C is for Conference Redux: Dress for Success

June 22, 2009 at 1:00 pm (Events)


Hello, lovely blog readers. In the spirit of the upcoming RWA National Conference in Washington DC, I’m going to repost some of my Conference Prep posts from last summer. Now, if you couldn’t tell by my reposting that I’m going through a lazy period, let me really illustrate that point–I’m not even going to change the references from San Francisco to Washington DC. I think the spirit of the lesson is there, and as I’ve more than clearly demonstrated, I am lay-zee.

So, without further ado and no more guilding the lily, here’s my take on Dress for Success, originally posted July10th, 2008. Good luck!


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. coffeegirl88 said,

    As someone who lived just outside DC for 15 years let me warn anyone going . . . it gets hot, no really hot, in DC. Unlike last year with the glorious marine layer that SF enjoys all summer long, DC is hot from sun up to long after sun down. It gets rather muggy there too. If you must go outside, if you are thinking of taking in some of the sights, then take a bottle of water.

  2. Marilyn Brant said,

    Good point, coffeegirl!
    Pam, thanks for the redux. Actually, it was a great reminder of several things I need to do clothing-wise before the conference (since, you know, I can’t just magically lose 20 lbs.) Also, I almost forgot about Jude’s wonderful Blogging National site–must take a look!!

  3. Montana (curtbooks) said,

    Sorry we’re not going, mehrrr. This reminds me of the fun we had in SF.

  4. L.A. Mitchell said,

    I still have a million things to do and can’t believe the time is almost here. AH. Thanks for the stress button push, Pam…GEEZ 🙂

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