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Dress for Publishing Success: Ladies Edition

Let me start by saying that I am by no means a fashion expert or publishing industry dress code guru. In fact, when I sat down to write this article, I dug through my closet and noticed that I have a penchant toward sundresses, cat sweaters, and animal print blouses. Zooey Deschanel is probably my spirit animal and I look like a librarian or a Sunday school teacher on most days. So, I guess I’d be more suited to write an article titled “How to Dress like a Librarian,” but librarians work with books and so do people who work in book publishing. I suppose it’s one in the same.

All jokes aside, when I decided that I wanted to work in book publishing, I researched publishing house dress codes, but noticed that there were very few articles or blog posts about dressing for this particular industry.  There were plenty of articles about dressing for a law firm or Wall Street, and even more articles for making an impression at your Cosmo interview, but none for book publishing.

Reality check: book publishing is creative because words are artistic (the Met and MoMA staff may disagree with me on this one), but it’s not “deck yourself in designer labels and feathers” creative—that’s too, well, Vogue. So, while you may not want to show up to work in sequins and Chanel, you probably don’t want to show up in a full pantsuit either.

After interning at a literary agency and working at a small publishing house for over a year, I’ve made some astute observations about dressing the part of a badass book publishing woman. Here are a few tips and suggestions:

The Interview

You’ve proven your worth, written a beautiful cover letter that expertly lists every imprint at said publishing house. But now, you have to meet with HR and prove to them that you’re not a total weirdo who can’t handle working with others.

First impressions, starting with your outfit, matter. There is nothing wrong with a full pantsuit, but keep that outfit at home for another day. From my observation, your best bet is probably something that veers on the side of conservative, but still creative and different. While I personally believe that pencil skirts are extremely confining and the fashion equivalent of a straightjacket, they’re also extremely first impression-appropriate. Pair a classic black pencil skirt with a blouse, and a rather edgy blazer. When it comes to picking out a blouse, it’s best to stick with a neutral color, such as navy, cream, or white but avoid neons and printed patterns. As for your jacket, put on something different than your standard black boyfriend blazer. Here you can be a bit more inspired, chose different fabrics or different styles. I personally swear by a cream or grey tweed jacket.

Top everything off with a pair of flats or low heels; leave the six-inch pumps at home.


  • Pencil Skirt
  • Blazer (preferably tweed)
  • Blouse (preferably navy, white, cream, or another neutral color)
  • Flats or heels

Note: Be sure to take notes on what the hiring manager and other employees are wearing, so you can coordinate your outfit accordingly in case you’re called back for a second interview. It’s also helpful for planning outfits after you’ve received the job.

A Day at the Office           

At one point in my academic career, I wanted to go into law (which I later attributed to a mere fascination with intellectual property rights and the idea that it would make me a better editor). The night before my first day interning at the Onondaga District Attorney’s office, my roommate eagerly asked me, “What are you going to wear?” My response was nothing more than an acknowledgement that I was probably just going to wear a pair of khaki pants and a button up blouse. She looked at me in horror, shook her head in disbelief, and told me that for my sake, she hopes I find a job where wearing jeans is socially acceptable.

Book publishing is a rather casual industry. My roommate may have been utterly disgusted by my fashion sense, but wearing jeans in the publisher’s office isn’t a complete crime against all things literary, as long as you stay away from destroyed denim and baggy boyfriend fits. I personally prefer dark denim in blacks and greys. It also can’t hurt to have a pair of chino pants in your closet. They’re a good, slightly more conservative substitute for jeans, but of course, this can vary from company to company

Now that you’ve bypassed HR, it’s okay to be a bit more creative with your blouses. Whether you’re a fun, cheery individual who owns blouses in all different hues, or a crazy cat lady in the making with sweaters and blouses decked out in kitty-cats, feel free to wear these tops at work. Your coworkers won’t judge, I promise. But don’t go too crazy. No feathers or excessive sequins.

If you’re more of a dress and skirt type of girl, by all means, wear your pretty sundresses to work. Personally, I get cold in the winter, so I wear jeans and chino pants a lot when New York City freezes over, but my inner Zooey loves sundresses and A-line skirts as soon as it warms up. If you prefer skirts, mixing and matching your animal prints and neons is highly encouraged as well.


  • Dark denim jeans (preferably black or grey) or chino pants
  • Classic skirts (A-line or pencil, but make sure it falls below your fingertips)
  • Blouses (be creative)
  • Sundresses
  • Flats

Note: Some publishing houses may be a bit more conservative than others. Jeans may not be okay for an everyday outfit at some. In this case, stick with skirts or chino pants. Remember your dress code notes from your interview? Put them to good use.

Sales Conferences or Important Meetings

Sales conferences are an extremely important event at publishing houses. When presenting your projects to sales reps, it’s important to make a good impression and really sell that book you’re so passionate about. So dress the part of a savvy saleswoman.

Remember your interview outfit? It’s okay to rinse and repeat that one. But if you’re feeling a bit more inspired, put on a dress and pair it with a blazer or cardigan. If you go this route, it’s best to veer on the more conservative side and leave the floral prints and patterned dresses at home.

I have an obsession with waist belts and statement jewelry and have collected an obscene amount of accessories in that department over the years. So if you’re like me, and have too many belts or necklaces to count, I highly encourage picking out a few pieces to spruce ups your sales conference.  These pieces can also be a part of your daily office wear.


  • See interview outfit

So there you have it, your key to looking like a badass book publishing woman. Remember that book publishing is a creative industry and that it’s totally okay to be yourself and have your own fashion sense. After all, clothes, like books and words, are a form of self-expression. Have fun when you pick out your outfits every morning, just not too much fun.


  1. […] Editor’s note: This is the second post in our two-part series of what to wear at your publishing job. Here’s the ladies edition. […]

  2. Ken says:

    great. choosing outfits great influence to the interview

  3. marustyle says:

    I really love this post. Thanks for your sharing. Hope that I could read more and more useful article like this. Keeping moving forward

One Trackback

  1. […] Editor’s note: This is the second post in our two-part series of what to wear at your publishing job. Here’s the ladies edition. […]

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