.

          • Anon Worker Bee :

            +1 Sporting event, networking event, alumni event, whatever, I would not show up without at least one of our school colors on and I actually own 3 orange blazers just to wear to these types of events (our colors are orange and purple). This is one of those schools where women wear dresses to the game and the dresses are always school colors.

        • I went to a small school and I would feel totally cheesy showing up to an event decked out in school colors. That said, I now live in a city with a very large university and attended a tailgate a couple years ago. I did feel a bit awkward not sporting the colors even though I didn’t attend that school. (I did make sure I wasn’t wearing the other team’s colors.)

  2. Anonymous :

    Depends on your school cultire and the time of day.
    For an afternoon mixer, pre sports game at my school, I’d wear a polo shirt and casual pants. That said, my school is on the west coast, and no one dresses up that much on the weekend, especially before a sports event.

  3. Are you a student or an alumn?
    I would say business casual is a good option. Or, a blouse with really nice jeans, blazer and nice shoes.
    I also second wearing school colors, but avoiding the sporty-looking polos or T-shirts with huge logos. You can go for a scarf with the school logo on it, or even do with a pin.

  4. I would probably go for ankle-length pants, a nice casual sweater or blouse, and flats. That would be perfectly appropriate at any event for my alma mater–polished casual.

    Like others said, colors are only important if they’re important at the school. School colors were MUCH bigger at my grad school (imagine a stadium awash with orange shirts for any sporting event), but at my undergrad (while we were proud of our colors and wore them pretty frequently) wearing them was not so absolutely mandatory.

  5. Anon in MA :

    I went to an Ivy, where sports didn’t matter, but we always wear our school color to Homecoming. Not head to toe, but a shirt or something with the color. I then went to a big Division I sports school for grad school, where people did deck out in head to toe school color attire. It depends on your school, but I think you could always go for a shirt or blazer in your school color regardless.

    For me, I wouldn’t wear a skirt or dress. Even if you aren’t going to the game, I imagine others may, and I wouldn’t show up to a sporting event in a dress.

    I would wear dark jeans with boots, a nice top, and a blazer or sweater (depending on the weather). I might wear a hat because I love them. I also think a school fitted tee with a blazer is appropriate in that setting.

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