What Writers Wear

You probably read my how-to-get-the-most-from-a-writers-conference post last week. Well, it failed to address an extremely important question: What the heck should you wear?


Photo courtesy of pipjohnson

I’m no fashion expert, but I can tell you the trending fashions observed at the 2012 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Read on and avoid the writer’s dreaded fashion faux-pas!

  1. The artsy writer. This look included gauzy scarves, hand-painted silks, and flowing tunics. Both bright colors and earth tones appear to be “in” this year. The key to this look is to be yourself, but more elegant and superbly accessorized. Must be worn with confidence to pull off, but when successful can make you appear bold and, well, artsy.
  2. The eclectic writer. Closely related to the artsy writer, the eclectic writer leans toward vintage clothing and one-of-a-kind items such as well-worn cowboy boots paired with lace or velvet. A single focal accessory, such as a unique hat or walking staff, can also create the eclectic look. Finish off your eclectic style with a period hairstyle or region-specific jewelry. As with the artsy look, the eclectic look requires a fair degree of self-confidence with a splash of individualism.
  3. The sexy writer. A few bold writers sported short-short skirts and plunging necklines at this year’s conference, and not just at the formal awards banquet. The sexy look is certainly an attention-grabber, but may make it less likely for editors and agents to take you seriously.
  4. The business writer. A fair number of attendees sported “business casual” dress—which, if you’re not in the business world, means fairly dressy. Think business skirts, hose, heels, and button-down shirts. This can be an extremely professional look, if worn with confidence.
  5. The casual writer. This writer looks clean and comfortable, but clearly did not dress for the occasion. By wearing your everyday duds, you can project an attitude of self-assurance—the “I don’t need to impress anyone” vibe. This look can be particularly effective for the writer who engages easily in conversation and already has numerous conference contacts, because it makes you look like one of the “in” crowd.
  6. The dressed-up writer. Some writers attend the conference wearing fancy dresses and three-piece suits (cummerbunds optional). This look screams “conference neophyte,” but also demonstrates that the wearer takes the event seriously. This look may trigger conference faculty to treat you with a more gentle touch than they would otherwise.
  7. The working-at-the-conference writer. A fair number of conference attendees sported jeans and t-shirts coupled with harried expressions. In some cases, they wore red PPWC Staff shirts. The “working writer” clothing and air of purpose can project an “important person” vibe.
  8. The funky writer. These writers sported fashion items such as ripped jeans, concert t-shirts, multiple piercings, and rainbow-dyed hair. Similar to the eclectic writer, but with more of a rock-band vibe. The look seemed to be especially favored by those writing for teens.
  9. The just-got-up-from-my-computer writer. This look, touted by fabulous writer and speaker Linda Rohrbaugh, consists simply of jeans, shirt, and a sport jacket. It shouts “working writer” and gives the impression that you left your computer (and WIP) only long enough to throw on a jacket and come to the conference. Can communicate professionalism and high productivity.
  10. The Hollywood writer.These writers dressed all in black without the Goth vibe. Numerous black turtlenecks, black mock turtlenecks, and black t-shirts were observed. The look seemed to be favored by screenwriters and writers adept at schmoozing at the bar.

Which style do you favor? Do tell!

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You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. says

    And you see, I thought REAL LIFE writers went around in plaid flannel robes over old t-shirts and sweats. Glad I found this before I went to my first writers’ conference.

    Hmmm. I’ve built my writer’s platform. Defined myself in various cute blurbs. Now I need. THE Look. Although realistically, this year I will be sporting #7 by default, penny-wise person that I am. Strategy will be to look busy while spying on as much as possible to make my Cinderella-at-the-Ball appearance at conference #2.

    If I were to guess which persona I would start aiming toward, I would guess that the winner would be…predominately a #5 with an unexpected dash of #2.

    Thanks for letting me play virtual dress-up! And more seriously, envisioning myself as a writer.

    • says

      I think most of them do at home, but they tend to break out alternatives when going out in public. Most of them, anyhow :).

      My conference attire this year was a combination of business casual and working-at-the-conference. I switched to the latter after I realized the foolishness of expecting to lug around AV equipment in heels (I’d forgotten my flats).

      Although we did have a costume banquet one night, which was a ton of fun! Everyone was to come as their favorite writer or literary character, and for the unprepared, we had a rack of costume pieces available for donations to the scholarship fund. I think the net result was two full scholarships for next year’s conference.

  2. says

    I tend to write in my pyjamas, or if it’s hot, my underpants. If I was at a conference I would probably put on some trousers. Probably.


    • says

      Ha! At my last conference (SCBWI, so it was full of those crazy children’s writer types), one of the faculty brought only a single pair of pants (long story–he needed room for a prop for his session), which ended up smelling like smoke due to an outdoor party (with campfire) the day before the conference began. Apparently he hung them out his window overnight to air out.

      He kept waking during the night, afraid that they’d fallen out the window. So I guess he might have appeared sans pants if the wind had kicked up, but fortunately he was able to maintain the trousered look.

  3. says

    Loved this post! I’m probably in there with the business-casual writers. I dress up slightly, but I have no real sense of style, so it’s a little boring.

    • says

      :) That’s me–mostly business casual, with limited flair. Although I do have a pair of awesome black boots I wear to conferences…they are such a staple they have a name: the Kick-Butt Black Boots. What can I say? They make me feel more confident :)

  4. says

    The first conference I ever went to was a storytelling conference, so it was heavy on the artsy and costumes. Since then, it’s been mostly SCBWI conferences, and it seems like most everyone dresses nicely (like something you’d wear to church or temple), and adds a little quirky piece (like a hat, scarf, big pin, etc).

    I did feel a bit out of place at the Left Coast Crime conference though–I was a zebra-striped dress topped with a fuschia jacket in a sea of solid black. (My clothes were business casual, but my boots were pirate-y.)

    • says

      I thinnk there must be different–and unfortunately unwritten–dress codes for different writing groups. I’ve heard that the Romance Writers of America go all-out at their conference, with ball gowns galore. I kinda want to go, just to wear a ball gown…

  5. says

    Love this!

    I tend to be business casual, with jeans the last day as I’m travelling. I wish I had a fashion sense, but even when I have cute clothes, I always opt for comfort. No heels for me. But you can often find me wearing my Hannah Montana brown velcro shoes because they blend in better then my grey tennies, and I dropped paint on my adult brown shoes. :-(

  6. says

    Just to be honest, I suppose I should add that right now–at home, working–I’m wearing holey jeans, a comfy t-shirt, ink (on my fingers), and coffee (on my arm, where I just spilled it :P)

  7. says

    I would so be artsy–fashionably somewhere in my own galaxy of style…if I weren’t such a chicken. Maybe I’d settle for a T-shirt with a cheese wedge that says “chew on this”, or something punny to that affect. Definitely would have to adapt cheese into the accessories somehow…

    And now we know why I sit home and attend virtual conferences. =)

    • says

      Obviously, you get a lot of leeway at these things. Something about writers…I think we all hate being put in a box :)

  8. says

    Love this post! I haven’t been to a writers conference yet, but when I go, I’ll have a lot more options than I thought!

    • says

      You were probably waiting for EXACTLY this information, right? Right? 😀 Hope you go to one soon–a good writing conference can give you such a boost career-wise, mood-wise, enthusiasm-wise, and probably other-wises that I haven’t thought of yet :)

  9. Jane B. says

    Thanks for an entertaining post that will help me deal with clothing anxiety at my next conference. Laughter does help! Deciding what to wear, especially to things like the awards banquet, always makes me feel about 13 again.

    When Linda Rorhbough asked at one conference if we wanted her to tell us what to wear, I was one who shouted, “Yes!”

    I’m #5, I guess, though I did break out my shalwar kameeze and some jewelled hairclips for the costume banquet.

    • says

      Ha! Reading this, my first thought was that this was EXACTLY what my roomie said. Duh. I’ve felt just like this, though–like everyone but me received some secret instruction manual. It helps now that I know no one else knows what they’re doing, either. And it also helps to know that most of the best-selling authors don’t dress up at all.

      Except for what’s-his-name, the heartthrob in the black suit with red silk lining. He dressed up. And looked pretty amazing doing so, don’t you think?!

  10. says

    I’m definitely the artsy writer by nature. Years ago, I got hired for a freelance gig because the editor thought I looked like a writer. I was going to be interviewing artists and covering gallery openings. I think that has affected my style ever since.