Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What to Wear at a Writers Conference

Today I’m going to continue my series on getting ready for a writers conference. Last week I gave you a over view of Things You Need to Know to get Ready for a Writers Conference.

 One of the most asked questions I get is about appropriate attire. Below is my opinion—you’ll find others who disagree—but it’s always worked well for me.

First let me say this, you’ll see a little bit of everything when comes to what people wear at writing conferences. But, and this is important, just because you see someone wearing it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate.

I always treat a writing conference like a job interview—and really that’s what it is. You are meeting people who are deciding on whether or not to invest in you and your work. It may be a small investment—like an article; or a large investment—like a book contract.

Here are the guidelines I use when I plan my conference wardrobe.
  • Business casual always works. For women, slacks, casual skirts, nicer jeans or capris. For men, slacks, nice jeans, polo’s, even some t-shirts if not sloppy. Suits are definitely NOT required. I like my style to look effortless and timeless.
  • Keep it comfortable, for shoes at least. I don’t know about you, but I can’t concentrate when my feet hurt. I try to avoid athletic shoes because of their ultra casual nature, but I would choose them if they were the only ones I could be comfortable in.
  • Dress in layers. No matter what the temperature outside—inside is always a roll of the dice. Some rooms will be hot, some cold. So I always try to top an outfit with a light sweater or jacket, and usually a scarf.
  • Leave the perfume (men, this means cologne) at home. I know lots of folks who get headaches from or are allergic to different strong scents—and their definition of strong isn't always the same as mine. Some conferences, like ACFW, bill themselves as perfume free. 
And although this isn’t actually a piece of clothing, you’ll need to choose something to carry. Men and women need something to tote their laptops, notebooks, handouts, business cards, etc. Pick something with a wide strap, because it can get heavy by the end of the day and don’t forget to pack extra pens, tissues and breath mints!

This is just a general overview of what is needed. If you have specific questions, feel free to use the contact form at the bottom of the blog and send me your question. You can also post your question in the comments section. In the next few weeks I'll address each of these components individually or in groups and give you some examples to see exactly what others have used successfully.

If you're looking for a good resource with all the information you need to prepare for a writing conference, check out this book put together by the My Book Therapy staff (and yes, I have several articles included in this guide):

Now it’s your turn—how do you plan your wardrobe for a conference? Also, my next post will be about how to organize all your paper paraphernalia in one conference notebook.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. When I went to Blue Ridge a few years ago, they had an awards night where people dressed up more than when going to the conferences. I wished I'd known that ahead of time.

  2. Great tips, Edie -- as always.
    I always pick a base color for my wardrobe: brown or black. This helps me choose my shoes -- brown or black. Adn that makes packing easier because I bring fewer shoes. It's not "Do I bring the brown AND the black pair of pumps or flats?"

  3. Thank you, Edie! It's been so long since I've been to an ACFW conference, I really was worried about this. And folks do still "fancy up" for the gala, right? I think I remember seeing everything from church clothes to sequins.

    Love the base color idea, too, Beth! That really does help with the matching shoes issue.

  4. Last year was my first ACFW experience, and they gave out bags at registration. Do they do that every year? If so, I'll leave mine at home. Thanks for the info!