The Well-Dressed Writer: Serious Business Clothes (3 of 3)
If you missed the first two articles in this series, they’re here and here — all about looking like a writer in your casual life and how to dress for public appearances as an author. Today covers the last sartorial challenge likely to come up in the writing life: the Serious Business clothes.
Serious Business is career and money business. It’s meetings with agents and publishers, talking numbers with money-counting people, and any time you meet with a lawyer (ever, about anything). Certainly if the person you’re dealing with works in publishing — even if they’re not currently publishing something of yours — you want to think of it as a Serious Business encounter.
Now, publishers, agents, and other industry people can be great friends (not lawyers, though). You may well wind up seeing them in non-business settings. But even a dinner meeting is a meeting, and it’s a chance to affect how the people who make your career possible see you. Dressing seriously means being seen as a serious businessperson. Dressing casual might not hurt at all…but that’s not a chance you have to take, so don’t take it. It’s worth remembering that authors are fundamentally tradesmen, skilled workers producing finished goods, and that there are a lot of workers producing those goods. You are replaceable. Go out of your way to seem less so!
Dressing Up without Overdressing
Of course, you are still a creative artist. Breaking out a businessman’s suit and tie doesn’t just make you look like you’re trying too hard (and it does), it makes you look like the wrong person for the job. Stay away from the traditional attire of office professionals — no charcoal gray or navy blue suits, no severe skirt-and-blouse combinations, and absolutely no slacks and button-down dress shirts.
There is a delicate balance here: you are trying to look like someone who works from home without actually looking like you do when you work from home. Think lighter, looser clothing, brighter colors or more active patterns than business offices encourage, and no neckties for the gentlemen unless it’s a very formal event. My father’s old corduroy suit from the 70s, which was originally valuable as a vintage costume piece for college parties, has become my favorite “serious writer” outfit — it’s a non-business color (brown), a non-business pattern (textured corduroy fabric), and features non-business detailing (leather elbow patches and button flap), which makes it perfect for meeting high dress standards without looking like just another businessman.
For those of you without good closets to raid (and have you checked your local thrift store yet?), just keep the same basic principles in mind. Your outfit should be the same kind of clothing as the businesspeople at the table, but it shouldn’t look like theirs. And that’s how you dress for all Serious Business up until people start talking in six figures (at which point you wear a goddamn tie).
I was going to finish this off with an image of someone slobbing around the house in yoga pants, but do you know what you get when you do a Google Images search for “yoga pants?”
See you all on Monday!