Put on your Sunday clothes

What does a writer wear?

It’s a silly question, on the face of it, and the answer’s along the lines of “look in the mirror, dumbass.” But given that I’ll be going to Readercon this weekend, it’s one that’s currently on my mind.

See, a writer in her natural habitat (a Studebaker) can dress however the hell she wants, since there’s no one around to care. (Write in a beanie copter! Write in a bathrobe! Write in your lucky pants! Write in the nooood! okay maybe not considering the scratchiness of the desk chair.) But when I go to cons or when I’m in other situations where I’m identified as a writer, I always get very self-conscious about my appearance. Granted, I’ve got enough image issues that I’m self-conscious anyway, but this just amplifies them all.

I know that what I look like will have much, much less bearing on people’s opinion of me as a writer than the actual work I’ve done. And I’m well aware of the danger of a cargo-cult approach to this: i.e., if I dress like a writer and act like a writer and own the same china pattern as a writer, then in theory I can pass as a writer — without the pain of all that actual writing stuff!  I’ve fallen into that pattern of thinking before, and it only ends in tears. Or at least lousy china patterns.

However, it does provide a focus for something that I’m convinced all writers do: obsess over trivia.

So in a setting where I’m going to be seeing a lot of people who I like and whose opinions I respect, how do I go about “looking like a writer?” Business casual, and all the assorted stigma that goes with that? Comfort alone, with a fine disregard for the standards of the mundane? Corsetry (which, damn, some writers look fantastic in) or other period wear? Black t-shirt and jeans? Cat ears? Makeup versus no makeup? Big shiny pink ribbon tied around my neck? Given Nora’s post from last week, I’m guessing the shirt with “Buy My Book” written across it is not the best choice, much as I love the shirt itself. (I always want to imitate Precious Roy when I’m wearing it, which is probably another reason I shouldn’t wear it out in public.)

I know I shouldn’t have a single definition of “how a writer dresses” given that the writers I know all have very different personal styles.  Yet there’s some weird weight on this when I consider how I want to appear, and for some reason I can’t quite wrangle it back into the realm of common sense.

Then again, maybe we’re back to the “obsessing over trivia” again.*

* Even more fun when you’re behind schedule!

3 Responses to “Put on your Sunday clothes”

  1. 1 auntielou
    July 9, 2009 at 4:58 am

    I met a woman at a writer’s conference who had a very distinctive personal style. I can’t remember her clothes (something dark and simple), but she always — even at breakfast — wore Victorian jet jewelry. She had olive skin and dark red hair and the total effect was striking and I told her so.
    Seems that the second she found out her book was to be published, she began working on her wardrobe. She’d spent hours and hours at it, shopping and studying photos of writers she admired, digging around flea markets. She spent several minutes telling me about her quest. All I heard was that she had selected the pieces not because she liked them or felt connected to them, not even because they flattered her coloring, but because they conveyed the image she wanted. Before, I thought she looked pretty neat. After, I thought she looked like a fake.
    There are two morals to the story. First, her basic idea of keeping it simple and adding one unusual signature element was a good one. Second, if someone compliments you on what you picked, just say “Thank you.”

  2. July 9, 2009 at 5:10 am

    I tend towards black t-shirts and jeans or swirly skirts/dresses, depending on my mood; occasionally a non-T-shirt blouse. Pretty much what I wear when I’m not at a con, too. 🙂 And always fabulous jewelry by Wyrding Studios, because I just love her stuff.

    And comfy shoes!

    See you there!

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