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.