What to Wear for a Book Tour?


My book, Towers of Gold, officially goes on sale November 11, and amid all the worry about reviews, publicity, and speaking engagements, I have been obsessed by an equally important question: what do I wear for my book tour?

Now, I am a pants and sweater kind of gal who occasionally puts on slightly nicer pants and sweaters when I am going out. But for a book tour, I must project a more authoritative image, a vision of a serious researcher/scholar, someone who knows her stuff.

I will be talking at all sorts of kinds of places: academic institutions such as the Huntington Library and the California Historical Society, and less formal (but probably more upscale) events like the books fairs at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera and the Helen Diller Preschool Book Fair in Laurel Village, smack dab in tony Pacific Heights.

What outfit can scale all those heights?

My search began this summer when I was five pounds lighter. (A mistake, I know, but I was convinced I would keep up the pace of my exercise schedule.) A few years ago I bought a pair of Billy Blue jeans at a store in Santa Cruz and they have been my favorite pants ever since. They are not easy to find, so when I stumbled upon another pair in a store in Healdsburg in August, I pounced. On the recommendation of the sales clerk, I bought a size 8 instead of 10. (I can still squeeze into them but believe me, sitting for any length of time is not comfortable)

But jeans, even nice ones, won’t do for most appearances. So a few weeks ago I headed off to Bloomingdales in San Francisco. Contrary to its reputation, Bloomingdales can be affordable if you know how to work the system. The store holds sales every few weeks and it further entices Bloomingdale credit card holders by offering “insiders” an additional 15% discount. If you hunt, you can find clothes at 50% off.

I gave myself plenty of time to look, for there is nothing more aggravating than a sense of pressure while shopping. I am usually good for two hours, and then I get overwhelmed by the glare of the lights, the pulsating music, and the crowds. But in those initial two hours, watch out! I am a woman on a mission and I am determined to work my way from floor to floor.

That day was incredibly satisfying. I found a Donna Karan black business suit greatly reduced. The jacket, originally priced at $450, was on sale for $150. The pants I got for about $100. Not bad for a formal outfit – and perfect for standing behind a podium. Then it was off to Nordstrom’s for some shoes to wear with THE PERFECT SUIT. I found a pair of wedge pumps by a brand I had never heard of, Me Too. These $88 shoes are incredibly comfortable (and are on sale now, darn it!)

But color, I needed color, to offset that somber and serious look. My days of splurging were over so I headed to the Gap, where I bought this orange ruffled sweater. My purchase coincided with a spate of cold weather in the Bay Area, so I have already been wearing the sweater non-stop.

So now I am outfitted, but will my sharp look help sell any books? It’s too early to know, so I have decided that I may have to regard Towers of Gold as a loss leader. (kind of like those discounted cartons of orange juice that you buy at Safeway) The book will lure people in, setting the stage for future endeavors.

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