Dressing for Success | Art Marketing Minute

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.

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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 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

27 Comments

  1. I wear a nice dark grey well cut suit with a nice shirt when I attend my exhibitions. This exhibition outfit makes me feel very smart & confident. Most of the time I dress very casually & I have noticed that people react very differently to me when I am well dressed…

    1. I tend to wear black, with hopefully an attractive scarf or interesting jewelry. I want to look professional and I like the idea of dressing a little bit better than your audience. Black is a staple of my wardrobe.

  2. My motto is “dress like a successful artist” So, for outdoor art shows I’ll wear a beautiful (summer) top or dress with eye-catching artisan jewelry. I want to look creative (not corporate), and I want to look like I sell art (not like a starving artist) . I love it when male artists wear a cool hat and a unique but well-made short sleeved shirt. Never: old t shirts, flip-flops, cut offs.

  3. My main dress is jeans and a turtleneck, but whenI have an opening, I dress up. That mostly includes black tights and colorful tunic and leather above ankle boots. If I mix it up, it’s linen pants, solid color tunic and a leather medicine bag with SW beaded needlework around my neck which holds my square business cards that I hand out.

  4. I wear what I am comfortable in, but that looks like i’ve made an effort. A bit of colour for confidence, but nothing too whacky- you don’t want to scare people. And a name badge, which indicates ‘please talk to me’. Luckily I don’t have to do too many. I find them excruciating!

  5. Because I do Western landscapes, I dress Western Informal — which means newish jeans that fit and stack properly, my only pair of Tonu Lama boots, a hand-tooled belt w/largish Wyoming Centennial buckle and a well-fitted western shirt. Usually I add a bolo tie set with turquoise. I settled on this, after experimenting with various other modes, for two reasons: 1) I’m comfortable with the outfit, and 2) I gather terrific respect. Caution: I found that is possible (very) to go overboard into Western Garish and thus look simply ridiculous.

  6. We always try to look smart, and always wear a good quality name badge at “fair” type exhibitions. A name badge can cut out awkward moments (oh is that the artist ?…. type moments), and are very useful when you bump into people when away from the booth. We often recognise people by context and some marketing opportunities happen away from the stand. (We all bump into people we know, but are not sure how/why we know them – let alone remember their names). We never assume people will just remember us. A name badge has been so useful.

  7. Embarrassing moment. I always try to be well put together for shows. But I’ve also learned to avoid stopping in the studio/ gallery as a total wreck: had a client who made an expensive purchase during an open studio show, to be picked up later in the week. I stopped by the studio on the way home from the gym – baggy sweats, messy hair, no makeup. The client showed up a day early. I felt like a bag lady as I wrapped up his painting. A huge challenge to come across as a successful and professional artist…

  8. I think about this a lot. I”m kind of multiple persona so attaching a “look” becomes quite a decision-making process. I did gigs as a page turner (music) for a friend and got very used to black jeans or slacks and a black shirt. Being a page turner, you should be invisible. While I think I look quite dashing in black, people generally will NOT approach you. So that hasn’t worked for me. Neither does arriving on the motorcycle. Business casual does not make me comfortable but one thing does- a hand-tied bow-tie, which I can do and also have a collection from which to choose. What has happened is, people are beginning to look for me, if only to see what the tie is. I have to say that I have had many “institutional” art events but not much sales opportunities. Still- I’m finding a kind of “look” that seems to work, and even my boots once in awhile seems not to be off-putting.

  9. I’m a creative, so I like to dress creatively, often pulling together elements that are a little outside the mainstream. I The best outfits seem to be ones including an unusual piece of jewelry or an item made from particularly beautiful fabric. I usually wear a neutral color as a base, then add a stand-out piece as a focal point. I have my own personal style as opposed to dressing in accordance with current fashion, but if a current style looks good on me, so much the better. But Jason, I haven’t worn heels in years, preferring timeless, beautiful shoes that don’t hurt my feet, especially since art openings usually require at least 2 to 3 hours of standing.

    1. I agree, no heels!
      And personally, I like to wear artsy, but slightly understated clothing, not too loud or splashy. And I don’t want my clothing to compete with my paintings for attention, so I like to keep my clothing fairly simple. Very good quality though…

    2. Kate, you have done me the favor of writing my comment for me! 🙂 I thing if we bumped into each other in a gallery opening, we would look like long-lost twins, clothes-wise at least! 🙂

  10. Shoes are a big deal to me … comfortable, but stylish. I like wedge heels for the support over a long show. Never athletic shoes, no sandals, and no high heels. Shoes choose the outfit. No clothing brighter than my work … generally business attire. I tend to dress up rather than down. That guide has served me very well through several occupational diversions. Most art is visual and we should try to be pleasing to the eye.
    One thing I’ve seen in artists that is puzzling … why some dress quirky or purposely grungy. I’ve seen outfits so outlandish it was off putting. Men in holey jeans and old running shoes with unbuttoned shirts. Or, they make a costume out of it … neckerchief with puca beads and leather stringers on both wrists … not kidding. Musicians can get away with a little of that but I don’t think artists can.
    I’ve seen women artists dress in character, as if a persona is expected or necessary. It isn’t. You’re not the show, your art is.

    1. Like Jackie and Jason, I too agree and follow suitable dress codes relevant/appropriate to an event.
      The “do’s and don’t’s” of Art Sales! Dress Professional and Dress Appropriate for the event!

  11. Many of my art shows have themes and I dress the part. Not sure if I scare off any potential clients but I do sell a good amount of art. Some of the series I’ve dressed up in costumes for have been on women soldiers of the Mexican revolution; ghosts and spirits; the Wild West; and most recently Frida (minus the uni-brow). Too bad we can’t post photos.

  12. Personally, I can’t stand to dress like anyone else. I must be myself in order to be comfortable and agreeable and genuine. Does that make me a circus clown or halloween character? NO. But I do dress uniquely me. And I don’t compromise on that. I’m always appropriately and respectfully dressed when doing business, but I’m not putting on a monkey suit or panty hose for anyone.

  13. I agree with so many of the comments above. I try to stand out with my outfit – so people easily recognize me as the artist – but I make sure the colors I wear don’t conflict with the palette I uses in my work. I attended a gallery opening where the colors in the artist’s top really clashed with her paintings – which I thought moved the focus away from her beautiful work.

  14. First off, More men need to comment here. I live in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California. Most of the shows/events where I display art are in communities where dress is normally quite casual. in addition, my paintings show scenes of Historical California landmarks as they would have appeared in the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. If I were at a gallery exhibit in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento I would dress-up a bit more than I would in galleries or exhibits located in the California Gold Rush communities of Auburn, Placerville, Rough & Ready, or Timbuktu (near Smartsville).
    Nick Vogt
    PAINTINGS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
    http://www.facebook.com/N.R.Vogt.Artist

  15. Thank you Jason, I think this is the first time I have read/watched something about clothing for a show. It is something that I haven a lot of thought, and I am happy to read your ideas and those of the other artists!

  16. Lol… my only “dress up” close are those I wear to gallery openings or other events. Once I wore the same periwinkle leather western jacket to an an art opening, everyone loved it! I wore the same jacket to an opening a year later – I did get the comment, “You wore that last year”. I guess that’s why basic black works best. 🙂

  17. I always wear a solid color so I don’t clash with the artwork or with other people since lots of pictures are taken with me and other visitors -no patterns! I think of what I’d be proud to see myself in when I post on Facebook, mailers, website…
    I love to wear heels to these events because they give me a height boost. I’m petite so this helps me feel more eye level with most others. Maybe for this reason, heels help me feel more confident. I almost never wear them otherwise!

  18. I always wear something nice to an event – typically a skirt or leggings. Business-type attire. Interestingly, most artists responding here mentioned they don’t wear anything that clashes with their art. I have a bright artistic, floral sweater and I paint florals for the most part. People love how my sweater matches my art and often comment on it. When they see me walking the event, they know who I am and which booth is mine. Works for me.

  19. Yes, I have to admit that I do like to buy a new outfit for an art show opening, thanks for the reason to justify that Jason. I do not wear heels well but if I wear open toed sandals, a pedicure is a must. I try to make sure that my nails are done and a touch of artisan jewelry or special earrings seem to make me feel polished. I know that I look at people’s jewelry so have to assume that they look at mine as well. When I am painting I spend most of my time in comfy track pants and plaid shirts so I look forward to any opportunity to dress like people think an artist would dress like – for me, that is a bit boho gypsy, hopefully not too distracting.

  20. I dress relatively conservatively, I am uncomfortable in ruffly, glitzy clothes. I love color so when I am in a gallery or docent duty my clothes are understated except for a bright scarf and/or a little extra jewelry. Plain, of course. In my studio , jeans or plain pants and comfortable, washable t-shirts or blouses. As a pastel artist my hands and nails usually are not in glamour condition. Comfortable shoes because I stand at my easel, enabling me to step back or move in close.

  21. I have 2 different styles depending on the show. One is a simple dress, usually black with artist made accessories. The second is a more casual, jeans or suede skirt with a turtle neck sweater and boots.

  22. I usually dress in slacks and a sport coat. My shirt may be open collar or with a tie depending how formal the event is. I paint American West landscapes so in more “touristy” areas I may wear Levis jeans with a belt buckle and even cowboy boots but still keep the sport coat. Kinda like a cowboy dressing up for the evening. I also sell in Hawaii and… well, you know, a nice Hawaiian shirt and slacks is about as formal as that gets. I like the concept of treating your clothes like a costume for your performance. It helps me get into character.

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