SJeffery~ By Susan Jeffery

I know, I know – the RWA national conference is just a few weeks away. If you’re a nominee, you may be stressing about what you’re going to wear to the awards ceremony. You might still be uncertain of your ensemble for Harlequin’s Black and White party, or whatever party you’re invited to.

When the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards were announced on March 26, I believe the earth shifted on its axis. And I am pretty some writers jumped up and down, screamed, cried, and called everyone they know.  If they dialed the wrong number, they shouted the news to a perfect stranger and hung up.


And, once that was over, they’ve been struggling since then with that dull, ugly lump of dread blooming in their innards: WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO WEAR?


If you’re like the majority of us, you’re not a nominee, but you are still welcome to stress!

Because, it’s not just the awards ceremony, people. It’s the parties, and more parties happening during the week. Cocktail parties, workshops, evening events, signings, or themed parties, whatever – it’s like a family reunion gone wild.

image005Back in the day (1986, to be specific), the events were fewer, and the dress code was easier. The finalists knew in advance if they were winners. Was it calmer? Oh, yes. I don’t even know who was in my finalist class for the Golden Heart, because Houston informed the winners in advance.

This finalist/winner wore a chic white cocktail dress she found in a bridal shop, and some very nifty gold-and-black jewelry. For the Harlequin party, I wore a blue silk maid-of-honor dress I’d sewn for my sister’s wedding. The white dress is long gone – thank goodness shoulder pads went out of style. The blue dress lives in a storage closet. The necklace is still in my jewelry box, a beloved and respected treasure. The medal has changed since I received mine, and no one really recognizes it anymore.

Do folks still wear cocktail dresses when they final? I wouldn’t know, since that hasn’t been a blessing for me since re-activating my membership in 2009. What I do know is, you’d better get your Oscar vibe going as a finalist, You’ll be expected to be wearing some serious flash when you’re at the awards – and before! Still, let’s not forget: New York is a shopping capitol of the world (if not THE shopping capital). I know it’s late, late, late to be thinking of which dress to wear. But we can dream, can’t we? Which is why you want to browse this list before you land in the Big Apple.

image008New York Magazine lists the drool-worthy shopping destinations. I know you’re going to be super busy chasing down editors and agents and making appointments, and maybe you can fit in one more workshop (thank goodness for Starbucks!), but seriously: make time to hit just one of these icons. Personal favorites: Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany. Not like I go buying things there all the time, people. I mean, really? I can look, though. And you can, too! (Another FYI I heard from a cabbie during the last New York conference: New Yorkers take cabs. Tourists walk. Don’t be shy, take a cab.)

Now that you’ve had to stop off in some going-out-of-business dive somewhere off Broadway to buy a second suitcase, let’s not forget the ultimate Mecca of all that is good in the pursuit of loveliness: Sephora After all, you’re at image009Nationals! Hie thee to this website before you’re in the Big Apple:

You can make an appointment for a tutorial. Or, you could cross the street if you have a spare moment, to admire the wonders there – promising to make you a sultry vixen or a stylish know-it-all or just… You, But Better (my personal favorite).

And, just an FYI, makeup containing SPF doesn’t photograph well. I wore an SPF 35 tinted moisturizer and finished it with dusting power for RWA Atlanta. All my photos include happy people and one ghost. Take it from me: don’t.

Finally, what do I *wear* at Nationals?

Good question! I’ll leave you with this list – a wonderful post on by a kind and organized (and fashionable!) member named Asphalt. Her answer to my Help! What Do I Wear? post was this:

makeup i would bring +

  • bright pencil skirt
  • white jeans
  • pretty silk blouse
  • nice t-shirt graphic t-shirt
  • button down (chambray, cotton, whatever)
  • cocktail dress (2 of them)
  • linen blazer
  • scarf
  • sandals
  • neutral heels (or flats)
  • evening heels
  • and whatever fun jewelry you have

then you could wear:

  • day 1: bright pencil skirt, pretty silk blouse, scarf, neutral heels
  •  day 2: bright pencil skirt, nice t-shirt, linen blazer, neutral heels
  • day 3: white jeans, button down, neutral heels
  • bar: white jeans, pretty silk blouse, neutral heels or sandals
  • party 1: cocktail dress 1, evening heels
  • party 2/dinner: cocktail dress 2, evening heels
  • bar: white jeans, pretty silk blouse, neutral heels or sandals
  • playtime 1: white jeans, nice t-shirt, scarf, sandals
  • playtime 2: bright pencil skirt, graphic t-shirt, sandals
  • playtime 3: white jeans, button down, sandals

Voila! Change out one of the cocktail dresses for an evening gown, and you’re ready to show up at the awards ceremony. PS, I used this list for Anaheim and Atlanta, and had a blast. Although, in Anaheim, I broke down and visited a Skechers shop to replace my incredibly impractical sandals. On the big day, after all, we want to still be fresh enough to look like this:


And, about packing?  There are, of course, plenty of videos on YouTube. Take your pick and see if you can glean some tips.

image017I created a master packing list on my iPad’s Trello app, with categories for clothing, lingerie/sleepwear/ makeup, shoes, hair, medications, electronics and power cords.

See you there! I’ll be at Check-In on Wednesday morning. Stop by!

Love, Susan

Susan Jeffery (irl Susan Andrews) writes contemporary romance. A romance reader since the early 1970s, and a writer since 1982, she won a Golden Heart in 1986, and published Fair Game with Harlequin in 1987.

She’s a high-school librarian who loves working with her students (all boys? you’d want a pseudonym, too!). A member of CRW, CTRWA, TGN, and WRWDC, she’ll be at #RWA15. She will also be wearing of the outfits organized with the list in this article.

Susan Jeffery is online at, on FB at, and on Twitter @susannjeffery.


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  2. Great ideas for what to wear. I’ve been pre-packing for weeks. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and sometimes the rooms are chilly so layer. I always bring a light sweater.

  3. And make sure you have at least TWO pairs of comfortable shoes. One year I made the mistake of bringing only one comfy pair of sandals and one pair of heels for the fancy nights. Comfy pair broke the first day and I had to run around the stores near the hotel to find something/anything to wear (ended up with a pair of men’s black Nike plastic sandals because they were cheap and comfortable…I still wear them in the garden, but they didn’t work well for RWA!).

    1. Good idea, Deborah! I bought two pairs of shoes yesterday, a comfy pair of printed flats and a dressy mid-heel. For anyone who needs a quick fashion fix, remember: MACY’S IS AT 34TH STREET AND 7TH AVENUE.

      Hubby came with to the last NYC RWA conference. He managed to stain his best khakis on the way down, and hotel laundry couldn’t help. We snagged a cab and – lucky me – I was carrying coupons and my credit card. Voila!

  4. Great post! I’m not going this year (first time in nine years!), but every year I do a theme. Why? Because that’s a fancy way to be lazy…. I’ve done a white pants theme. A black pants theme. A Gidget ankle-length pants theme. A sheath dress theme. Then i recycle themes, and when I throw in a flurry of silk scarves, I delude myself into thinking I’ve got panache AND lots of different outfits, and I hope that no one will recognize that I wore the same black pants three times in one week!!! It’s a great way to minimize the stuff I put in my suitcase.

    Ever since Kristan told us to bring clothes pins, I do that, too! That was a fantastic suggestion! So you can wash and hang up stuff if you have to.

    1. That’s it, Kieran, I’m all verklempt because I won’t see you next week. Le sigh, I was so looking forward to having a chance to say ‘hi!’

      Still, thanks for the tips! You read it here, gang: *safety pins, clothes pins and themed wardrobes!*

  5. Excellent suggestions, Susan. I’m an amazingly light packer, myself. I can usually mix and match enough to get 6-8 outfits. Shoes is always an issue. I end up wearing sneakers most of the time but like to pack a pair of sandals and my dressy shoes. Thanks for the list!

    1. Thanks, PJ! Of course, I went shopping this afternoon and bought THREE dresses! I’m sure I can make them work as separates. And yes, I like to pack light, too. I planning ahead like this actually cuts down on confusion!

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