Feeling a little rusty as you shed the sweatpants and get back to producing in-person events? Us too, so we chatted with event producers around the country to get their biggest tips—and favorite brands—for a comfortable, stylish event day.
Dark colors are usually a safe bet.
“My staff and I always wear black suits on the day of an event,” says Melisa Imberman, owner of The Event of a Lifetime Inc. in the New York area. “The type of suit depends on the event; if it’s black-tie, we wear a nice black dress with a blazer. Our goal is to look professional so guests know that we’re someone they can come to if they need anything. We don’t want to look like a guest or like waitstaff.”
“Black or gray is the way to go,” agrees Kevin Molesworth, president and owner of Brass Tacks Events in Portland, Ore. “You can add a splash of color with a scarf, handkerchief or necktie. If it's a corporate or nonprofit event, you may even consider wearing a color from the client's logo—although I would avoid color-matching at a wedding or social event. Guests might think you are part of the wedding party or a family member, rather than someone working the event.”
Keep it classy and conservative.
“It's all about looking dressy-casual, but with comfort,” explains Greg Jenkins, partner at Bravo Productions in Long Beach, Calif. “In addition, it's all about the fit. I like to say just because the garment is made in your size doesn't mean you need to wear it. Age appropriateness also plays a factor.”
Choose clothing that helps you blend in the background.
“You are the ‘roadie,’ not the talent," says Molesworth. “Ladies, don't wear a showstopping, bright-red dress or a school bus-yellow gown. Guys, this is not your Met Gala red-carpet moment either, so don't try to emulate Billy Porter. Keep it simple and classic. ... You should be trying to blend into the background, not upstage the client and guests. No bold or crazy patterns.”
Molesworth adds that these rules also apply to vendors like audiovisual teams. “If you are going to be seen by guests at any time, I don't want to see you in a black Metallica T-shirt. I want a black, long-sleeved button-down or a black, short-sleeved golf shirt with a collar,” he notes, adding, “If you are back-of-house, then black jeans and T-shirts are just fine by me.”
Pick clothing you can move in.
“Once I wore a beautiful gown to an awards show we produced and I was tripping over it all night,” remembers Amy Malin, partner at Trueheart in Los Angeles. “I learned my lesson and now opt for tuxedos, suits, slacks and blouses or shorter dresses depending on the event type and attire. Pockets really come in handy to have easy access to my phone, which rings nonstop on event days.”
Above all else, wear comfortable shoes.
“Comfortable shoes when working 12-15-hour event days are key,” adds Malin. “I’m always hightailing it from our check-in to the red carpet, backstage, the DJ booth, green room and activation areas. And sometimes I’m walking up multiple flights of stairs throughout the event.”
“We start our day in comfortable shoes, and before guests arrive change into nicer black shoes,” notes Imberman.
Avoid distracting company logos.
“Logos on clothing (unless very small, and even then, I'm not a fan) should be avoided,” says Molesworth. “Save the logo for your nametag. I really don't want to see any vendor wearing a shirt that has a massive logo emblazoned across the front or back."
Choose your accessories carefully.
“We carry black folders and binders with all the details of the party, and black bags with everything you can imagine in them—over the years we have fixed, sewn, glued, taped and bandaged just about everything and everyone,” says Imberman.
Malin opts for cross-body bags or wristlet clutches. “I need to have my hands free when working," she explains.
Be prepared for changes in the weather.
“You never know if the ballroom is going to be 65 degrees or 85 degrees, so think of layered options, like a blazer that you can remove or a sweater that you can add,” advises Molesworth. “I've attended events where staff committed some huge no-nos due to unexpected temperature fluctuations—a wedding where the planner was feeling cold and wore a ratty, acid-washed jean jacket over her thin, sheer blouse for most of the evening, and another wedding where the planner was feeling warm, so she changed out of her black wool business suit and into the only other thing she had available: the white sundress she wore during load-in and setup.”
BONUS: Event Producers Share Their Go-To Brands for Event-Day Attire
“I normally opt for a sheath dress with a touch of spandex. I like sheath dresses because they look ultra-feminine, normally have a high neckline, can be jazzed up with a necklace and earrings, and are modest in length. My favorite dress brand is Ted Baker London, which I purchase from Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack. … With comfort being a top need, a sleek almond-toe flat or low heels are the best type of event day shoes. The shoe choice can make or break your entire look. I like many brands of shoes, but my top three are Tori Soudan, Stuart Weitzman and J.Crew.”
—Tiffany Allen, principal, AEA Consulting Firm, Glyndon, Md.
“We work in what often can be a stressful industry. Let’s face it, you are gonna sweat! Thompson Tees are comfy and have built-in sweat-proof pads in the underarms, so no embarrassing sweat stains on dress shirts.”
—Lee Dyson, owner, Hey Mister DJ, Los Angeles
“Pants with pockets are key for event days, and I recently found a new brand that I love: Albion. They are comfortable, lightweight and look great with the Steve Madden slip-ons I usually wear for events.”
—Lara Smedley, owner, Smedley Events, Centennial, Colo.
“I’m a big fan of Nike kicks on event days. I have a pair of black platform Nike sneakers that are so comfortable. When I was a talent producer for the Daytime Emmys live red carpet show years back, I paired my Hugo Boss tuxedo with my black platform Nike sneakers and it was the best decision I made that day. We had multiple camera positions and I had to ensure our celebrity guests arrived to their interviews on time while crisscrossing a packed red carpet—and my Nikes enabled me to leap over stanchions and get to where I needed to be with grace and ease.”
—Amy Malin, partner, Trueheart, Los Angeles
"Brands that I love include Buck Mason for quality everyday wears, Nike for on-the-ground moves and anything by Telfar to support the Black community of designers changing the scope of the industry right now."
—Myron Batsa, head of experiential and multicultural marketing, JJLA, Los Angeles
“The most important thing, especially for full-day events when you’re on your feet so much—flats all the way! Highly recommend flats by Cole Haan. They are extremely comfortable and will not leave your feet numb at the end of the day.”
—Sej Pandya, founder and CEO, Twenty One Marketing, New York
“My personal favorites and go-to's are Levis slim-taper chino khakis, which I have in beige, tan and olive. You pair that with my favorite shoe brand, Kenneth Cole. There is a slip-on sneaker that I swear by—it looks dressy when paired with the right combination of clothing. The top is leather and the sole is a soft spongy texture. I also recommend a sun boot that works well with just about any outfit for guys.”
—Greg Jenkins, partner, Bravo Productions, Long Beach, Calif.
“Glyphs is an incredibly comfortable pair of shoes that are sleek, supportive and versatile. They're perfect for events because they go with everything: pants, dresses, formal occasions, casual wear, etc., and come in a variety of simple, understated color profiles. They pack easily into a bag and are supportive enough to wear all day, while feeling like a slipper on your foot.”
—Lissa Martin, founder, M.M. Comms & Consulting, New York