Pub Rants

You Don’t Have To Be A Fashionista But…

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STATUS: Just about to head out of the office and to the convention center for an afternoon at Worldcon

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LITTLE LIES by Fleetwood Mac

Last night I had a dinner for the NLA clients who are in town for Worldcon this week. This topic came up and I have to say that we were all in agreement. Sometimes conference attendees need to rethink their clothing choices when the desire is to meet industry professionals.

Now I’m no fashionista (as I prefer Tevas over high heels any day) but I do think there is a difference between attending a conference as a fan and attending a conference as an aspiring author looking to connect with agents, editors, or what have you.

If you’re a fan, hey, wear what you want and be comfortable. If you are there as an author looking to network, maybe the old t-shirt and shorts isn’t the best clothing decision.

And I don’t mean a person has to don a business suit. Heck, even I only wear business casual at any given conference (and I never wear nylons—she says while shuddering with horror). So I wouldn’t expect that of anyone. No tie is required here either. Still, I have to say it, if you’re an author looking for a prospective agent, appearance does count.

So don’t go with the t-shirt. Step up to a collared shirt or a nice blouse. Instead of shorts, choose pants (even a nice, clean pair of jeans is okay with me). Wear the skirt instead of shorts.

And for goodness sake, don’t wear sweatpants. (I haven’t seen it here at Worldcon but I have seen it at other conferences. I even had an author show up in them for her pitch appointment with me.) I want to be assured that any author I took on knows how to dress accordingly and that can start at the conference or pitch meeting.

And last but not least, unless you are at an evening party (where this would be appropriate), a costume isn’t what you really want to be wearing when meeting with an editor or agent.

31 Responses

  1. shariwrites said:

    I heartily agree. When did we lose our sense of appropriate dress for the occasion? In our quest for everything casual, we’ve kind of lost something. If you want to be taken seriously, dress like it.

  2. RK said:

    Okay, your last para hooked me. So has a prospective author ever shown up in costume to meet with you? If so, what was the costume?

  3. Samer said:

    “…a costume isn’t what you really want to be wearing when meeting with an editor or agent.”

    Has this happened? My mind boggles…

  4. Anonymous said:

    LOL! Great post.
    But a reality check. You’d better stay away from SFF and stick with RWA if you feel this way.

  5. Just_Me said:

    My imagination is running amok images of authors dressed as large pink rabbits and pitching books about gothic bunnies…

  6. Weston Elliott said:

    Have to laugh! As an assistant district manager, I once had a young lady show up for a job interview wearing – I kid you not – flannel pajama boxer shorts, a spaghetti strap tank top and, get this, bunny slippers!

    Now I considere myself pretty tolerant, but come ON! Needless to say, she remained unemployed that day.

  7. Anonymous said:


    It’s really sad that you had to comment on this. There was a time when every point listed in your post would have been considered plain old common sense.

  8. Nancy Naigle said:

    Hi Kristin
    I couldn’t agree with you more about “dressing the part”. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to at lunch, chatting with in line at Starbucks or cruising down the escalator/elevator with. It’s better safe than sorry to put the small effort in to looking nice at these events and making an impression you won’t regret.

    On another subject — you’ve got to be feeling schizo going from RWA straight to WorldCon! 🙂

    No doubt you’ll be exhausted from the back to back conferences. Sara — rev up the coffee next week or you’ll be working alone!

    Have a great week.

    Nancy Naigle
    Love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense

  9. Kelsey said:

    Sweatpants basically tell the world, “I give up,” and that you’re just a single trip to the Dollar Store away from wearing Velcro shoes.

  10. Arovell said:

    Not in costume? Aww. Lol. Well, it makes sense to me; dressing up is a sign that an author understands that writing is a business and he or she is serious about it. Thanks for the post on etiquette!

  11. Di Francis said:

    I have never felt comfortable dressing down at a con, even after being established. It’s just as important to me to interact with fans as an author, and I don’t quite feel like one unless I”m somewhat dressed up. Keeping in mind that dressed up for me is more a long the lines of blazer, nice shirt and jeans. I’d feel very strange in a costume–though I love to admire others in them and their skill and ingenuity in creating them.

  12. Kristin Laughtin said:

    My guess (and hope) would be the costumed people were at a conference that is not specifically writer focused, like a general science fiction convention where costuming is normal (or at least, not rare)?

    Still, common sense. Trying to make a good, professional impression does not mix with cosplay.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Thank you Kristin. You said what others wouldn’t dare. I’ve been thinking about this attire issue ever since I arrived here at Denvention. I’m from Roseville, CA. Maybe we’re superficial there, but how you dress most definitely reflects on your professionalism. I get the feeling that many aspiring writers at the convention, due to their lack of concern for outer appearance, write to help themselves cope with their own short-comings in the social sphere of reality. Science fiction is about being grounded in truth…not personal illusion. Being tuned into society and societal norms is the only venue for actual social change, if that is your goal in writing. Wearing a costume in public is a clear signal to all that you’re a bit off center from the acceptable norm. If you really want to change opinion, don’t shock the audience. Use your words, your mind. Costumes and fandom t-shirts are a farce–a slap in the face to the general public. If you really want to impress the masses, conform to them. Then shock them with your own gently written truths. —Again, thank you Kristin for being so bold. I admire that trait in an agent. (BTW I was impressed with your input in the panel on writing a query letter this past Wednesday.)



  14. Maggie said:

    I went to my first conference and only wore a collared shirt for my pitch session. The rest of the time I wanted to be comfortable.
    I was even asked to send in my manuscript to an agent wearing t-shirt and sneakers.

  15. Jeannie Ruesch said:

    A trusted mentor in the business (marketing) world I spent so many years in told me a long time ago – dress for the job you WANT, not the job you have.

    It says something, IMO, about your professionalism, how seriously you take yourself in your career and how seriously you want others to take you. I would never have gone to a marketing meeting with my VP in tshirt and jeans. I’m certainly not going to project any less of a professional image to an editor or agent.

    Every time I saw a successful, NY Times bestselling author at RWA they were well dressed, professional looking, and nary a t-shirt in sight.

    And isn’t that the job we all want?

  16. EilisFlynn said:

    I would say I’m amazed, but I’ve been in too many interview sessions when the prospective doesn’t understand that if you’re trying out for a job as a proofreader, you have to be able to proofread. Don’t understand why the basics aren’t obvious anymore.

  17. Jill Elaine Hughes said:

    I wish I could get my husband to understand this concept. He dresses like a slob in public and walks around in his underwear at home. When I confront him on it, he says “this is the way I’ve always dressed.” And he wonders why he can’t get ahead at work!


  18. Kim Stagliano said:

    I attended a conference where another attendee proudly showed me his two main characters…

    … tattooed on his chest. And they are vampires… Pause for a moment. Let that sink in, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    The worst part was how many agents said, “No more vampires” during their presentations. I felt very bad for the writer who is in the agent query process.

    Agent K, has anyone ever flashed tatts at you?

  19. April said:

    You would think that dressing appropriately – casual business attire at least – would be common sense! Or at least, I would. And a costume? Really? What kind?

  20. benwah said:

    I find these “common sense” posts frustrating. Those who get it, already do. Those who don’t, say things like “but I’m letting my writing speak for itself.” Yet the barriers to entry into the market are so high, there are all sorts of reasons to be rejected. If you show up to a meeting with a shirt that’s got evidence of both breakfast (coffee) and lunch (I hope that’s ketchup), it’s similar to saying you didn’t care enough to read the submission guidelines or proofread your manuscript.

    Then again, I’ve never found a shirt and tie to be the sartorial equivalent of an iron maiden.

  21. karen wester newton said:

    Kristin– I am just back from Denvention myself, and I wanted to thank you for the excellent “Agent Behind the Curtain” panel you were on with Lucienne Diver, et al. I actually have an agent, but I always like to go to hear what you all have to say on the role of agents. Informative, as always.

  22. The Writers Canvas said:

    Ah, Kristin. You should have been at our breakfast table one morning in San Fran at the RWA conference. A woman (and let’s just say she was no spring chicken) wore an *incredibly* short mini skirt, with no underwear. She flashed our entire table when she went to grab the sugar container.

    Good points which you make!


  23. Kim Stagliano said:

    Britt, I didn’t mean to imply tattoos (tattooes?) are wrong in any way – I was commenting on the fact that he was so proud of/confident in his work that he actually tattooed the characters on his chest. And he had a broad chest! The characters were huge!

    Again, we’re all accustomed to seeing tatts today – it was the placement and subject matter and his willingness to flash them to the gal who happened to sit next to him that struck me.


  24. joycemocha said:

    One thing I will do at cons as opposed to my daily work (I teach in a middle school) is that I will wear my lower cut shirts (still pretty modest by most standards, but we’ve tightened up on our own attire due to some problems with girls letting it all hang out. I have some very nice shirts that I can’t wear to school now!). However, I have nice legs and a weakness for mid-thigh skirts–but they can be wildly impractical for cons and other office casual gatherings.

    So when Kohl’s had a bunch of rather stylish skorts on sale this spring, I jumped on them as quickly as possible. I tend to try for the outdoors/semi-athletic look at cons, and the new breed of skorts allow for modest short skirts (still within school standards, BTW, because I do wear them to work) and comfort for summertime wear.

    I do think it’s possible to be overdressed for a general con, and since I’m also making connections with fans to build up potential readership once I sell my work, I need to be approachable.

  25. Anonymous said:

    When my husband and I packed for Worldcon, we specifically selected two types of clothes. One was for “agent meeting/panel days” and the other was for “fan days.” The agents only really saw us in slacks or black jeans and button-down/collared shirts. Thanks again, by the way, for your query letter advice/panel.

    Lisa Iriarte