Friday, October 28, 2011
Author outfits and other disguises
Halloween always takes on a certain sort of magic--the joy of dressing up as something powerful, scary, sexy and adventurous. Something or someone that is not us in our day-to-day lives. The homemade costumes are my favorite. So are the timely ones (I'm sure this year there will be Occupy Wall Street protestor costumes, and Charlie Sheen and Michele Bachman masks).
When I lived in DC, every Halloween there were the "drag races" where men in drag first paraded around in amazing outfits, and then ran a block in high heels to much applause and fanfare. Weeks before I'd run into the guys shopping -- they would hold up a high heel shoe at a store and ask the clerk if it came in a size 13.
But what interests me more is the costumes we wear on ordinary days. Lydia McKenzie is of course a huge clothes horse who focuses on what she wears everyday. She likes to dress for the occasion, and enjoys fabrics and colors, and vintage designs. I can sometimes rise to the occasion when I get dressed, but never give it as much time and attention as she does.
And then there is the anxiety that comes with dressing up as an author. What do you wear to a book signing? New writers sometimes get a bit nervous at their first event, as if there's some secret costume code and they're going to look too casual or too dressed up when they arrive at the party.
Authors spend days in their pajamas with unwashed hair (okay, so maybe it's just me) and having an event where you actually talk to people can be exciting--or intimidating. Some authors dress as professionally as their previous (or current) career. SJ Rozan says that you should consider yourself lucky if an author puts on earrings for an event. Hank Phillipi Ryan always looks stunning and polished in a suit, her news persona. Kelli Stanley wears her trademark fedora and is easy to find in a crowd. I have clothes in my closet just for going on tours--stuff that doesn't wrinkle, looks professional and isn't all black.
But author outfits are often all over the map. One person in jeans, another wearing a blazer. And perhaps some of us get some flack for not taking the time to put on make-up or get really dressed up. But writers live mostly in their heads so it's hard for us to come back to reality with a thud. Wear a dress? Maybe. A tie? Doubtful. Bring good pens? Of course.
So we clothe ourselves and go out in public, perhaps clutching our book in front of us for protection. And hopefully we discover that each time we read aloud, or discuss our characters in front of readers it gets easier. And our author costumes feel more natural and more like a part of us. After all, in the end, it's all about the story.