Oh Mighty Rejectionist, Great Authority On Things Both Publishing and Fashion Related,
About the same time you announced that you were abating in your rejection of the rest of us to strike out on your own in this wild literary world, I got my very first job in the Publishing Industry. I work for a very, very small press, that is rather bohemian in nature, and also poorly ventilated. In practical terms, this means I can show up to work in pretty much whatever get up I please, and unless my jeans are actually stinking up an enclosed space, no one will care. HOWEVER, on the flip side, I will be attending a Certain Large Book Related Convention in New York City soon, and when I ask people for dress code advice, all I get is blank looks. Is this business casual? Business not-casual? Business-but-with-flair? Period costume? (I should note that we're also pretty geographically removed from NYC, and one thing I remember from school Up North is that nobody seems to wear primary colors. What's that about, anyway?) I'm the youngest person here by a good few decades, and I get the impression that anyone past a certain threshold of age and artistic cred can get away with some sartorial nonconformity, but I am young and inexperienced and wide-eyed, and I'd quite like to get taken seriously and possibly not get carded in the hotel bar.
Yours in supplication,
You are sure you want to ask US this question? HA HA HA HA. Okay. Don't say we didn't warn you. We have only been to BEA twice; we have no memory of what we wore the first time, but that was back in our intern days, and we have a rather strong conviction that anyone who is not compensating us for our labor has no business telling us how to comport ourself, so it was no doubt a notable sartorial composition. (Not super surprising, really, that the whole publishing career thing didn't work out.) BEA was a really fucking stressful event for us, as is any event involving a massive conference center filled with (almost entirely) white people in "business casual" (except for the sales reps, who apparently do their suit-shopping at the same outlet as Mormon missionaries). Our first impulse is always to tear off all our clothes and run through shrieking CLASS WAR CLASS WAR CLASS WAR before making a beeline for the nearest bar. But that's probably not going to be a useful strategy for you, if you want to keep your job.
So yes, BEA is pretty "business casual"; but honestly, if "business casual" is not your jam, or a skillset passed down to you by your class background, we would say don't bother. We have learned finally that an outfit we feel awesome in makes us look a lot better than an outfit we have put together in some desperate and inevitably unsuccessful attempt to look "professional." If you would like to step up your game a notch while retaining that foxy boho spirit, Fashion for Writers and à l'allure garçonnière both have excellent fashion inspirations (Julia of garçonnière also has some great links for ladies who fall on the less-femme end of the spectrum; gents, you're on your own, sorry, unless you want us to offer fashion advice on how to get mistaken for the lead singer of Ratt). It will be HOT here in May, so go with "breezy."
As for the last part of your question: it's hard to get taken seriously in New York without a lot of practice, so don't sweat it. Pretend you are going to the zoo, or on a field trip to a weird and backward land, where the more money you have, the less you eat, and the uglier your shoes. Carry around a little notebook and write things down as though you are an anthropologist. But be warned: if you do stuff like take pictures of yourself going through the subway turnstile at rush hour or stand in the middle of the sidewalk gaping up at the skyscapers, we cannot make any guarantees for your personal safety.