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Authorial Sartorial Tutorial (a guest post)

Cedar here: I have been rather sick the last couple of days. I’m not saying it was the Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich, but I will say that’s the only thing I ate before coming home from work and proceeding to get rather ill. My dear, dear husband, who is Not a Writer, offered to write a blog post for me in case I wasn’t feeling up to it. And I wasn’t going to say no at that point. I’m feeling better, but it’s interesting to get a reader, or in this case, Fan Perspective here from time to time. Not that he’s a normal reader, or fan!

Authorial Sartorial Tutorial 

   I went to Libertycon recently along with 750 of my closest friends. I should mention that I hate crowds 😀  Now one of the things that makes Libertycon unusual is that a third of the attendees are listed as author/scientist/artist guests. I’m willing to bet that at least another third are working to qualify under one or more of those categories. So I’m going to assume that there were 500 or so authors or wannabe authors there.


  So what does that have to do with the title? Well I observed the folks there, I’m a people watcher, and not just hot chicks in skimpy clothing. A friend who just recently published his first book mentioned that his style was “I don’t give a {redacted}”


  Now I watched authors and it seemed to me that the dress for the majority of them fell into the following categories: 1 Branding, 2 Personal Styles, 3 Professional dress, and 4 clueless. I’m going to give a little definition of these from my POV.


  Branding is a schtick. Ringo and his kilts, Sarah and her lace stockings, that sort of thing. I saw a lot of people doing something like that. One author, D.J. Butler wears a Tricorne. Some of these branding attempts are going to fail, at least with some folks. Some are going to be read as flakey or insane or just wrong for SF Fantasy. BTW copying an established brand is likely to make you look like just another fanboi and be unsuccessful for you.

   Personal style is different from branding…sort of. Ringo wears a kilt for branding and has said so publicly. He may have started it as personal style. Sarah’s lace stockings are a personal style thing that has worked into her brand. Sort of like her kids (including adopted adults) are part of her brand which is a gestalt. Personal style is anything a particular author would wear in everyday life that sets them apart from the other folks at a con.

   Professional dress is just that. Someone without a brand or particular style of their own can simply opt for a decent button up shirt and slacks or the female equivalent. This is actually my preferred dress for authors. I like people to look like they know what they are doing and do it as pros. Disclaimer; that is also my preferred personal style and so my tastes may be speaking loudly here.  

    Clueless, so much this. I see authors doing “branding”so wrong it hurts. Worse than that are the writers who don’t realize that they aren’t just attendees. If you are an author attending cons remember this, even the most considerate and non-judgmental fans judge your style choices at a subliminal level.  Even the right wing ones. If your pants look like you pulled them out from under your potbellied pig, worse if you smell like said pig, people are going to downrate you. This will eventually affect sales. If your hair looks like Carrottop is your stylist same deal. Even something not normally bad like the uniform of geeky t-shirt and jeans is bad advertising. That says you are just another tribe member. As a writer your fans will want to elevate you. Hard to do if you are a rung or two below them.


  BTW none of this applies to Cosplay which has other rules that I don’t pretend to understand.


  Remember, any gathering of your fanbase, even if you aren’t attending as an author, needs you to be aware that you are different. Don’t complain, you’re the one that chose to write 😀

(Header Image: The brilliant mind of Wayne Blackburn was involved in our favorite author appearance at LibertyCon! As he pointed out, scale is life size.)

26 Comments
  1. It’s not a science fiction con thing for me, but I do have a personal brand as an author? I go full-on period late Victorian or Edwardian – you HAVE to stand out as an author, especially in a room full of authors and shoppers. It also makes a lovely starting point for talking to people. “I write historical fiction, so I like to dress the part!”
    And yes, it makes me memorable from year to year, and it works! (and wearing a properly fitted corset is not that uncomfortable….)

    July 13, 2019
    • This. I blend Victorian and “must be able to wrangle young humans” for Day Job, and that’s my personal look. I just add more accessories for Cons.

      I had a wonderful professor who said, “I research the 1800s and so I live there.” He was voted best dressed faculty for almost a decade before he bowed out of the contest. That’s also my non-fiction research field, so why not?

      July 13, 2019
  2. Yeah, normally I opt for corsets as part of my brand, but this year my brand was “writer halfway through a move across the globe” 😉

    July 13, 2019
  3. I started wearing gowns and corsets to cons just because it’s geek prom – that is, one of the few places people can dress to the nines in their oddest fun fashion. But I rapidly found that it made me highly visible, and easily spotted across a room. This is an asset, as being a bit deaf and needing glasses, it helps for other people to be able to find me instead of me having to try to find them.

    The last few years, there have been more days of “the asthma is too bad, and I am going to dress as just another crowd person for maximum breathing and comfort.” Fortunately, the self-improvement project has gotten me able to walk without the cane, now, and I’m working on the asthma management. Hopefully, there will be more sartorial splendour in my future!

    July 13, 2019
    • TRX #

      If you find something that works for athsma let us know; Mrs. TRX has days when oxygen starts looking more useful than the inhaler…

      July 13, 2019
      • I did the oblique approach: allergy testing. By knowing what does (and doesn’t) set off the asthma, I can take targeted steps to eliminate it from my environment, as well as make wiser decisions based on time of year / environmental factors.

        For example, LTUE is in Provo in February, in an inversion-layer-prone mountain valley filled with cedar trees. I am highly allergic to cedar, and it blooms in winter (including February.) So now I know that going to LTUE, which I thought was just the altitude sickness and treated by medicating for altitude sickness, is actually the equivalent of someone allergic to cats trying to visit the crazy hoarder cat lady’s house… at altitude.

        Once the allergy testing proved out I have at least one thing I am very allergic to blooming / growing / dying / shedding all year round both indoors and outdoors, we moved to treatment via twice-day antihistamine spray instead of just singulair, because “you don’t have an allergy season. You have allergies!”

        July 14, 2019
  4. Not an author, nor scientists, nor.. well, any of the Honored Guest types. But I suppose, though it’s largely jeans & t-shirt (when no delivery is involved and I am ‘passing’ as human..ish) is still some branding, though it’s rather Minoan or Labyrinthine. I suppose I could step it up and all, but then I’d want to go full evening dress* or such and I know that would just look silly – in the wrong way.

    * Tux type, not strapless gown type. Even ox not THAT slow.

    July 13, 2019
    • Synova #

      It was fun to meet you at LC, Orvan! Sorry if I spooked you.

      July 15, 2019
  5. Durn. This means I can’t show up at a con until I can rent powered armor…

    July 13, 2019
  6. 23 skidoo

    July 13, 2019
  7. Reziac #

    I used to go in my MC’s court getup: shiny black shirt, pants, and knee-high boots; red velvet cloak. Cool as hell, and visible from halfway across the planet. It also eventually got to be too much work.

    On the far end of the scale was my spacer-down-at-heels garb, which was whatever came to hand topped by an olive-drab vest that started life as army fatigues, tho has lost sleeves, collar, and all pretense to respectability, but sports a whole collection of pins and buttons and other oddities (most notably a carcass-grading tag that says “U.S. CONDEMNED” and another which proclaims “Vader & Sons Land Development”). This rattles and clanks and you can hear me coming half a mile away.

    Then I found (at Walmart of all places) a nifty set of silver shirt and pants — all it needs is antennae, and instant 1930s movie alien. I’m dying to wear this to a con, but sadly have moved out of range (I need to be able to commute).

    But wear something entirely normal? that’s just wrong. 😛

    July 13, 2019
  8. Luke #

    So after I publish, I have a reason to wear obnoxious Hawaiian shirts?
    Bonus.

    July 13, 2019
    • Good! Take back the Hawaiian shirt look from GRRM. *paw of approval*

      July 13, 2019
      • Luke #

        Cheap, comfortable, they embarrass my kids *and* conceal anything that might be clipped on my belt. What’s not to love?

        July 13, 2019
    • Gracious, you don’t even have to publish first. The number of hawaiian shirts I saw at Libertycon was amusing and amazing. (The patterns, even more so.)

      July 14, 2019
  9. Zsuzsa #

    It is worth mentioning that “professional dress” can vary quite a bit. In a lot of the geek industries, jeans and a t-shirt IS professional dress, at least in the sense that it’s something you’d wear to work. Make it a nice pair of jeans and give that t-shirt a collar and you’re ready for a meeting with the boss.

    I remember in grad school when a bunch of us were invited to a national meeting where the dress was said to be “casual.” We quickly found out that our idea of casual clashed dramatically with that of the folks in DC who thought it meant, “No tie, sport coat optional.”

    July 13, 2019
    • Synova #

      My husband worked in the programming industry in the SF Bay Area pre-dot.com bust. Jeans and a t-shirt, a pony tail, and if people bathed that was what you were happy about. Most of these guys were just that immersed in the code and had to be reminded of daily personal needs. Considering what they were making a year, you’d think you wouldn’t see half your coworkers paying their PG&E bill in person in order not to get their power disconnected. Yes, I know this, because we did it too. 😉

      July 15, 2019
  10. Ahem. As a firm member of “Geeky Tshirt and Jeans,” I’d dare say that it’s worked fairly well for me. (Points at Con sales record where I regularly inflict fiscal maulings.) Especially as, for the most part, I try to vary the franchise references as a way to start a convo / make a rapport with various members of the fandom.

    If I’m giving a presentation, yes I will take it up a notch. (Note: If drafted for panels, this does not hold. Especially when I explicitly say, “I am coming to this convention as John Q. Citizen…”) But in general, I’ve found that branding is about what you feel comfortable in, and I’m not throwing on the monkey suit for the heck of it.

    July 13, 2019
    • James, you have special attributes that make you memorable. Much like I do *looks down at chest* only… different.

      July 13, 2019
      • Oh my. I shouldn’t laugh, but I just did. 😀

        July 13, 2019
  11. Being the ancient and jaded crusty soul that I am, slacks and a golf shirt is my uniform for anything too classy for Under Armor t-shirt and shorts. Running shoes either way, because I’m not going to suffer with leather dress shoes. That time has passed. Throw a jacket over the white golf shirt for weddings, funerals, mergers and meeting the Queen.

    Anybody who invited me somewhere knows that’s what’s coming. If they wanted a suit they would have rented one.

    Being an Author on a panel, ghu forbid that might ever happen, I’d add an Interstellar Toaster Rescue patch on the jacket pocket. Its a toaster with wings flying in space. Maybe an arrow-through-the-head like Steve Martin.

    July 13, 2019
  12. Mary #

    As a guest I wear polo shirts and chinos unless I’m on a fairy tale panel which gives me an excuse to wear fairy tale T-shirts, but I prefer to wear fairy tale T-shirts and Order of the Stick ones, too.

    July 13, 2019
    • Mary #

      And sandals! ESPECIALLY for winter cons. Much nicer for the feet.

      July 14, 2019
  13. Ben Yalow #

    The most important piece of any author’s sartorial presence at a convention is:

    The Name Badge.

    You don’t want to be the subject of a reader saying, “I was talking to this really interesting author at x-con, but, since I never caught that person’s name, I can’t go buy all his books.”.

    Without a name, a potential buyer is unlikely to find you. So make it easy to see your name. If you’re on a panel, you’re likely to have a name tent while you’re speaking — but, the rest of the con, you’re still advertising who you are, and your name badge (possibly with a “Program Participant” or similar ribbon attached) is what lets people who you’ve impressed find you when they’re looking to buy books.

    July 14, 2019
    • This! A name badge is critical! I talked to a couple of folks at ChiCon 7 (my first and only WorldCon) who were supposed to be authors, but I don’t know who they were, so I was never able to buy any of their stuff.

      July 14, 2019
  14. overgrownhobbit #

    I do have a pair of modded clam diggers with flowers and exerpts from my favorite poetry on them that I wear with colorful (solid) tops that I wear to cons.

    I also do a version of Disney-bounding where I, say, dress Generic Librarian (TM) but all in chocolate brown & silver grey with a discreet House Dendarii badge on the grey shirt.

    But I’m going as Illustrator not writer.

    July 15, 2019

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