Countdown to the RWA Conference – Part I – What to Wear

The RWA National Conference is early this year…June 28-July 1st. This year will be my third year attending the conference, so I thought I’d throw out some tips. Of course, if you’re like me, the first question you have is…WHAT DO I BRING TO WEAR?

Yeah. There are tons of pitching and networking opportunities (see later posts), but hey, if you’re naked, you probably won’t want to pitch. Or network.

RWA has FAQ’s on its website and states that “business casual” is the norm. I think this is a good start—but what exactly is business casual? I’ve worked in a large law firm, a small law firm, and a local college. Business casual is slightly different in all three.

First and foremost, be comfortable. Based on the last two years, for the first couple days, you will see:

  • 40% Dress slacks and pretty blouses
  • 40% Skirts-long and knee length – lots of flowing flowers
  • 15% Nice Capri’s with pretty shirts
  • 2.5% Full suits
  • 2.5% Jeans

Then, as the week moves forward, you’ll see more Capri’s and jeans during the day. I’m one of the Capri and jean gals. By the last day, unless I have meetings, I wear jeans. (But I’m definitely in the minority). Last year I had meetings…so I wore a skirt on Saturday. Also, if you’re pitching, you dress up more that day. Skirts or nice pants are fine. To be honest, when I pitched, I wore very nice Capri’s with a pretty blouse, and I felt fine.

[For men:  Slacks and nice shirts during the days]

At night there are publisher parties (you need an invite), chapter parties (FF&P’s is a good one, as is KOD’s Death by Chocolate party and of course the Chicklit party rocks)—and I wear a cocktail dress. There will be some people in nice pant suits, but most will be wearing simple cocktail dresses.

[For men:  Slacks, nice shirt, and sports jacket.]

Then, on the last night there’s the 2011 RITA & Golden Heart Awards Ceremony. This is the fanciest night of the conference. You’ll see short cocktail dresses, long cocktail dresses, even formal dresses with boas. Wear what works for you. If you want to go all out—go for it! You won’t be the only one.

[For men:  Suits, slacks w/sports jacket, or even a tux.]

Keep in mind that hotel conference sites often splurge on the AC. Have a sweater or cardigan with you at all times…just in case. I froze my butt off at the Washington DC conference—even though it was JULY in DC. But in Orlando, I was fine. So, like a Boy Scout or vampire hunter, be prepared.

In the next post on Tuesday, I’ll cover what to bring besides clothing as well as how to prepare for those awesome workshops beforehand. See you then. 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Countdown to the RWA Conference – Part I – What to Wear”

  1. Julie Hinsz says:

    do you need an assistant

  2. Your percentage breakdown really speaks to the science part of my brain. 🙂

    I didn’t think about bringing party clothes other than for the awards ceremony. Cocktail dress…hm, I’m going to have to think about that one for a while. Not sure I have one of them. I’m more of a jeans and fleece kind of gal.

    Might have to call you before the trip and have one of those “what are you going to wear?” conversations.

  3. jeff7salter says:

    LOL. Now you’ve made me want to go to conf. just to check whether your stats are correct.
    Sadly, however, I cannot attend.
    If I did, I’d bring one sports coat, one tie, and two shirts which would go with both … plus two pairs of trousers. One might be pressed Dockers but the other might be slacks.
    I’d prob. have another pair of dockers and a denim shirt.
    At least one pair of jeans (NOT with knees ripped out, thank you very much).
    Rockport shoes comfortable for walking and standing
    sneakers for the rest of the time.

    I’m a lot more casual these days. Haven’t worn a suit in ages. Haven’t worn a three-piece suit since the 80s.

  4. Brooklyn Ann says:

    Thanks so much for the post! It’ll be helpful for if I ever get to attend a conference!