Prepping for Nationals: Dress for Success

July 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm (Events)


The train is gathering momentum now. We’re under the three week mark and systems are firing. Of course, many of you are at the same point I am, that of near hysteria. “What do you mean Nationals are less than three weeks away? I’ve got clothes to buy, hair to cut, pitches to perfect and twenty pounds to lose!!!”  Even with my urge to breathe into a paper bag, I think I love preparing for Nationals as much as the event itself. It’s a lot like your wedding, isn’t it?


Before I discuss today’s Red Alert Topic, I have two administrative tasks I’d like to take care of. The first is I’m hooked up with the amazing Jude of Blogging National. Per her site, Each summer this blog lumbers to life to aggregate all the wonderful posts about the RWA National Conference whereby RWA members attending the conference share the fun and excitement with those not able to attend.” I’ve got her link over on my Blogs roll to your right, so if you’re like me and love talking and reading about Nationals, give her a peek. (And thank her for taking the time to compile all of us! Trust me, it’s like herding cats! A great big Pam Writes Romance mwah! to Jude!) The second little administrative task is to remind everybody that these posts are done strictly from my viewpoint and experiences. In the words of the fabulous Jenny Crusie, your mileage may vary. I encourage each and every one of you to research what you want to know about Nationals and take the information you like, leaving the rest behind. (A lot like listening to people tell you how to write, eh?)


Now on to the most important of all topics: What to Wear.


You’ve probably heard other people give such advice as wear comfy shoes and dress in layers. They’re absolutely right. For shoes, you’re going to be walking all over the hotel, from the depths of the bottom-most convention level to whatever double-digit floor your room is on. From 7:30 a.m. to the wee hours of the morning, you could be walking, walking, walking. “But,” you cry, “I have to look nice for my agent appointment, then walk two blocks to lunch, then come back for seminars! How can I find one pair of shoes that are comfy and look good at the same time?” Fear not. That’s why you bring a few, well-chosen pairs. Allow me to use myself as an example.


First thing to do is pick a color scheme, probably brown or black. I have a wardrobe built with black as a foundation, so it’s where I start. I have a pair of nice leather wedges that are both moderately-dressy and super comfy. I wear these most of the conference. I also bring a pair of cute heeled strappy sandals (but no strap across the ankle or heel) that work great if I do have to dress up or am feeling sassy. More than four hours standing in these and I’ll be hurting, but great for those sparkle times. (I may throw in one extra pair—probably my flats with the pointed toe, but in all honesty, I don’t need to. Just a compulsion to.) That way, I have the option to zip up to my room to change shoes (and/or clothes) before or after my editor and agent appointment, after dinner, before the afternoon seminars, whatever. Or you can be like Melissa and bring an extra pair of shoes to the RITA awards to change into afterwards. Of course, Melissa was staying at a nearby hotel and she had a ton more walking to do, but when she opened her purse before the ceremony started and showed me her second pair, I almost lost it.  (Just one of many reasons I love her so much!)


For the dress in layers part, this is also great advice. In my color block of black, I have a black cardigan I keep with me. ($13 at Target?) I’m also one of those people who runs hot, so I don’t need it that often, but it’s good to have even if just to drape over my shoulders—you can never tell if those conference rooms are going to be blazing, freezing, or somewhere in between. I try for shirts that are either short or ¾ sleeve (or can be folded or pushed up) and with capris, knit pants or skirt (all in my black and work with all of my shoes), I’m set for the conference. (And most of my items are knit so I don’t have to iron or worry about wrinkles.) I have a black ballerina top with sparkles that works for sassy, party, or last year, for the RITAs when paired with my black velvet skirt. (You thought I was kidding about the black, didn’t you?) My tops are where I want the color because that’s what people are going to see—my head and torso, not my lower half—so that’s where I want the color to be. I stick with two colors that compliment my coloring (a turquoise blue and olive) so my jewelry can mix-and-match, too. (If you’re completely stuck, either Google RWA Nationals and look at other authors sites for photos or Google Business Casual.) Whatever you do, wear something that you feel good, comfortable and happy in. This will show on your face and in your carriage. This weekend is a great big interview to me, and I’m not going to miss out on a callback because I’m wearing jeans or my khakis are six kinds of wrinkled. I even wear a skirt and nice top on the place so when I get to the hotel, I look like a professional writer. Again, your mileage may vary.


And speaking of the RITAs, I’ve seen everything from soup to nuts there, so don’t get stressed. You will see a lot of fancy outfits, but when you get 2000 women who write romance together (whose working outfits often consist of torn sweats), you’re going to see a lot of once-a-year dresses. My black velvet skirt was a Christmas party outfit, and now that I think about it, I wore that same skirt at Reno in 2005. Nobody pointed and screamed, so the repetition was okay with me. And if I was going to the RITAs this year, you can bet what would have been packed. Now, when I’m nominated, I will have satin and frills rivaling a prom queen, but until then, simple is fine.


What’d I miss?





  1. Caryn said,

    Very helpful! Thanks. I’m already thinking about what to pack, so this was great. As for the ruffles and satin and lace, I can’t wait to see those! Good thing I won’t have to wait too long. I’m not good at suspense. 😉

  2. Melissa Blue said,

    I cannot believe you remembered that! But yeah, those were four inch heels and would have made walking down a tunnel, across the street and then across another street Olympic.*I know will have to post a picture of those heels*

    The only thing I would add is that not only will it be cold inside, but the temps will drop at night in SF. Bring a sweater just in case. Also, I’ll second everything Pam said. Dress comfortable, not I’m about to write comfortable, but “business casual”. There is no need for a three piece suit either, but there is also no need to look like you just rolled out of bed.

  3. Cynthia said,

    Let me ditto what Melissa said about the weather. SF is cooler than you might expect for CA in August. The fog keeps it cool and sometimes a little damp, even during the day. So that sweater suggest is a really good idea, even if you never usually need one.

    Oh and remember if you think to walk around the city, at all, it’s hills. Lots and lots of hills.

  4. Robin said,

    Ohmigosh, Pam! More super-duper advice! Thanks. I’m always cold so I definitely brings layers or even wear a light sweater. I think I’m pretty much set to go, except for a dress for the RITA’s. I don’t want anything too fancy. I’ll wait to get really dressed up for when I’m in your cheerleading section and you’re in your satin and frills. 🙂

  5. Montana said,

    I’ll be wearing my black tennis shoes… for anyone interested.

  6. Lainey Bancroft said,

    Oh, puh-leez tell me you’re joking??? Last year when I moped through bloglandia trying to vicariously experience Nationals, I came across a group blog where the women had posted numerous pictures. They (all 50+ and generously proportioned) HAD dressed in day-glow shades of satin. My son, peering over my shoulder wanted to know it I was looking into attending a “cross dressser convention”

  7. pamwritesromance said,

    Caryn–aw, thanks. Of course, I may end up going with leather and diamonds, so best to stay tuned! 😉

    Melissa–right you are about the layering! And let me know when you post a picture of those shoes! 🙂

    Cynthia–I may end up bringing a fleece jacket for outdoor at night. And regarding the hills, I am so a taxi girl! 😀

  8. pamwritesromance said,

    Robin–the sweater is a must! And for the dress, when I win, you’ll be winning a RITA, too, so we’ll have to go dress shopping together. 😀

    Montana–You may find an extra pair of dress shoes snuck their way into the suitcase. That’s the benefit of me packing. 😉

    Lainey–yes, I am joking. 😉 In real life, I like a very classic style of dress. Of course, after watching Swangate and Stockinggate (starting Wednesday night!), the day-go satin was almost tame!

  9. Caryn said,

    Ooh, and leopardskin? Because that would fit with your leather and diamonds theme, too.

  10. Marilyn Brant said,

    Great recommendations! I have my 2 pairs of comfy shoes…I’ll build the rest of my wardrobe around them :). Still don’t have the dress for the RITA/GH ceremony, though, which is seriously stressing me out. What I need to find is a gown that makes me look 5 inches taller, 25 lbs. lighter and 10 years younger. I know I’m not askin’ for much.

  11. Melina said,

    What would I do without these lessons Pam? Thanks again!

    And sorry, as a Bay Area native I have to chime in and say no kidding about the fog. I think there’s been a bit of a heat wave the past few days, but it’s important to remember Mark Twain’s comment about the coldest winter he ever spent was July in S.F.

  12. pamwritesromance said,

    Caryn–be careful! You’re going to give poor Lainey the vapors! (But I’m liking the leopardskin, maybe something in a nice faux tiger-stripe? Me-ow!)

    Marilyn–STOP STRESSING!!! Remember the year Sharon Stone went to the Oscars in a black skirt and knotted white Gap men’s shirt? Wear what you want–you’ll look wonderful, I promise!!!

    Melina–ah, cold and fog. I think I’m looking forward to that almost as much as the conference. But, very good point, Ms. Native–layers and something warm.

  13. Melina said,

    I hear you about looking forward to the weather! It better be cold and foggy! I need a break from the humidity.

    And by the way, even though I’m from the Bay Area, my knowledge of S.F. geography is pathetic and you’d never guess that I grew up 20 min. away. Plus, I have no sense of direction. So everybody, keep listening to our expert Pam!

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