Dressing for Success | Art Marketing Minute

While I’m sure you spend some time thinking about what to wear before any art event, I wonder if you’ve thought about the implications of that decision.
Whether we like it or not, and whether it’s fair or not, our appearance can have a significant impact on whether our clients end up making purchases. Our clothes and appearance say something about us – let’s make sure we’re sending the right message.

Watch the Art Marketing Minute below to learn more about dressing for success.

P.S. Another important reason for dressing up, which I completely failed to mention in the video, and one which I consider to be of real practical importance, is that being at least slightly more dressed up than everyone else helps people visually identify you as the artist. Wearing a nametag will obviously also help in this regard, but a level of formality slightly higher than the average visitor to your event will help to put a spotlight on you.

What do You Wear?

What do you wear when you are trying to sell? How much thought do you put into what you are going to wear in a selling situation? Please be sure to share your thoughts about your wardrobe before you leave this page by posting a comment below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

19 Comments

  1. I do put a lot of thought into how I dress for art receptions. One thing I keep in mind is to wear clothing that does not clash with my art work! I avoid really busy patterns that can distract from my paintings that are often colorful and detailed. Also, some of my outfits have a dash of the “artistic,” meaning a little bit of color and whimsy, befitting an abstract artist but not over the top. I want my work to be the focus, not me! And, yes on name tags! I often spend a lot of time in at crowded receptions trying to locate the artist, as no one has name tags.

  2. As I am a Western artist, I normally wear an understated black outfit and several pieces of good Navajo jewelry. And I have a metal name tag with a magnetic fastener. Sometimes wear Western boots and, for an outdoor show, a Stetson hat.

  3. Currently, I am not showing work anywhere in order to minimize chances of getting Covid-19, since I live in a high-risk area, but I have always put a lot of thought into my artist’s wardrobe. For receptions, I usually dress in black with a piece of statement artisan made jewelry. My last reception was in late January, and I wore black velvet pants and top with a loose flowing jacket and jewelry. It was a cold, rainy night, so visitors were wearing jeans and heavy coats. For the annual studio tour, I don’t dress that differently from the clients, but I do wear colors that complement my work and a silk scarf. I am a ceramic artist, and since I need to be able to wrap breakable purchases easily, the only jewelry I wear during the tour is a pair of statement earrings.

  4. I love to dress up for Art Receptions, usually in an art kimono type that I personally made; dyeing the fabric and sewing it up. At least, I love wearing one of my designed scarves. I used lots of color in my silk art pieces, and hadn’t thought of clashing, before reading some of the other comments. Always have a name tag on, as do most of the other artists included in the receptions.

  5. I only recently left a marketing/graphic design 8-5 career and have actually made presentations to professional groups of [mostly young women] marketers on the impact of their attire on their work lives and how it can positively or negatively affect their career trajectory. I believe that professional attire can be expressive. For this situation – presenting as an artist to the public – I think dressing the part is important, if as noted in the video, you stay approachable and not costumey.

    I don’t think spike/narrow heels are necessary for women to present well, especially artists standing around a gallery for hours. I was in a juried cooperative gallery group for several years and we were expected to participate in the monthly 5 – 9 pm open gallery event. I quickly learned that as much as I love professional type heels for the look and the additional height, I wasn’t able to stand in them for more than an hour or so without a lot of discomfort. I worked out which shoes gave me some height and flavor and built outfits around them.

  6. Have always dressed up for my receptions. To me, it is a sign of respect for those who have taken the time to come out. Very often, I would choose colors that are from one of my “star” paintings, and stand by that piece!

  7. I absolutely dress up! In flowing dresses, bright scarves and jewelry (that I made) – very intentionally looking like I could step into my own paintings. The effort is celebrated by people who pose with me for photos in front of my paintings!

  8. This topic is interesting to me! While I was in corporate America there were always battles over whether we could wear jeans to work or not. Someone would always say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. I never wanted a job where I wore a suit every day, so I was always the one in jeans. My dressing nice always includes a pair of cowboy boots (if I had the money, I would have a pair in every color). I definitely think my style fits the artistic lifestyle better than the corporate.
    I have not sold art specifically for long, but have sold my hand felted alpaca hats, accessories and home accents for almost 20 years now. When I am selling my work, I always wear my boots, one of my handmade cowboy hats, and other alpaca garments made by me or fiber from one of my animals. Anyway, alpaca is a luxury fiber, so I always feel like I am dressed well.

  9. As always your advice is right on target. I put a lot of consideration into what I wear to Art Receptions. I went to a professional photograper when setting up my website with photos of myself next to my paintings wearing complimentary colors. Often I will wear the same clothing to the shows which will compliment and not distract from my paintings. The only suggestion that I am unable to follow is the wearing of heels. A few years ago I sustained a concussion which still at times causes vertigo. The wearing of heels can cause me to topple or appear as though I have partook of too much adult beverage. I hope it would be appropriate to wear dress flats? Appreciate your thoughts and guidance.

  10. I adopted a kind of rule a while ago. A new shirt. I have found that clothing does affect how one feels at the moment, at the event, etc.
    Years ago when I was teaching elementary school art, I tried an experiment. On staff day I wore a new black shirt, new black jeans, and my boots. No one greeted me. Even my friends on staff. When the principal had us introduce ourselves, he “inadvertently” left me out. On Monday the following week I wore the same outfit for my teaching day. The kids’ reactions were quite the opposite. For many, I was “cool” and an object of inquiry.
    Later on I was a page-turner for a concert pianist. Black from head to toe was a requirement. A page turner is not to be visible or noticed. Yet, because I could read music, the pianist very rarely needed to cue me which caused many in the audience to remark at the symbiotic relationship.
    Black it seems is quite emotionally and culturally weighted, but effective in the right situation.

  11. I usually dress in black pants, sometimes a black top and I do have several funky jackets that I have made myself. Usually I add either a pendant or a scarf that matches. I do tend to use flamboyant colors in my work

  12. I am a pastel and watercolor painter in New England and a firm believer in presenting your appearance as professional as you present your art. I recently attend a (small, socially distanced) opening to support a fellow artist. She looked so polished, relaxed and confident. But! And something no one has yet to address …. her perfume was so over the top I could barley stand near her. And noticed she was approached by attendees but they didn’t engage in much conversation. Go easy on the perfume/cologne artists! Just saying!

  13. Spot on: everyone does better when they find agreement with and admiration of others—guests/clientele, owners/staff and artists. Aesthetics is key. Raises the overall emotional tone of the event. Thank you, Jason. Lovely post.

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