I didn’t know whether to write how to dress or how not to dress, so I’ve shared some of both. What you wear will impact the success of your trade show. Choosing the right apparel can be the difference between enjoying the show and being miserably uncomfortable. What you wear can attract or repel prospects. The right suit of clothes is inspiring and can add to your confidence.

Dress as a Professional

What is professional dress? To some extent, it depends on your business, the industry, and the event. For several years TKO Graphix has done the event graphics for the FDIC (Fire Department Instructor Conference). Professional wear at this show may range from a suit and tie to firefighting gear. Before dressing for a show consider what will fit the show, help you look like a pro, inspire confidence, be comfortable, and set you apart from your competitors


Uncomfortable shoes make for a miserable show. Don’t buy new shoes to break in at a show. Polish your old comfortable but professional shoes. Avoid high heels, they may look great but is it worth the discomfort of being on your feet on a hard floor for several hours? And no sandals please, sandals aren’t professional—even if you wear socks with them. Before the show check the venues flooring. Is it carpeted, concrete, or wood? Depending on the floor it may be wise to bring inserts. If the show’s more than one day take at least two pairs of shoes to rotate.


No sweat pants. If the pants have a drawstring leave them at home. If your trousers have elastic at the ankles they ain’t trousers—don’t wear them in the booth. Shorts are a no-no unless it’s a convention for shorts manufacturers, and then I’d still recommend pants. Be careful with casual wear, I’m not certain there’s a universal definition of what casual wear is today, but if it looks like it would be perfect for the golf course or the bowling alley you might want to reconsider wearing it to the trade show.


More than once I’ve had people tell me a suit is too much for a trade show. Is it? To some extent it depends on the show, and how hot the venue is, but what customer has ever been put off by a show worker wearing a suit? Just the opposite. If you want to look professional, and feel professional, then dress professionally. It’s hard to go wrong with a conservative dark suit.

Other Considerations

Branded apparel – This is a great way to get your entire show team on board with a professional appearance. Apparel Ideas

Tattoos and piercings –I know I’ll step on a few toes, but leave the piercings at home and cover the tats. Yes, both are acceptable in today’s culture, but not by everyone, why take the chance of polarizing a potential customer?

Perfume and cologne – Don’t overdo it. Really, don’t.

Pockets – Wear coats or tops with a couple of pockets. You’ll thank me for it.

Don’t reveal too much – Keep skirt length and cleavage businesslike.

Comfortably Making a Positive First Impression

You only have 5 seconds to make a first impression. In 5 seconds the most predominate thing anyone will use to decide whether you impress or depress them may be your appearance. When working a trade it’s important to look like a pro, and be comfortable. What do you wear when working a trade show?