Boas and beads – do you like dressing up?

AnneGracie4 Anne here, just back from Romance Writers of Australia's 20th annual conference and wow, was it a terrific conference! The committee and organizers pulled out all the stops and an excellent, informative and fun time was had by all. The organizers are to be congratulated.

There are two main purposes to writers' conferences — professional development workshops and talks, and networking, and certainly a great deal of both went on.

As well as that, each year the conference raises money for a cancer-related charity, through raffles and a "silent auction" of donated goods. This year we raised more than $9,000, and Harlequin donated $5,000 more, making the grand total of $14,000 to go to the Otis Foundation — not bad for a conference of 350 people. It makes me very proud of our organization.

But what I want to talk about today is the cocktail party that kicks off our conference every year. I think it's one thing that makes our conference stand out as something a little bit different.

When I first joined RWAustralia, (in 1997 I think), the cocktail party was billed as the "Harlequin meet the authors" cocktail party, because Harlequin sponsored it (and still do.)They were elegant, sedate and pleasant affairs, but a little bit formal, and few people were confident to approach authors unless they already knew them. Everyone pretty much chatted to the people they knew. There was not a lot of social mixing. Retro_cocktail_party

Then in 2002, the conference was sited in an old historic hotel in Melbourne (my home town) and the organizer of that year's event had the brainwave to ask attendants to dress up in a "retro" theme.  Initially the idea wasn't very popular.

Some people were quite worried by the idea of dressing up in costume, and there was some debate on the loops. But we encouraged people to get into the spirit of the theme and wear something retro, if not a full fancy dress costume. I remember driving a car crammed with authors into the city at the last minute to purchase feather boas from a shop I knew of. The story of that time is here.

That year about 20% of attendees dressed up in various  historic and semi-historic outfits, and quite a few more wore feather boas — which as anyone knows is essential accessory for a romance writer!  It turned out to be a fun event, and a lot of social mixing occurred as people approached complete strangers and exclaimed over their costumes.

NightsofRaj It started something. Ever since then, the Friday night cocktail party has had a dress-up theme, and these days 90% of people dress up, though nobody minds if you don't dress up. The photo on the left is from a "Nights of the Raj" party, and you can see the varied takes on the theme.

A lot of people don't realize that a costume is a great tool for a shy or introverted person to hide behind — having a role to play means you don't have to be "on show" yourself — and since writers tend to be introverts, wearing a costume, or even carrying a small prop (like a boa) helps.  IMG_2509

So our cocktail party has become a fabulous mixer event, with everyone happy to talk to everyone else — the costumes provide a brilliant ice-breaker and it launches the conference on such a happy and fun note.

This year, with the 20th Anniversary event, the cocktail party theme was obvious— "the roaring 20's."  There were flappers galore! The hotel was alive with laughter and drifting feathers. There were also quite a few gangsters.

Beading1 Some people wore lovely antique dresses. One UK visitor wore this stunning beaded dress from the 1920's — I think it had belonged to her great-aunt.

A few people took their history a little further. This Charlie Chaplin (Maggie Mundy) did not speak for most of the night, but performed her own little silent movie. She was hilarious and cheeky and scarily like Chaplin himself. No wonder she won first prize. Marion&CharlieChaplin

Pioneer aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, also attended, and took out second prize.

WildBunch There was Popeye and Olive Oyl, Mickey Mouse, and Harlequin author Paula Roe cleverly dressed as a traffic light, invented in the 1920's.

And here's a scary collection of flappers and gangsters. <G>

Gangsters&flappers

So, what about you? Do you like dressing up in costume, or do you hate it?
Do you go to conferences? What's the best conference or event you've been to lately?

65 thoughts on “Boas and beads – do you like dressing up?”

  1. All shows need an audience, and I’m a good and appreciative audience. Dressing up is not usually my thing. But I did find out how much fun it was when I attended your Australian conference two years ago and found out what the Arabian Nights looked like. *g* You kindly provided some trimmings and headdresses for the Mayhem Consultant and I, and it really was a hoot. And you’re so right about it being a great icebreaker! Romance writers are a fairly shy lot but if you’re a mysterious veiled lady–or a traffic light!–it’s much easier. *g*
    As for my conference fun–I had a great, if overworked conference in New York in June. And the best part was having breakfast with different friends on different days. Everything else was work. *g*

    Reply
  2. All shows need an audience, and I’m a good and appreciative audience. Dressing up is not usually my thing. But I did find out how much fun it was when I attended your Australian conference two years ago and found out what the Arabian Nights looked like. *g* You kindly provided some trimmings and headdresses for the Mayhem Consultant and I, and it really was a hoot. And you’re so right about it being a great icebreaker! Romance writers are a fairly shy lot but if you’re a mysterious veiled lady–or a traffic light!–it’s much easier. *g*
    As for my conference fun–I had a great, if overworked conference in New York in June. And the best part was having breakfast with different friends on different days. Everything else was work. *g*

    Reply
  3. All shows need an audience, and I’m a good and appreciative audience. Dressing up is not usually my thing. But I did find out how much fun it was when I attended your Australian conference two years ago and found out what the Arabian Nights looked like. *g* You kindly provided some trimmings and headdresses for the Mayhem Consultant and I, and it really was a hoot. And you’re so right about it being a great icebreaker! Romance writers are a fairly shy lot but if you’re a mysterious veiled lady–or a traffic light!–it’s much easier. *g*
    As for my conference fun–I had a great, if overworked conference in New York in June. And the best part was having breakfast with different friends on different days. Everything else was work. *g*

    Reply
  4. All shows need an audience, and I’m a good and appreciative audience. Dressing up is not usually my thing. But I did find out how much fun it was when I attended your Australian conference two years ago and found out what the Arabian Nights looked like. *g* You kindly provided some trimmings and headdresses for the Mayhem Consultant and I, and it really was a hoot. And you’re so right about it being a great icebreaker! Romance writers are a fairly shy lot but if you’re a mysterious veiled lady–or a traffic light!–it’s much easier. *g*
    As for my conference fun–I had a great, if overworked conference in New York in June. And the best part was having breakfast with different friends on different days. Everything else was work. *g*

    Reply
  5. All shows need an audience, and I’m a good and appreciative audience. Dressing up is not usually my thing. But I did find out how much fun it was when I attended your Australian conference two years ago and found out what the Arabian Nights looked like. *g* You kindly provided some trimmings and headdresses for the Mayhem Consultant and I, and it really was a hoot. And you’re so right about it being a great icebreaker! Romance writers are a fairly shy lot but if you’re a mysterious veiled lady–or a traffic light!–it’s much easier. *g*
    As for my conference fun–I had a great, if overworked conference in New York in June. And the best part was having breakfast with different friends on different days. Everything else was work. *g*

    Reply
  6. Halloween is my high holy day, so yeah, I like costumes, LOL! I’ll take almost any excuse to spend too much time and money on something I may never wear again (like the insane, hand-sewn pirate costume I made for an event in New Orleans a few years back).

    Reply
  7. Halloween is my high holy day, so yeah, I like costumes, LOL! I’ll take almost any excuse to spend too much time and money on something I may never wear again (like the insane, hand-sewn pirate costume I made for an event in New Orleans a few years back).

    Reply
  8. Halloween is my high holy day, so yeah, I like costumes, LOL! I’ll take almost any excuse to spend too much time and money on something I may never wear again (like the insane, hand-sewn pirate costume I made for an event in New Orleans a few years back).

    Reply
  9. Halloween is my high holy day, so yeah, I like costumes, LOL! I’ll take almost any excuse to spend too much time and money on something I may never wear again (like the insane, hand-sewn pirate costume I made for an event in New Orleans a few years back).

    Reply
  10. Halloween is my high holy day, so yeah, I like costumes, LOL! I’ll take almost any excuse to spend too much time and money on something I may never wear again (like the insane, hand-sewn pirate costume I made for an event in New Orleans a few years back).

    Reply
  11. I too am better as part of an admiring audience and don a costume only under duress. My favorite costume was Fiver from Watership Down, which allowed me to peer nervously from corners and say little.
    As for conferences, after years of academic conferences, I generally shy away from them. My favorite conference is probably the Conference on Southern Literature–small and non-academic and it’s always an opportunity to hear some of my favorite Southern writers. I keep promising friends that I’ll attend an RWA conference one day. Maybe I’ll make the Atlanta conference in 2013.

    Reply
  12. I too am better as part of an admiring audience and don a costume only under duress. My favorite costume was Fiver from Watership Down, which allowed me to peer nervously from corners and say little.
    As for conferences, after years of academic conferences, I generally shy away from them. My favorite conference is probably the Conference on Southern Literature–small and non-academic and it’s always an opportunity to hear some of my favorite Southern writers. I keep promising friends that I’ll attend an RWA conference one day. Maybe I’ll make the Atlanta conference in 2013.

    Reply
  13. I too am better as part of an admiring audience and don a costume only under duress. My favorite costume was Fiver from Watership Down, which allowed me to peer nervously from corners and say little.
    As for conferences, after years of academic conferences, I generally shy away from them. My favorite conference is probably the Conference on Southern Literature–small and non-academic and it’s always an opportunity to hear some of my favorite Southern writers. I keep promising friends that I’ll attend an RWA conference one day. Maybe I’ll make the Atlanta conference in 2013.

    Reply
  14. I too am better as part of an admiring audience and don a costume only under duress. My favorite costume was Fiver from Watership Down, which allowed me to peer nervously from corners and say little.
    As for conferences, after years of academic conferences, I generally shy away from them. My favorite conference is probably the Conference on Southern Literature–small and non-academic and it’s always an opportunity to hear some of my favorite Southern writers. I keep promising friends that I’ll attend an RWA conference one day. Maybe I’ll make the Atlanta conference in 2013.

    Reply
  15. I too am better as part of an admiring audience and don a costume only under duress. My favorite costume was Fiver from Watership Down, which allowed me to peer nervously from corners and say little.
    As for conferences, after years of academic conferences, I generally shy away from them. My favorite conference is probably the Conference on Southern Literature–small and non-academic and it’s always an opportunity to hear some of my favorite Southern writers. I keep promising friends that I’ll attend an RWA conference one day. Maybe I’ll make the Atlanta conference in 2013.

    Reply
  16. Last year at ECWC was my first writer’s conference experience ever. I loved it! This year, they’re having it the weekend before Halloween (it falls on a Monday here this year) so they’re having a Halloween party and everyone is encouraged to dress up. I can’t wait! I love dressing up any time and to don a costume instead of my usual is going to be a ball. I’ll try to take lots of pics and post some.
    You should come! ;o)

    Reply
  17. Last year at ECWC was my first writer’s conference experience ever. I loved it! This year, they’re having it the weekend before Halloween (it falls on a Monday here this year) so they’re having a Halloween party and everyone is encouraged to dress up. I can’t wait! I love dressing up any time and to don a costume instead of my usual is going to be a ball. I’ll try to take lots of pics and post some.
    You should come! ;o)

    Reply
  18. Last year at ECWC was my first writer’s conference experience ever. I loved it! This year, they’re having it the weekend before Halloween (it falls on a Monday here this year) so they’re having a Halloween party and everyone is encouraged to dress up. I can’t wait! I love dressing up any time and to don a costume instead of my usual is going to be a ball. I’ll try to take lots of pics and post some.
    You should come! ;o)

    Reply
  19. Last year at ECWC was my first writer’s conference experience ever. I loved it! This year, they’re having it the weekend before Halloween (it falls on a Monday here this year) so they’re having a Halloween party and everyone is encouraged to dress up. I can’t wait! I love dressing up any time and to don a costume instead of my usual is going to be a ball. I’ll try to take lots of pics and post some.
    You should come! ;o)

    Reply
  20. Last year at ECWC was my first writer’s conference experience ever. I loved it! This year, they’re having it the weekend before Halloween (it falls on a Monday here this year) so they’re having a Halloween party and everyone is encouraged to dress up. I can’t wait! I love dressing up any time and to don a costume instead of my usual is going to be a ball. I’ll try to take lots of pics and post some.
    You should come! ;o)

    Reply
  21. I may have burned out on creating “costumes” when I was a kid and every outfit I wore was a costume of sorts to hide my shyness. If Cher wore it, I could duplicate it. I just couldn’t afford her Vegas outfits and had to settle for the hippie ones. So if you ever have a 60’s celebration, I should attend!
    It sounds like great fun, and one of these days, I really really want to go!

    Reply
  22. I may have burned out on creating “costumes” when I was a kid and every outfit I wore was a costume of sorts to hide my shyness. If Cher wore it, I could duplicate it. I just couldn’t afford her Vegas outfits and had to settle for the hippie ones. So if you ever have a 60’s celebration, I should attend!
    It sounds like great fun, and one of these days, I really really want to go!

    Reply
  23. I may have burned out on creating “costumes” when I was a kid and every outfit I wore was a costume of sorts to hide my shyness. If Cher wore it, I could duplicate it. I just couldn’t afford her Vegas outfits and had to settle for the hippie ones. So if you ever have a 60’s celebration, I should attend!
    It sounds like great fun, and one of these days, I really really want to go!

    Reply
  24. I may have burned out on creating “costumes” when I was a kid and every outfit I wore was a costume of sorts to hide my shyness. If Cher wore it, I could duplicate it. I just couldn’t afford her Vegas outfits and had to settle for the hippie ones. So if you ever have a 60’s celebration, I should attend!
    It sounds like great fun, and one of these days, I really really want to go!

    Reply
  25. I may have burned out on creating “costumes” when I was a kid and every outfit I wore was a costume of sorts to hide my shyness. If Cher wore it, I could duplicate it. I just couldn’t afford her Vegas outfits and had to settle for the hippie ones. So if you ever have a 60’s celebration, I should attend!
    It sounds like great fun, and one of these days, I really really want to go!

    Reply
  26. Dressing up is sometimes fun, but I try to avoid it especially during Halloween. I haven’t attended a conference yet, but I hope to soon. Seems like everyone has a grand time at these get togethers.

    Reply
  27. Dressing up is sometimes fun, but I try to avoid it especially during Halloween. I haven’t attended a conference yet, but I hope to soon. Seems like everyone has a grand time at these get togethers.

    Reply
  28. Dressing up is sometimes fun, but I try to avoid it especially during Halloween. I haven’t attended a conference yet, but I hope to soon. Seems like everyone has a grand time at these get togethers.

    Reply
  29. Dressing up is sometimes fun, but I try to avoid it especially during Halloween. I haven’t attended a conference yet, but I hope to soon. Seems like everyone has a grand time at these get togethers.

    Reply
  30. Dressing up is sometimes fun, but I try to avoid it especially during Halloween. I haven’t attended a conference yet, but I hope to soon. Seems like everyone has a grand time at these get togethers.

    Reply
  31. Thanks for those reminders of a great evening, Anne! The Twenties was an especially successful theme, I thought, as it wasn’t too daunting, yet produced some fabulous outfits.

    Reply
  32. Thanks for those reminders of a great evening, Anne! The Twenties was an especially successful theme, I thought, as it wasn’t too daunting, yet produced some fabulous outfits.

    Reply
  33. Thanks for those reminders of a great evening, Anne! The Twenties was an especially successful theme, I thought, as it wasn’t too daunting, yet produced some fabulous outfits.

    Reply
  34. Thanks for those reminders of a great evening, Anne! The Twenties was an especially successful theme, I thought, as it wasn’t too daunting, yet produced some fabulous outfits.

    Reply
  35. Thanks for those reminders of a great evening, Anne! The Twenties was an especially successful theme, I thought, as it wasn’t too daunting, yet produced some fabulous outfits.

    Reply
  36. Oh everyone looks as if they are having a wonderful time! I do like costume parties and I love to dress up. Opera costumes weigh a ton, but I still enjoyed wearing them onstage. They made it so much easier to become the characters I sang.
    I wish I had more time to engage in my sewing hobby as I would have some lovely Regency gowns if I did.
    The RWA Conference in New York last month was a real highlight for me! I got to spend time with a number of Wenches and really had a fabulous time!

    Reply
  37. Oh everyone looks as if they are having a wonderful time! I do like costume parties and I love to dress up. Opera costumes weigh a ton, but I still enjoyed wearing them onstage. They made it so much easier to become the characters I sang.
    I wish I had more time to engage in my sewing hobby as I would have some lovely Regency gowns if I did.
    The RWA Conference in New York last month was a real highlight for me! I got to spend time with a number of Wenches and really had a fabulous time!

    Reply
  38. Oh everyone looks as if they are having a wonderful time! I do like costume parties and I love to dress up. Opera costumes weigh a ton, but I still enjoyed wearing them onstage. They made it so much easier to become the characters I sang.
    I wish I had more time to engage in my sewing hobby as I would have some lovely Regency gowns if I did.
    The RWA Conference in New York last month was a real highlight for me! I got to spend time with a number of Wenches and really had a fabulous time!

    Reply
  39. Oh everyone looks as if they are having a wonderful time! I do like costume parties and I love to dress up. Opera costumes weigh a ton, but I still enjoyed wearing them onstage. They made it so much easier to become the characters I sang.
    I wish I had more time to engage in my sewing hobby as I would have some lovely Regency gowns if I did.
    The RWA Conference in New York last month was a real highlight for me! I got to spend time with a number of Wenches and really had a fabulous time!

    Reply
  40. Oh everyone looks as if they are having a wonderful time! I do like costume parties and I love to dress up. Opera costumes weigh a ton, but I still enjoyed wearing them onstage. They made it so much easier to become the characters I sang.
    I wish I had more time to engage in my sewing hobby as I would have some lovely Regency gowns if I did.
    The RWA Conference in New York last month was a real highlight for me! I got to spend time with a number of Wenches and really had a fabulous time!

    Reply
  41. I usually pass on the costumes but this year I went full tilt and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it! Maybe because the theme was, as Lilian said, easily understood yet still allowed the more visually creative to come as, say, a traffic light.
    For anyone who hasn’t seen Anne’s costumes each year, you’re missing something special 🙂
    I’ll definitely costume up again next year.

    Reply
  42. I usually pass on the costumes but this year I went full tilt and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it! Maybe because the theme was, as Lilian said, easily understood yet still allowed the more visually creative to come as, say, a traffic light.
    For anyone who hasn’t seen Anne’s costumes each year, you’re missing something special 🙂
    I’ll definitely costume up again next year.

    Reply
  43. I usually pass on the costumes but this year I went full tilt and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it! Maybe because the theme was, as Lilian said, easily understood yet still allowed the more visually creative to come as, say, a traffic light.
    For anyone who hasn’t seen Anne’s costumes each year, you’re missing something special 🙂
    I’ll definitely costume up again next year.

    Reply
  44. I usually pass on the costumes but this year I went full tilt and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it! Maybe because the theme was, as Lilian said, easily understood yet still allowed the more visually creative to come as, say, a traffic light.
    For anyone who hasn’t seen Anne’s costumes each year, you’re missing something special 🙂
    I’ll definitely costume up again next year.

    Reply
  45. I usually pass on the costumes but this year I went full tilt and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it! Maybe because the theme was, as Lilian said, easily understood yet still allowed the more visually creative to come as, say, a traffic light.
    For anyone who hasn’t seen Anne’s costumes each year, you’re missing something special 🙂
    I’ll definitely costume up again next year.

    Reply
  46. I haven’t worn a costume since Halloween as a kid or the acting classes I took in school. I don’t really like it. I didn’t see the point of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. If I wanted to be a pirate or a houri, I could have done that, but I never did, so why dress up like one?
    Once I went to a party that I didn’t know was costume, so I just said I had come as Me. They were not amused. I guess I don’t do a very good Me 🙂

    Reply
  47. I haven’t worn a costume since Halloween as a kid or the acting classes I took in school. I don’t really like it. I didn’t see the point of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. If I wanted to be a pirate or a houri, I could have done that, but I never did, so why dress up like one?
    Once I went to a party that I didn’t know was costume, so I just said I had come as Me. They were not amused. I guess I don’t do a very good Me 🙂

    Reply
  48. I haven’t worn a costume since Halloween as a kid or the acting classes I took in school. I don’t really like it. I didn’t see the point of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. If I wanted to be a pirate or a houri, I could have done that, but I never did, so why dress up like one?
    Once I went to a party that I didn’t know was costume, so I just said I had come as Me. They were not amused. I guess I don’t do a very good Me 🙂

    Reply
  49. I haven’t worn a costume since Halloween as a kid or the acting classes I took in school. I don’t really like it. I didn’t see the point of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. If I wanted to be a pirate or a houri, I could have done that, but I never did, so why dress up like one?
    Once I went to a party that I didn’t know was costume, so I just said I had come as Me. They were not amused. I guess I don’t do a very good Me 🙂

    Reply
  50. I haven’t worn a costume since Halloween as a kid or the acting classes I took in school. I don’t really like it. I didn’t see the point of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. If I wanted to be a pirate or a houri, I could have done that, but I never did, so why dress up like one?
    Once I went to a party that I didn’t know was costume, so I just said I had come as Me. They were not amused. I guess I don’t do a very good Me 🙂

    Reply
  51. Looks like loads of fun. I think it’s great when someone steps out of her comfort zone and realizes that yes, she IS having a great time after all!

    Reply
  52. Looks like loads of fun. I think it’s great when someone steps out of her comfort zone and realizes that yes, she IS having a great time after all!

    Reply
  53. Looks like loads of fun. I think it’s great when someone steps out of her comfort zone and realizes that yes, she IS having a great time after all!

    Reply
  54. Looks like loads of fun. I think it’s great when someone steps out of her comfort zone and realizes that yes, she IS having a great time after all!

    Reply
  55. Looks like loads of fun. I think it’s great when someone steps out of her comfort zone and realizes that yes, she IS having a great time after all!

    Reply

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