Writers are often their own publicists—and stylists. Depending on the type of writing career you have, you may not have a dress code. If you run a blog called Write Naked, you may not have to get dressed. Period. However, whether you are a full-time poet or a burgeoning freelancer (and if you are either, please write a guest post for me), there are meetings and events you attend. I don’t need to say how important first impressions are in personal and professional matters. But I just did. Fashion has a tremendous influence in every industry. Presidents and their family members have teams dedicated exclusively to selecting outfits based on psychological influences. Forbes says it best:
Most people will judge you within the
first second of meeting you
and their opinion will most likely never change.
The recent Cosmo article that helps break down misconceptions about freelancing addresses the wear-your-pajamas-all-day fashion mode. I beg to differ. If you are home all day, sure, you can wear what suits your comfort and personal preference. (Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable working unshowered, teeth unbrushed, propped up in my pajamas all day.) However, writers do leave home. What does a writer wear then?
Just like font and color choice on a book or website affect readers’ experiences, the colors and fabrics we choose to wear influence how others perceive us. Earlier this year Psychology Today revealed how our clothes influence others. Everything we wear makes a subtle impression, which combines into a significant overall judgment.
Here are three situations professional writers encounter and a few things to consider when getting dolled up:
- How should I dress when meeting with clients? This can be a wide spectrum. Some of my clients are start-ups and I know they will be dressed casual when we meet. Others are corporate clients and a suit will be a better fit. Personally, I have always found it is better to be overdressed. This may be easier for women to do since we can dress in layers. On more than one occasion I have worn a business-casual outfit and simply added a blazer. Where are you meeting your client? In their office or at a coffee shop? Office attire is best suited for offices, but I still encourage new freelancers to shoot for business casual in a coffee shop too. You don’t know who you will meet.
- How should I dress for my book reading? Most likely you’ll be standing. Pick an outfit and shoes that will be comfortable. You don’t need a distraction from your reading. Most likely you will have your picture taken. Complex designs typically don’t reproduce well, plus they distract your audience from your work. Consider what your background is too. If you know the bookstore, think of colors that will complement your surroundings so you’re not washed out or lost in a photo.
How should I dress at a writers’ conference? Read up about the conference. I attended the Southampton Writers Conference a few years ago. It was 11 days of creative writing workshops with a free shuttle to the beach. Everyone wore summer casual clothes. At the Atlanta Writers’ Conference I knew I was meeting with a literary agent who critiqued the first chapter of my memoir, and I had a pitch scheduled with another literary agent. A suit was essential. At the Internet Summit I get to meet thought leaders in a variety of industries, so I shoot for a business suit or dark jeans and a blazer.
Fashion Extras for Writers:
Accessories. Jewelry, ties, hairstyles, perfumes/colognes…when not balanced well these can be offensive. You want to attract clients and readers. Start with a clean slate and give people what they expect. Side note: I really want to dye my hair a radical color, but I don’t because it will affect my business. Instead I found a compromise: I had feathers woven into my hair last year. They are subtle and easily hidden when needed.
- Colors. Neutral colors and solids instead of bold shades and complex patterns are always safe choices. Blue consistently surfaces as one of the best colors to wear for a job interview as it gives a calming positive first impression.
- Weather. This item should have really been first, but I want to end on an important note! Before picking out my clothes I always check the weather. A cream pantsuit does not work for me on a day that is pouring rain. You don’t want to show up to a writing event with sweat stains when you could have worn lighter materials. Plus, you don’t want to be uncomfortable and cold if you didn’t wear enough layers. Be practical first. When appropriate: Write Naked.