Only moments after I confirmed a meeting with my editor and my agent in New York, the panic set in. Thankfully, as a sartorially challenged woman, the panic felt as familiar as my favorite old purple sneakers – which I tend to wear with jeans from Wal-mart and a clashing brown shirt. Almost immediately I turned to the internet and began hunting an outfit that would declare me to be: put-together, crisp, professional, artistic, pretty (though I always strive for beautiful), and grown-up.
Ironically, at my day job I’m known for never caring about what I look like, never wearing make up, and literally wearing the same shoes 5 days a week. (They live in my bottom desk drawer. I commute in the purple sneakers.) There are three times in my life when clothing becomes a concern:
- When I’m presenting myself as an author
- When I’m dressing my characters
- DragonCon, MarsCon, and other conventions
As convention season approaches there’s no way my blog won’t be littered with references to costumes, pithy t-shirts, and packing woes. The clothing challenges I face as an author are a bit more hidden.
Clothes communicate who a person is, and to some extent what their priorities are. In Waking Up Dead, the main character, Elisabeth Hicks, is fresh out of the Army and hasn’t re-integrated herself into normal society yet. Her clothes show just how little of an effort she’s willing to make: jeans and long sleeve t-shirts. The long sleeves hide her scars, the jeans let her blend in with everyone else. I had no trouble dressing her in old Army shirts, the occasional tee with writing on it, and generally boring clothes.
A much harder challenge came from the vampire Elisabeth is searching for through out the novel. Josephine was born in 1797, who became a vampire in 1814. I imagined her somewhere between Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons and a modern Parisian fashion model. After far too many Google image searches I decided to base her wardrobe on actress Rebbeca Gayheart. She even wears this dress in the second novel, Hollywood Dead.
With the secondary characters I got to be a bit more creative. I made Elisabeth’s younger sister, Gina, a fan of Sophia Loren, so I could imagine the kind of classically beautiful clothes I love. The men in the novel wear a wardrobe of romance cover classics, from tight jeans with button downs to Regency era shirts with a sprinkle of the standard black leather pants that hug them in all the right places. In short, they’re dressed in all the outfits that make men look yummy. I took my research (looking at male models, checking out hot guys in clubs, reading men’s magazines) very seriously.
Almost as seriously as I took my own outfit hunting for that meeting in New York, I’ve invested approximately eight hours now. There are new shoes, a new dress, and a small truckloads worth of new accessories. As I expected, imagining the prefect outfit for someone else is tons more fun than actually procuring something for myself, but I suspect most authors feel that way.
June 21, 2011 @ 8:38 AM
Damnit, you mean if I get an agent I’ll have to wear something other than jeans or a dressing gown? I thought they’d want to see me in my ‘working’ clothes 🙂
June 21, 2011 @ 2:20 PM
Sadly, yes. Being an author is like winning the job lottery, except you still have to dress like you have a job. Although… I suspect jeans, when paired with the right pressed shirt and smart blazer would be fine. ;->
June 22, 2011 @ 10:35 PM
Living in Arizona means my usual outfit is a tshirt and shorts. I had to shop for a whole new wardrobe for RWA10 last year. Totally been there, done that, bought the nice shirt. 😉