Dressing for the Occasion

What you wear speaks volumes without you having to say a word

By Margo Candela
Published on LatinoLA: May 9, 2007

Dressing for the Occasion

If you were to look in my closet, you'd never know I ever had a reason to wear anything more formal than a button down shirt with a slightly noticeable salad dressing stain on the front. I work from home and have no reason to get dressed up, comb my hair or make myself look presentable. (Who do I need to impress? The mail carrier who already knows I subscribe to way too many silly magazines?) I'm not exactly walking around in a bathrobe and slippers all day but I might as well for all the thought I put into my daily uniform of jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt.

At one point I reasoned if I was very comfortable it would be so much easier to write. I went out and bought several pairs of cheery capri (pajama) pants and coordinating tank tops. A week into my fashion/writing experiment even I couldn't deny I was wearing clothes which were meant for sleeping and most of my time was spent thinking about taking a nap. So it was back to the jeans and Ts and it all works for me (and the dog, who really doesn't care what I wear for our walks as long as I take her). At least it has until recently.

If you write a book and are lucky enough to get it published, part of the package is you have to promote your book and, essentially, yourself. This means going to bookstores, conferences and any other place that'll have you to talk about it, introduce yourself and hopefully make a good enough impression that whoever you meet will want to buy and read your book.

The nice part about this is I've had a chance to meet lots of different types of people who love books as much as I do. The bad part is my jeans and T-shirt uniform just won't cut it.

My niche is writing strong women characters who happen to be Latinas. I'm a Latina and a writer so it came naturally to me (after, ahem, a lot of trial and error), but now I'm a published author. A published Latina author. And believe it or not, it makes getting dressed to give a talk at a library or approach a bookstore manager about a possible book signing a little trickier.

When people meet me do they expect a Latina author or just an author? Should I show up in a peasant shirt embroidered with flowers and my hair in braids? Sorry, trenzas. Or do I wear what'd I wear to work, if I had a job where I couldn't show up in jeans and a T?

Considering my hair is too short for braids and I've never owned a Mexican peasant shirt, I'll always opt for something nice, simple and generic. I don't have to prove I'm Latina by dressing like I belong on the front of a bag of tortillas. I'm a writer, a woman and Latina. Some days in that order, most days not.

I've been to a few events were writers and artists have shown up wearing their culture on their sleeve (complete with trenzas and chal) and I can't help but notice them. Mostly because they have on an outfit I wore during elementary school Cinco de Mayo festivals or remember my kooky junior high art teacher wearing.

I'm proud and thankful for my heritage, but I can't see myself ever wearing it like a costume even if it might mean selling a few more books. It's just not me. So I'll play it safe and stick to what I want to wear (and yes, it might be jeans, but very nice ones) and let my work speak for itself. I understand, whether I like it or not, people are going to form an impression of me by my clothes and for some it might not mesh with what I've written. They might be expecting someone a little more colorful (teal huaraches) or professional (a tailored pantsuit). All I can say is they're lucky they don't have to see me every day. They'd be bored to tears.

About Margo Candela:
Margo Candela was born and raised in Northeast Los Angeles. Her debut novel UNDERNEATH IT ALL was released this January. Her second book, LIFE OVER EASY will be published in October. For more information please visit www.MargoCandela.com.

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