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.

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

36 Comments

  1. The gallery-fashion ‘don’ts’ that I’ve seen on female artists: clothing that’s too tight, too short, too low[cut]. Keep the focus on the art — yours and others. Not on distractions of physique.

  2. This was great. I exhibit in outdoor Art Fairs and before this, I only considered what I was going to wear to be comfortable and cool.

  3. Dressing well identifies you as a professional. There are artists and then there are successful professional artists and artisans who are able to make a living from their craft/art. When I’m shopping I am increasingly disappointed in the lax attention to self of the person selling the art. The artist when in the studio creating, can wear whatever they deem comfortable to work in, but when not in the studio should clean up to show and present themselves as a professional artist.

  4. I wear a sari and jewelry I make, but (generally) not the most ornate piece. I wear saris (and sarongs) as my regular clothing so this is not unusual apparel for me. My style is my brand and my style is draped clothing and my own unique jewelry. The major decision – that is, which sari – depends on the event. Will it be silk? Cotton? Dark? Light? Then of course, there’s the question of which drape will I use? If the pallau is very fancy and the event more formal, I’ll either drape a Bengali or Coorg drape.

    The one point you make that I have issue with is women’s heels. Before you start advocating that, you might want to consider you yourself standing in a pair of heels for several hours. This is a choice I think no man has a right to insist on having any say about. At least not until he walks the same mile we do. That said, I have no problem with a woman wanting to wear heels. I own a couple pairs but I don’t wear them very often.

    1. I agree with both you you, Patrica and Leslie, that we women should not have to wear heels! Especially not “business” pumps that pinch toes and are dreadful for feet. There are lots of great alternative footwear that are comfortable and stylish.

  5. I would also include proper attention to a good, up to date hair style, for women. I find many women continue wearing their hair in a style too long for their age or coloring no longer complements their skin. I see this lack of attention to hair as simply because it is all they have known or they are too timid to try something that makes them look stylish, fresh and confident. Don’t wince…there are a lot of you out there.

    1. What does this even mean? Standards of “older women have to have short hair” are way outdated. And people should let their hair be any color they want — including the grey or silver that comes with age. This just feels sexist and ageist and judgemental. Take care of yourself and wear something that makes you feel beautiful and confident.

    2. I disagree with the statement “hair too long for your age” comment. Male or female, hair of any length can be attractive and add panache to a person’s overall appearance. It just depends on what you do with that hair.

    3. LOL. I love my long hair. I have hair down below my waist and I am 61. I also color it with henna. I usually wear it up in knot with a hair stick. I am not ashamed of grey hair, but it just so happens that I started doing this and I like it. I do not and will not cut my hair to look “stylish and up to date.” I am an artist. I can choose what I think works for who I am. I find people who dress really trendy somewhat phony. I’ve seen them at gallery openings. But that’s OK. They can be who they want to be, and I can think what I want. That is part of it. I respect you and your choice. I saw a beautiful photograph in a show recently, but I thought the photographer was ridiculously overdressed in his trendy outfit with gaudy colors. I thought he looked like he was trying too hard. It’s a fine line. I would say, if you are solid in knowing why you are wearing your hair and clothing the way you are, and confident, do it. If you are unsure and have no reason to be wearing your hair like you do, well, maybe change it.

    4. Cynthia, you can wear your hair however you want but there’s no way I’m cutting my 40+ inches. And I’m 66. Hair styles are a personal expression of taste and as long as the ultimate effect is not grotesque you have no right to judge another’s personal taste. My hair is long because that’s how I like it. Not because I’m afraid of trying a new style. If by “stylish” you mean trendy then you are addressing the wrong audience. This artist, at least, follows her own style.

  6. I agree with Ms. Vener. Standing for hours in heels is uncomfortable, and a mistake you make only once – it affects your energy level and could easily translate into your attitude talking with visitors toward the end of the evening. And at a successful opening with lots of people, no one can see your feet anyway! The advantage heels give is height. Being tall already, I like to stand out even more at an opening and have found several styles in clogs and wedge heels that work beautifully.

  7. Lots of freedom to comment on women’s do’s and don’ts here, I notice (in the comment section, especially). Notice how little is required of men! I don’t buy it. I went to a library anniversary party recently where the dress code was “Dress to feel fabulous!” I like that idea way better. Instills confidence, but no one else is dictating heels, hair, length of clothing, etc. I think Jason’s main point of dressing to instill a buyer’s confidence in you will be satisfied by dressing to instill confidence in yourself. And screw high heels. Never could wear them, never will.

  8. Thank you for addressing this point. It never hurts to be reminded that we never get a second chance to make a first impression. I love the comment “Dressing well shows respect for the work”. I would take it a step further and say it shows respect for the financial investment we asking from the buyer who may be stretching their funds because something speaks to them. I would agree that heels for women must be personal preference, not expectation. Our bodies are not meant to be contorted into the posture that heels require.

  9. I am apparently too lax in choosing my wardrobe for a show. I will begin to pay better attention to this area. Thank you for the pointers Jason. I really enjoy every article you give us to help us with our art businesses. You are much appreciated.

  10. I prefer to dress in a pant suit that’s fairly monochrome or black with beautiful jewelry or in a color that’s in harmony with my artwork being exhibited. I’ve been to openings where the artist is dressed in colors that don’t mix well with the palettes used on their work and it really distracts from their art on the wall.

  11. It’s important to be approachable….that starts with being well groomed and wearing footwear that’s stylish and comfortable. If I’m in pain it shows on my face… very important to smile pleasantly & naturally. Recently at a 4 day event with 90+ artists, I wore jeans with colourful & smart t-shirts most of the time; the event was in a vacationing environment. For the vernissage I chose to wear a favourite & relaxed style dress which strangers had previously complimented. When meeting new people it’s important to be focused on the conversations, not preoccupied with appearance.

  12. When my paintings are being shown at a gallery opening event, I think a lot about what to wear. My preference is a bright-colored, patterned tunic top —comfortable but tailored — black pants, and black flats. I look for tops that remind me of my art. I invariably receive compliments on my outfits and questions from other artists about where I bought them. Knowing I look artistic and professional, plus being comfortable, gives me confidence as I interact with the crowd.

  13. I love all the advice and comments. I also believe that an artist’s fashion sense should be consistent so that they can be easily recognized and you are easily recognized and familiar to clients.

  14. I always dress up and since my paintings are quite colorful, I live to carry that color through to my clothing.

    I do think that since I am on my feet for the evening, it is important to give some thought to comfortable, but stylish shoes.

  15. I always think of what I will wear for an opening. It has to be stylish, but comfortable, elegant with an artsy hue. I do like to wear a heal, but not stilettos (haha). A heel automatically stretches the posture.

  16. Mostly good advice, but HEELS??? HELL NO! YOU wear heels if you want.
    I wore heels until my feet wore out. At an opening, we are on our feet for hours so it is most important to not be in pain. The gait, postures, facial expressions would be misconstrued.
    I dress to complement my “brand.” I coordinate colors with what I am showing, but not so much as to compete with the art. Artists can be more out there with their dressing than other professionals, it is expected. We should look somewhat creative. That might mean trendy or it might mean individual-eccentric, it depends on your art. I agree we should make an effort for the sake of the gallery who has given us this opportunity.
    I had long white hair for a long time and felt it was an important part of my look. I recently cut it and added a bright color accent and now it seems to be even more of a statement.

  17. When I dress for the outdoor market I always wear bright colorful shirts to go with my bright colorful tent with my name on it, and my bright and my bright c0olorful art. It seems to work well.

  18. Yes, the venue of the art show does dictate the “outfit” to wear. A few years back, a restored ghost town from the 1860’s era in MT held a poster contest for artists to create a design to celebrate their 150th Anniversary. I entered a watercolor piece and won the contest! I was asked to attend a poster signing and sale of prints of my painting in a beautiful Victorian home. The owner of the home also requested to display several of my other paintings during the poster signing. Since the event and even the design of my piece reflected the aura of the Victorian era, I decided to wear a champagne satin and black trimmed 1890’s day dress and hat that I made. A few of the attendees of the poster signing even wore Victorian outfits.

  19. Wow! Great feedback here…what I am picking up on in this group conversation is that we all have unique personalities and must show up looking and feeling our best (period).
    Short hair, long hair, heels, flats, boots…all of these options are fabulous when coordinated mindfully with style. If an outfit has that “spark of joy”, as Marie Kondo would say, then what we wear will reflect the way we think, feel and act at that time and place.

    For me, personally, like the artwork I am creating, I want to look classy, elegant, intelligent, beautiful and confident, with an added spark of sexy. There’s only so many youthful years we get to show off our figures… so, I am going to live a little and show off my gorgeous curves, whether you agree with it or not.

  20. I like wearing black dress slacks, black boots, nice top, and a tailored jacket. Feel professional, easy movement. Wear beautiful gold or silver jewelry. Wear my hair short sassy gray. Don’t forget our professional manicures, men and women. Thank you for the comments.

  21. I think there are different interpretations of looking professional. I’ve participated in several group shows in galleries this past year and noticed the way a number of the male artists dressed. They wore paint splattered denim jackets, jeans, and tie-dyed tee shirts. One wore a bow tie on a tee shirt and shorts. I’m thinking these are artist costumes? Maybe they’re going for a “starving artist” look?

  22. I spent years in the Fortune 500 as an exec. If I dressed like that now it would be inappropriate. I’d say dress for your art and your market. Cassandra hit the spot with “mindful”. You can be pretty eccentric if it is intentional.

    And I am surprised by some comments that sound a bit ageist and sexists. From artists?

  23. Interesting conversation. I do often wonder how I should dress at my shows and exhibits. Although I haven’t exhibited in a high-end gallery, yet, I am thoughtful and aware that I should dress according to the ambiance. I know how to dress up conservatively, professionally, and I know how to do casual-dress. I am drawn to creative clothing, and feel I should wear what speaks of my personality, as long as it suits the clientele and does not offend. Definitely be clean, neat, professional and demonstrate that you care about yourself, your art, and your clients.

    As for heels, I used to be able to wear heels and loved them, being 5′ short. But I cannot wear them anymore. When I do, I am shifting my wait constantly trying to relieve the pain, it is not good during a conversation. Or, I look for a place to sit to relieve the pain. I know many women have had bunion surgery because of wearing heels in spite of their physical health. It’s important to be comfortable for your own health and pleasantries.

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