Come on. I couldn’t do a series about going to a writers conference without talking about WHAT TO WEAR!

The answer is easy: Clothes. Seriously… going without them will put a bad taste in an agent/editors mouth and get you kicked out of conference.

So, now that we’ve established that… my first suggestion is to review the conference dress code. Some are more casual than others.

Regardless of the dress code, the key is that you are selling not only your books, but yourself as well. Even if it’s casual, please don’t show up in jeans with rips/stains in them and a shirt that has seen fifty washings beyond it’s prime. If an agent wrinkles his/her nose at the sight of you, well, lets just say your story has to be that much more stellar. Although it should be stellar in the first place.

For ACFW that I will be attending in just a little over two weeks now (AAHHHHHHHH) the dress code is business casual. Which is fine for me because where I work is business casual, so I’m all about this.

But what the heck IS business casual? It makes us all pull out our hair, because everyone has a different definition.

My first advice is DO NOT STRESS OVER IT. As long as you look presentable you’ll be fine. Jeans? Well, they aren’t business casual, but if you come in nice, tasteful jeans that fit you well and aren’t, uh, weird or covered in tacky multi-colored jewels (not that those are bad of course….) you’ll blend in fine. But more appropriate are nice khaki’s, casual dress pants, a skirt (although don’t hold your breath to see ME on one of those… I focus on the casual side of the business…).

But then, I’m talking mostly about the general conference portion. I, personally, dress up a little more for my agent/editor appointments. If I want to be a professional, then darn it, I’m gonna dress like one. I treat it as a job interview, because, in a round about way, it is.

The big question

Should you go out and buy all new clothes for conference?

If you aren’t strapped for cash… YES! Tell your husband that conference is a HUGE deal and you must dress the part, so hand over the DEBIT card (I’m a credit card hater) and get thyself to the mall.

If you are scrimping for pennies just to go to conference… No. Most people can make do just fine with the clothes in their closet. You go to church every week and look halfway decent, right? Then there you go. Conference clothes. If you really don’t think your wardrobe is good enough, get thyself to goodwill or the clearance racks at WalMart/Target/JcPenny’s/Kohls, buy a few things that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits, and away you go.

The BIGGER question

What about THE DRESS?

Many conferences, especially the bigger ones, have “dress-up” nights, where there is a banquet. For us females, this means an excuse to dust off our high-heels (groan) and gussy up a bit. (wow… don’t they say that in historicals or something? Maybe I write in the wrong genre… or maybe they don’t say that at all and I should stick to my contemps…)

You can go one of three ways here. You can wear your “Sunday best” and feel TOTALLY at home and comfortable. There are many others who will be dressed similarly. Or, you can go and buy a nice dress, a little fancy but nothing too oh-la-la. Totally okay! OR… you can throw caution into the wind, kick up your heels, and pretend your back in high school and go “prom” attire. TOTALLY okay too, as there are usually many others in formal attire as well.

Last year, I went the “black dress” route, so I was inbetween #2 and #3. Wasn’t totally fancy-schmancy but was still formal. I think it’s fun, personally, because I never got to go to prom or dress up before. I’ll probably do something similar next year.

But rest assured, this is your night to look nice, ESPECIALLY you lucky-ducks that finaled in a contest… because maybe… just MAYBE, you’ll be talking that walk of “coolness” to accept your 1st place award on stage. And when you do, look out into the audience and see the woman screaming and clapping really loud. That’s me, being ULTRA proud of you! 🙂

Discussion: For you ACFW goers… how formal are you going for the banquet?

For everyone else… Think fast. Sweats, shorts, or spandex?

Sweats all the way here!



  1. I just bought a dress this weekened! It's a strapless, knee length dress. I have a black scarf to wear over it and I really, really like it! Now that I have that under my belt, I. WANT. THE. CONFERENCE. TO. BE. HERE. NOW.

    Great post!

  2. Oh, BTW, the dress up top is NOT what I'm wearing to conference. *grin* I was just trying to find a slightly over the top formal dress:-)

  3. I'm soooo glad I don't have to shop for Conference! What pressure! My hubby took me shopping for clothes this weekend. Sad to say, I needed new clothes for my evergrowing self. But, I found some cute stuff and lookin' good this morning for work! 🙂

    I always go for sweats…love the comfort.

  4. I'm not a formal type of gal, so my dress for the banquet is not formal by any means. But it is not something I'd wear to church either. I guess it's middle of the road. I'm heading out this morning to pick up a couple more things for the conference, so your post is really helpful!!

  5. I found an old dress in the back of a closet that I've only worn once. I'm taking it to the dry cleaners today and hoping it still fits. I'm trying to not stress too much on the clothing thing, but wrinkles are worrying me.

  6. I have some cotton bermuda-length shorts that I LOVE. Got 'em at Sam's for about $6. 🙂 Sweats in the winter, though. And (gasp!) Spandex when riding my bike. (Spandex shorts with the padded butt, actually.) I totally know why cyclists wear those tight shorts. It really DOES make that big a difference. 🙂

  7. Shorts, always!

    I really hope to go to a conference in the future, preferably one that all of y'all go to! Take pics of everyone together so that I can see them and be jealous, okay?

  8. I'd wear something nice yet comfortable. Look special because you ARE! =)

  9. everyday wear? comfy jeans and t-shirts.

    banquet dress this year?

    Black, with a little bling…way more formal than I'd wear to church. It has a bit of a 50's I Love Lucy look to it. I like it!

  10. I pulled my banquet dress out of the back of the closet where it's been hiding, just waiting for me to fit into it again.

    Drumroll, please. It does. Whew.

    Not black but a deep forest green. Add some sparkly jewelry and I'm set. Counting the days!

  11. Erica, can't wait to see it!

    Me, I'm wearing the same little black dress that I wore last year, with different accessories. I adore the dress and don't get many chances to wear it. Plus it packs well and doesn't wrinkle.

  12. Rachel, I SO considered wearing last year's dress. And if I can't find osmething I like… I will. But it's the ONLY time I dress up so I thought it would be fun to buy something different:-) We'll see!

  13. Hi Krista –

    With the Philly conference being held in steamy August, the dress code was casual all the way. Modest shorts were given the green light this year. I guess they didn't want anyone fainting.

    Everyday attire: pants and T-shirts or casual tops. When I'm working, it's business casual. Sunday is also business casual and occasionally a skirt or dress. I avoid skirts and dresses because heels make my feet hurt!

    Susan 🙂

  14. I didn't realize you were doing a whole conference thingy! Awesome. 🙂 I have to go shopping because most of my clothes are either at-home, at-beach clothes or they're church clothes. Or I have a lot of slacks that might be too fancy. Sooooo, mall, here I come, as soon as I can unload the kiddos on hubby. LOL
    Thanks for the link on my blog. I couldn't open it in a big window so I'm scrolling through your posts and will find it in a sec.
    Thanks for this post too! Very helpful. 🙂

  15. I'm late to this post, but my daughter just spent an hour "helping" me try on my clothes. 🙂 Business casual is my work look too; the only thing is that I prefer NOT to wear suits or jackets. I have lots of pretty blouses with accessories and such, but no suits.

    Trying not to stress. WHat will be, will be!

    For the banquet I'm wearing my little black cocktail dress. I have sparkly accessories including a pair of way cool cross earrings…very sparkly!

    Can't wait…just a few days now!

  16. Krista, did you get the okay from my agent to use my picture at the top of this post??? 😉

    I'm wearing a frothy pink number I bought last year before conference. While re-sale shopping I fell in love with two dresses … so bought them both and saved one.

    Last year I felt like a princess in the spaghetti strap, sparkly purple gown that laced up the back (if you're interested, I have pictures on my blog under the ACFW tag!) … until I walked up the wrong stairs to get my 2nd place award and ended up on the platform above Brandilyn and Pammer!

    'Member that?!?! 🙂

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