Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Countdown to Conference: What to Wear

All over Romancelandia, folks are getting ready for the annual RWA National Conference. Two weeks from today I'll be jetting my way to sunny Orlando to attend, and for the past two weeks I've been worrying about my wardrobe.

Last week I blogged about shoes and the situation with my poor feet, and yesterday PC blogged about how the perfect shoes make her feel good. Today I'll be attempting to answer the oft-asked question, "What should I wear to the conference?"

Simply put, you should pack two types of clothing: business or business casual for everyday (the choice of casual or not is a personal preference) and dressy for publisher parties and the awards ceremony. Simple, huh?

Not really. A lot depends on your pocketbook, your personal taste and style, perhaps the stage of your writing career and what you will be doing at the conference (for example, are you speaking?). Let's go through each of these in a bit more detail.

~ Your pocketbook - For some folks, dropping a couple hundred dollars on a suit is nothing. For me, it would be the precursor to bankruptcy. I'm a bargain hunter and a discount shopper. I haunt places like Ross and TJ Maxx. I'm also not above shopping at thrift stores. Just a few months ago I found a fab skirt that's going to conference and it was only $4. I also found a pair of genuine Crocs for $5. They're not going to conference but they were terrific at the beach. But I digress. It's not impossible to look good on a budget. It just requires a little diligence and patience as you rifle through the racks at an off-price store or watch the sales at your favorite mall anchor store. And it doesn't hurt that I'm of an age when certain stores give me a 10% discount on a certain day of the week.

~ Your personal taste and style - Yesterday, PC blogged about shoes and how her personal taste runs to stilettos. My personal taste, foot problems notwithstanding, runs to flats and lower heels. PC also wears a lot of really cute dresses. I tend to lean more toward dress pants with some sort of stylish top and a jacket or sweater. PC feels good in her wardrobe, and I feel good in mine. And that's what it's all about, folks. Feeling good about yourself and projecting an image of self-confidence and professionalism. Some authors have a personal style that makes them stand out in a crowd. If you see a very attractive woman wearing an uber-stylish business suit and stilettos, it's probably Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank not only writes, she's an investigative reporter for a Boston TV station and has won a gazillion Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards. She's about as put-together as they come. I can't imagine her in what I'm wearing as I write this (capris with the waistband unbuttoned, a t-shirt, no bra [okay, I know, too much information] and barefoot), but I'm sure she has her own brand of "writer casual" for home.

~ The stage of your writing career - Published writers are "on" much more than us unpubbed nobodies. Granted, I want to look good, but at this stage of the game, I don't have an adoring public watching my every move like Nora does. I'm sure if she showed up at conference in cut-off sweat pants and a ragged t-shirt, the blogosphere would be all ablog about it. But even at the unpublished stage, I want people who DO notice me, to notice someone who's put together. A couple years ago I actually had someone look at my nametag in the elevator and say, "YOU'RE the Playground Monitor! I love the Writing Playground!" I was flattered. And shocked. And very happy I was dressed nicely.

~ What you will be doing at conference - Are you just attending workshops or are you perhaps also presenting or moderating one? I'll be moderating on Saturday afternoon, so I'll want to look especially nice because I'll be behind a podium reading into a microphone that's connected to the all-conference recording system and my voice will be recorded for posterity and OHMYGOSH everyone will be looking at me and gee whiz, should I buy a new outfit for that day? ---deep breath--- Do you have an editor or agent appointment? I do, so I want to look sharp for that too. My wardrobe won't make her ask for my book, but feeling good about myself will surely come through in my demeanor. You only have one chance to make a good first impression and I want that editor's first impression of me to be a positive one.

So based on the aforementioned criteria, what will be in my suitcase? A couple pairs of black dress pants and coordinating tops, a jacket to go with these (probably black too), the fabu $4 skirt and a top, a dressy outfit for awards night with my fancy new shoes and a small evening purse, jewelry for all my outfits, shoes for everyday, undies, pajamas and blah, blah, blah. (Hint: Stay tuned on Friday for some awesome packing tips!)

What about after-hours attire, you ask? In past years I've taken clothes to change into after the workshops are over and brought them home unworn. I may tuck in a pair of capris just in case. Gym clothes and a swimsuit? Are you kidding? I took a swimsuit to my first conference and never used it either. Just remember, though, if you do change into something more comfortable or are tempted to "just run to the ice machine in a t-shirt without a bra," you also might just run into the agent you pitched to earlier in the day. I'm just sayin'.

This will be my 7th national conference, and you'd think by now I would have it down pat. Oh no. I'm still agonizing over evening wear even after the fashion show the Playfriends had Saturday after our RWA meeting. It's not so much about the perfect dress as it is about the dress that doesn't elicit an "UGH" when I look in the mirror. And who knew there were a dozen shades of black? I have so many debits and credits to and from Ross that I'm afraid my bank might be thinking I'm laundering money or something.

What's YOUR answer to the question of "What do I wear?"

P.S. Cheryl is the winner from Monday's blog. Please email Angel to claim your prize.


Cheryl said...

Alas I am not going to conference this year but I did attend last year. What all of you at the Playground are saying is correct: you really don't want to dress in cut-offs and a t-shirt (I did see some people like that last year - not real professional). When I go somewhere like conference I usually pack outfits that are interchangeable; say pants that can be worn with different tops (I worried about spilling something on my clothes but the hotels generally have a laundry service - didn't need it but it was there). I took nicer after-hours outfits to go sightseeing and I ran into some of the editors from conference at the zoo). Other than that, I didn't take much. At the end, all the freebies at conference got shipped home (make sure to take advantage of that shipping service!) Hope you all have fun and success!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, playground babes, you have made my day! Thank you for the lovely lovely compliment...yes, after years of being a reporter and never knowing where I'll have to be--I'm used to high heels and makeup.

As for my writing-at-home clothes? You don't wanna know! It's a Gap t-shirt that says TiRED on the back. And um, a tiara. Does wonders for one's self-esteeen. Okay, kidding!

Hav a wonderful time at RWA! My packing tip? Tissue paper. I'm serious. It's life-changing.

Jenni said...

A friend told me about this blog and I'm glad I came today. I'm one of those whose going to RWA for the first time and have been worried about what to wear. I've been to work-related seminars and always picked one color and designed a wardrobe around it. It's usually black or navy blue because you can wear so many different colors with it. Two pairs of dressy black pants and four different blouses or tops gives you four days of clothes that pack in a small space. And you can wear the same shoes with it all unless you have the Problem Child's shoe fetish. Tee hee! No publisher party for me since I'm not published but I'm so excited about Saturday night. I haven't dressed up like that since my senior prom!

P.S. My verification word is phissied. "The neckline of my dress wasn't right so I phissied around with it until it was." LOL

Playground Monitor said...

Hank! Thanks for dropping by. A tiara, huh? I have one and I think I'll start wearing it with the unbuttoned capris and t-shirt. Great idea.

And welcome, Jenni! I hope you enjoy your first conference, especially dress-up night on Saturday.

Problem Child said...

PC wears little dresses because PC doesn't own dress pants. I take that back... I own one pair of dress pants.

(Seriously, Angel went shopping with me once and I tried on a pair. She kept looking at them trying to figure out why they looked so strange -- it was because she'd never seen me in dress pants.)

Like Cheryl, I worry that I'll spill something on myself (because that's the story of my life), so I always pack a back-up outfit.

Jenni! Welcome to the Playground and congrats on your first conference. Be sure to speak up if you see us!

And Hank, you always look lovely...

I want a tiara.

Problem Child said...

Oh, and don't forget to pack a pair of presentable PJs. Your roommates may not care what you sleep in, but the eHarlequin hosties throw a PJ party!

Maven Linda said...

A tiara is a great thing to own. After HOD's fantastic retreat this October, I predict the majority of HOD members will own tiaras, because our murder mystery play has a beauty queen theme . . . Yes, I've already been scoping out the tiara market. I want one that looks good with a sword . . .

For my shoes, I love the ones with about a 2" heel, and lots of sparklies. I HAVE pumps, I just don't wear them very often. My feet like to be on display. Never gainsay one's feet. Always listen to them. The feet won't steer you wrong. Did you know your big toe is what gives you your sense of balance and position? The Toe Knows.

I've bought only three pairs of new shoes for the conference, but tons of tops, both casual and not-so, that will go with basic black pants, of which I have many pairs. Will I actually take a dress to Orlando? Maybe.

Sherry Werth said...

I've been stressing out about my conference attire for weeks and more so now with my puppy's new shoe fetish. She has chewed up 2 pair of shoes within a 24 hour period! One yesterday afternoon and one last night. She literally took them out of the shoe rack! And of course it wouldn't be the match to the one she already had to be a different one. To say I'm ticked is putting it mildly. Ok, taking a deep breath here.
I've got most of my clothing issues handled, thanks to the wonderful HOD members with their helpful advice. A trip this weekend to H'ville should finish it up. And I will be tuning in Friday for SP's packing tips. :-D

PS: Jenni, it's my first conference too. Maybe we will run into each other while there. :)

robertsonreads said...

Well, I'm just a reader of books, not a writer, so I wish that you ladies have a wonderful and good luck with your outfits and packing.
I assist with events here at the school and I generally wear something that I know I will look presentable in but be comfortable as I know I will be in the outfit all day and lifting popups, suitcase etc. I generally have low heeled shoes on as I am generally on my feet for about 4 hours straight and wear these throughout the rest of my day.

Linda Winstead Jones said...

A tip for the Huntsville folks. I'm just back from Belk and they have racks and racks of clothes at 75% off. I went for shoes (the comfortable kind, not the sparkly kind :-() but found a great jacket and a shirt, while I was there.

And I just decided to leave the teal outfit at home, because they need a pair of shoes I can't wear with anything else. This year I'm all about packing light. Lots of black and white, a little red -- and a couple of suitable Epcot outfits. :-)

Jean said...

I have a list. I have some new stuff. I am hoping for the best.

Instigator said...

This year I have a two pronged wardrobe...what's suitable for conference and what's suitable for theme parks. :-) I have some very impractical (but amazing!) shoes that I'll be wearing along with my rescue pair when my feet finaly protest so much I can't stand the pain anymore.

I've bought and returned several things lately but I think I'm pretty settled on everything now.


Angel said...

Yay for conference clothes!!! One of the few times each year we get to dress up and look professional (or should I say "I get to..." because I work from home and my uniform is similar to PM's?).

I didn't buy much this year. A dress I found a few months ago at Ross for $18 is now my party dress. Two new dress shirts and one pair of comfortable brown dress shoes. That's pretty much it.

Must. Tackle. Packing. List. It's been on my To Do list for days now. :)


Smarty Pants said...

I started packing last night. What a mess. Trying on outfits, walking around in them, getting DB's opinion. He actually said at one point "I don't think that is as flattering as you'd hoped it would be." Very careful man-phrasing for that skirt makes you look fat. :) Change of plans...

So far the bag is 1/3 clothes, 2/3 shoes. My big old drag queen shoes take up a lot of space and for some reason, I don't seem to wear the same colors over and over. I'll probably repack once or twice as I revise.