A Writer’s Guide to Fashion

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It has come to the attention of the Dead Darlings Editorial team that our website is a source for writers wanting to know what to wear to a Writers’ Cocktail Party. While we normally prefer to confine our content to more highbrow concerns like dolphin-riding-manatees, we of course want to be responsive to the writing community’s needs.

As fashion is such a fleeting and shallow matter, we must start with the more meaningful way to make your attendance at the party a success: don’t be yourself. You spend too much time alone. Your jokes are weird, you sweat too much and nobody wants to hear about the tiny article in USA Today about the guy who shot at a mouse and hit his roommate. You are associating with intellectuals. If it isn’t NPR-worthy, don’t say it.

That leads to our next topic: hygiene. While you may think that channeling Kathy Bates’s appearance in Misery makes you look like a serious writer, we beg to differ. Dry shampoo is meant for occasional, between washing use, not for the eighteen months you’ve spent on that first draft. If, when you shake your head you manage to recreate Stegner’s Royal Gorge blizzard, well, shower. With soap. And about your teeth. Two years of coffee, red wine and M&M’s call for industrial levels of whitening and while you’re in there, we recommend mouthwash to sterilize those curse words still hovering on your tongue from last week’s revision.

Now, what to wear?

When we asked agents what they find most annoying, they replied that authors must know their genre. We say, why stop there? Dress your genre. A few simple touches. YA? We must insist upon the mall shop, Forever 21. Crime? No one has time for riddles, so go for the obvious and get your fedora at Salmagundi. Chick lit? Nine West because you’re never going to have the money for those Louboutins your characters are wearing. Science fiction? Go with what you currently have on; everyone will get it. Serious literary fiction? For that, we will have to refer you to www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion.

For shoes we recommend five-inch stilettos so you can stab them through the heart of the twenty-three-year-old agent texting in the corner. You catch a view of the screen: Nobody here who hasn’t been pitching books since the dinosaurs. Very spiky stilettos.

You will need a handbag. Keep it small and only for essentials, such as those business cards you splurged on at the fancy stationers which people will contort themselves to refuse. And cash. There haven’t been free drinks in publishing since the cats in Key West were kittens.

For jewelry, you will need your very best. Remember that old saying about dressing for a party, look in the mirror and then take something off? Before a writer’s cocktail party, look in the mirror and put something on. Diamonds are preferred, of course, but any real gold and silver will do. Show those publishers that you have the will and the means to hock all your family’s valuables to pay for marketing…and printing…and well, even a good read.


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