No Flip-Flops Allowed

My biggest concern right now is what I learned at the meeting about conference apparel.

Flip-flops are a no-no.

Eek. I wore them often at my first conference. So now I have to buy some new shoes because all I own are flip-flops, nasty tennis shoes and open-toed heels.

Business casual, that's how we're supposed to dress when we go to a conference. For me, it's helpful to remember what I wore when I worked at a bank. Slacks, nice capris, pretty shirts.

If you've been to a conference, have you ever dressed too casual? Too fancy? What does business casual mean to you, and do you think it makes you look more professional?


Kristen Painter said…
I just came back from RWA Nationals and I wore flip-flops a lot. As long as they're in good shape, I think you're fine. Dress nicely, but be comfortable. If you have a meeting or an appt, then dress up a little more. I don't think there's anything wrong with flip-flops.
Tabitha Bird said…
Gee, I wouldn't have a clue. I have never had the opportunity to go to a conference. We have precious few of them in Australia. Let us know how it all goes though. I think you are right about the wearing something similar to what you would when you worked. That's what I'd do anyhow :)
Jody Hedlund said…
Good to know your perspective, Jessica! I think I'd probably feel more comfortable if I'm slightly overdressed than being the underdressed one, don't you think? Even though flip flops are light to pack, I'll steer clear of them and go with nicer sandles instead. Thanks for the tip!
I try to find a happy medium between casual and business. Usually slacks, top and comfy shoes but I have to admit to wearing that outfit with sneakers!!
Jessica Nelson said…
That is such a relief! The flip-flops I have anyways are more like a nice sandal, imo. But since I'm a newbie, I was prepared to suffer. Thank you! I think I'll bring them now, just in case. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Tabitha, I hope you can go someday. They're so much fun and helpful. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
HI Jody,
That's probably true, to err on the side of too fancy rather than too casual. That's what the ladies were saying at the meeting too.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Donna!
From what I've heard, with all the walking, sneakers should be allowed big time!
Flats are my thing, so I guess I'm safe. *HeHe*

I've been to one chapter RWA conference and 3 Word Guild ones and at both types of conferences I've seen a few wear jeans and grubby sneakers, or as we call them, runners, and I must say those people DO stand out. Cotton slacks (not jeans), capris, skirts, and NO t-shirts is the way to go.

Walk into any casual dress-code work place (most offices, except on Fridays when they might throw a toonie in for a fundraiser to dress down) and you'll get the idea. Some wear suits (definitely not required -- you'd stand out in them too likely at conf.), but most wear comfortable shirts, sweaters, and cotton-twill pants.

And, yes, I think it makes me feel more professional. My jeans and t-shirts remind me of digging in my garden with my face smeared with dirt--definitely not what I want people to see when I'm trying to pitch a book.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL! You're funny. I'm definitely going to need to go shopping. Thanks for the input Eileen!
Not having gone to a conference, I would have no idea, but there are such a variety of flip flops out there, I'm sure you can find some nice ones that would do just fine!
Maybe if they're nice, sandal-y flops, and not just the foam ones most people have lying around? I couldn't get by without mine, either.

Great tips!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Sherrinda,
I thought mine were nice, but maybe not. I'll pack them, but I'm only wearing them if other people are. LOL!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Janna,
You're flip flop girl, huh? I didn't know people up north wear them too. :-)
Katie Ganshert said…
I hear ya about the flip-flops. My feet never wear shoes or socks in the summer. Bare foot or flip-flops. I'm going to need to do some shoe shopping as well for the conference. :)
Terri Tiffany said…
WHen I went to my first conference it was in a rural area and I really overdressed. I wore a blazer and skirts and low heels. Two years later, I went back and took pants and nice dress capris and I was surprised to see so many more people dressed in skirts.
I prefer them as they are comfortable. And when I went to ICRS and interview authors, I wore dress pants or skirts and open toed dress shoes.
Tana said…
Sounds like we have the same shoe wardrobe! At the last conference I was at I wore mule heels. They were actually pretty comfy!
Jessica Nelson said…
Have fun Katie! There's lots of cute stuff out there.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Terri,
Sounds like you knew how to dress well. :-) It makes a good impression, at the very least.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL T. Anne!
Sometimes comfy trumps everything else. Are mule heels the ones with really thick heels? I'll have to look that up.
Katie Salidas said…
No flip flops!? *cry* What about some cute and comfy sandals?

My hubby always calls me a dirty hippy. I'd walk around barefoot all day if the world would let me.

Good luck with the wardrobe.
anita said…
I remember hearing the same thing from my writing mentor before I attended my first conference. She said, "business casual", so I wore nice jeans topped with suit jackets (the tailored ones that came to the top of my thighs) and lacy Victorian-style shirts underneath. Then I alternated between patent or Mary Jane shoes with a bit of a heel. It came together nicely ... plus it kept me from freezing in the air conditioned hotel. :-)
anita said…
But, I should add, I was volunteering at the conference and in contact with the editors and agents quite a bit, so I wanted to present a more professional air. I saw all kinds of different styles on the regular attendees. Everything from shorts to jeans and t-shirts to dresses. Style is as subjective as writing itself. ;-P
Dara said…
I know I wore flip flops at my first conference but it was a small one (about 100 people).

My last conference I wore ballet flats. I can't walk around all day in heels; my feet can't take it :P

I think your fine, unless you end up going to one in pajama pants :P
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Katie! Your hubby is funny, but I completely disagree. We're natural, that's all.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Anita,
True about subjectivity, but still, I think I'm going to be a little more dressy this time. Flip-flops just in case, but otherwise I need to find myself some suit jackets. Sigh. Or nice shirts.
Your outfits sound cute!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL DAra! That would be too funny, and really apt since many pubbeds claim to write in their pjs. LOL
Keli Gwyn said…
I think finding a balance between semi-professional and comfort is best. I wear what I call my Toastmasters wardrobe, which is a pair of slacks, top and jacket. Since I tend to run cold and can freeze when the AC is set low, this works for me.

Even though I'm short, I gave up high heels years ago. I generally wear my ankle boots because they're comfy and I do so much walking.
Jennifer Shirk said…
I wear flip-flops to my chapter RWA conference every year. And that conference is in October! LOL!

They're pretty with jewels on them. If I had an editor or agent appointment, I probably wouldn't wear them, though.
Probably. LOL!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Keli,
A lot of you are mentioning the suit coat. I like that because I get cold too. But I don't wear flats so it looks like I'll sore feet. LOL!
Thanks for sharing your style!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jennifer! Well, jewels make things prettier, so I'm sure you were fine. :-)
Karen Hossink said…
Ah, dressing!
When I first started speaking I went out shopping with the women in my small group. They helped me pick out a nice skirt and jacket, with some pretty shirts to wear underneath. Everyone thought I should have a professional look about me, and the outfit was very professional looking.
Then I met a woman who told me that she overheard some of the moms in her group saying they thought I was a snob, until they heard me speak. *ugh!*
This woman reminded me I was speaking for MOMS GROUPS, and having the look of a professional was too much, and unnecessary.
And I realized, she was right.
So now I go a lot more casual - and comfortable!
Stephanie Faris said…
Whoa. Seriously? It's been about 10 years since I've been to a writing conference but I don't remember a dress code. I do remember there was a list of recommendations for attire for editor/agent appointments. I think I wore dress pants and a jacket with a nice blouse but I'm going on a very foggy memory at this point. Flip flops weren't as huge in the 90s as they are now. The younger generations wear flip flops with everything.
Jill Kemerer said…
I wore casual skirts and dressy flip-floppy type sandals. I was extremely comfortable and dressed appropriately. I was actually more comfortable than I am in my everyday shorts!

But still pack the flip-flops for after hours stuff. Who wants blisters?
Jessica Nelson said…
What a funny story, and silly how we base opinions on nothing more than a look.
Great advice though, hidden in your story. I'm going to present a product so I should be professional. Got it. :-)
I liked your outfit when you came down. Very nice but not fancy.
Jessica Nelson said…
I'm not sure if I qualify as younger generation, but I definitely wear them with everything.
Sounds like you had the right kind of outfits on then. I'm sure there's not a strict code, I'm just going by what I've been told by a couple of people. It makes sense too, I'll just miss my casual wear. LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Great point Jill! :-)
Hi Jess -

There's a lot of walking at the Philly Conference, so I wear black sneakers with black pants, and a pretty short-sleeved top. If I wear light-colored pants, I switch to my tan sandals.

I'm not going to make a good impression if my face is twisted from pain. LOL!

Susan :)
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Susan! Very true point! :-)
Whose rule is this? Why do people love to make rules? I can see not wearing grungy old plastic flip flops, but the ones I see nowadays have sequins, silk flowers, and butterflies. You can be dressy with flip flops, if you choose well.

Business casual to me means semi-dressy, but not fancy. Don't try and draw attention to yourself by dressing like a model. I doubt there's any danger for you there, Jessica. You are a very humble, helpful lady. Your kindness will shine through, flips flops or not.

I think i'll do a post on rules sometime soon--- we have become better than the pharisees at putting each other in boxes--- arrrgggghhhh!!!!

Just be you. You are lovely.

Jessica Nelson said…
Jen, that's such a sweet comment. Thank you. :-)
I don't know if I'm really that humble, but I want to be. Also, it wasn't necessarily someone's rule, more just advice.
Maybe it's me, taking advice as rules.
You should do a post on it because it seems to me people are very concerned about rules and who follows them and who doesn't. LOL
Faith said…
Er... I wore jeans at the last conference I went to. However, I wore a button-up dress shirt with it and nice shoes so I thought it was okay. The second and third days there I wore dressier, "trendier" clothes that, I admit, made me stand out and got my face recognized... it was a bit risky, I know, but people remembered me and I got lots of compliments on my wardrobe! No flip-flops though.

I think as long as you're confident in what you're wearing - and you don't look like a dirty hobo - you're fine. Let's face it, we're writers and we often sit behind our computers all day and shower only when someone reminds us. Clothing isn't always first priority. LOL.
Jessica Nelson said…
Faith, you sound like you were very professional. :-)
I like the confidence thing. There are clothes I like that are nice, so I'll go with those.
You were smart going trendy. Being remembered for looking nice is a great thing. :-)
Unknown said…
When I went to my first conference (a little tiny one in Springfield, MO, that had about 50 attendees) I wore jeans, a tanktop with a white cotton shirt over it, and ballet flats.
The last conference I attended was the Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul conference. Tons of people! They wanted business casual, which to me meant basically the same outfit I'd worn before. My mom overruled me and I ended up wearing skirts, dress pants, boots, ballet flats, and blouses all four days.
I think it made me feel more confident to see that my clothing choices fit with the majority. It definitely helped me portray a professional image. I had one editor I spoke with compliment me on "seeming professional" even though I was a teen and it was my first major conference.
Skirts, pretty shirts, nice capris, slacks...go for it!! And be glad you're not trying to dress for Colorado in February! :0)
Unknown said…
But, like you, I missed my casual wear. Give me jeans and flip flops (better yet, barefoot) any day!
Genny said…
I'm heading to a writing conference next week and, call me wierd, but I can't wait to wear something other than jeans or workout clothes...LOL! I'm looking forward to dressing up a little.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Genny! Not weird at all. :-) I like dressing up on Sundays because I never get to.
Have fun at your conference! Is it the Philly one?
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Heather,
Sounds like you have a smart mom. :-) And you were wise to listen to her. I guess I'm going to have to be wise too... LOL! Thanks for sharing your story and stopping by!
Pen Pen said…
I guess that is important since ur meeting people like editors or agents may be working with one day and u don't want to be wearing a shirt that says, "I live to Fish" or something. I helped do some audio recording for the Romance Writers of America Convention when I was 16(No- I don't like non-inspirational romance novels--and YES- I the book cover and people made me a bit uncomfortable at times:) BUT- I got to meet a heavy weight writer-Nora Roberts-and tho we share the same last name, I can safely say that she taught me how NOT to react to fans. She smoked non stop and refused to even smile at anyone. When I tried to shake her hand, she turned away. NOT COOL!
Anywho- Most of them dressed in summer dresses with light sweaters or jeans and a nice top--except for their formal dinner where they all wore ball gowns...except for the gay guys(didn't see a straight guy all weekend-that I knew of)-they wore tuxedos.
Tho- U should always be ready to be cold-cuz those hotels get cool like the movie theater.
I've always felt that dressing up goes against many writer's personalities...It's acceptable in my mind for us to show up in a crazy outfit or pajamas. BUT- Maybe u can only get away with it once ur a best seller! :)
Pen Pen said…
Sorry about the crazy part where I meant to say-
Yes- Some of the book covers and people made me a bit uncomfortable at times:)"

I'll add to the comment too- They kept trying to give me "merchandise" promoting certain books like water bottles or book marks, and I was like-"WHO would walk around New York with a pic of a Fabio look alike trying to undress a renaissance woman on their water bottle?! WHO?!".

I should start checking over my comments for errors before I send...maybe I'll start tomorrow :)
Victoria Dixon said…
I once went to meet a Pocket Books editor I'd submitted my Star Trek Cookbook to at a Star Trek convention. Since I was meeting him, I dressed in nice slacks, shirt, jacket and a nice, new belt. I got growled at by a Klingon. Seriously. He was trying to come onto me in his very Klingon-ish way. Be careful of how you dress! LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Wow, Pen Pen, I'm so sorry to hear that about NR. She must've been in a bad mood. LOL!

Thanks for sharing. What a cool position that put you in though. I wouldn't want all those half-naked men water bottles either! LOL And I read lots of non-inspirational romances. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Victoria! That's hilarious, and flattering. Heeeheee!
Hopefull (wedding ring at the ready) I won't get hit on by anyone. Plus, it's a Christian conference so that would just be SO wrong.
A Star Trek cookbook sounds really interesting! Did anything come of that?
I try to look professional, but more so since TG was published - when I go to book clubs or book fairs, or signings, I dress simply but neatly - never flip flops (although I ADORE flipflops and wear them a lot in the summer - just never to things where I am represented as "kat the author")...
Jessica Nelson said…
From your pics at the signing you look very approachable and professional. Classy, even.

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