Attire Makes the Writer

Vintage Tweed Fedora, Worn By a WomanOr does it?

It seems like what writers—especially freelance writers—wear is a hot topic lately. Maybe because it’s fashion week or maybe because it’s February and people are tired of the weather. Whatever the reason, I’m reading a lot of posts about how writers should dress.

One post called wearing pajamas a bad habit, with the writer arguing that it limits productivity. While I agree with her that working in nothing but underwear could be going a bit too far, I don’t think flannel pajama pants or a worn, favorite T-shirt is a sign that you’re not going to be successful.

On the other extreme is an entrepreneur who dresses according to her task. Her mandate: “Costume yourself for the work to be done. If I’m being a serious writer, I put on jeans and a sweater; if my duties are mostly secretarial, I wear a skirt and blouse; if there are client calls to make, I dress like a tycoon.” While you won’t find me dressed up to do my filing, I do appreciate that she’s found what works for her. I don’t agree that her method fits everyone.

My jobs have required an array of “uniforms,” from purple hair (okay, that wasn’t required, but it was encouraged) and funky jeans to suits to upscale business “casual” (read: business trendy). One of the biggest draws of freelancing for me was the freedom to wear whatever inspired me at that moment.

Truthfully, I do find myself wearing only a small percentage of the wardrobe I own, but I lean towards clothing that feels loose, unrestrictive. Somehow, this seems to let the creativity flow—it doesn’t get caught up in pinching shoes or a formal, buttoned jacket. However, I do make a point of changing my clothes before “commuting” to my home office. With the exception of an occasional 5 a.m. conference call, I don’t roll out of bed and into my desk chair.

Just because I may not wear the same things my clients do does not mean that I am any less professional. When I am an on the phone or replying to an email, I sit up straight and focus. I answer the phone quickly and cheerfully. It could be that my years as a recruiter taught me how to convey the right tone and attitude over the phone.

So I don’t think I need to wear a suit to do my best work. Of course, I do dress appropriately for events, though I still focus on expressing me. It makes me more comfortable—and helps ease networking nerves.

But when I need to brainstorm and find an original way to produce product copy or draft a scene, you’ll find me in something comfortable (and, preferably cashmere) to let the creative juices flow.

Your turn. Does the attire make the writer? Do you think what you wear has an effect on your productivity and your success? Is there a certain sweater you wear when you’re working on an essay? Or do you have “work pajamas” that best fit your freelancing days? Please share in the comments.

Photo attribution: / CC BY 2.0

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6 thoughts on “Attire Makes the Writer

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  2. I don’t see the need to dress in any particular way when I write, however, I tend to wear a fairly cheap hooded grey cardigan when at my desk, the kitchen table, the steps outside my apartment. It completely depends upon any given person, I suppose; whatever you feel the need to wear, wear it. Also, if you can really, and I mean, really write, then you should be able to do so naked or wearing only socks and shoes. You might freak out your neighbours, but your bestseller will get you off the hook as a “creative being”.

  3. I can really relate to this. I always make my bed, clean the kitchen and usually put on makeup and get dressed (but not always) before I sit down to work. When I don’t, which is usually because I’m so anxious to get started, I end up feeling blah and unkempt by mid-day, and by that time it’s usually too late to get dressed and put on makeup! So, I try to do it in the morning, even if I’m *only* going into the next room . Who knows if it makes me more productive, but it makes me feel like I’m more a part of the world, in a way.

  4. There is so much to think about here…truly. What of our costumes and what they say about us? I have a friend who teaches music at home and will only wear silk at all times; as resident drama queen and arts maven, at 68, she keeps her hair dyed black, tied back, and the silk is all in primary colors. Another friend is in jeans and boots because in and around writing, it’s out with the horses. That used to be me, only with dogs and goats too.

    I haven’t been able to resist commenting purely because I think all the time about my fall from the horse accompanied by the necessary decline of my vanity. I used to define myself in terms of whether I was slim or not so slim, and I dressed to attract and keep a man, always relieved when behind closed doors I could wear leggings and a shirt and stop holding in what used to be the small round of my stomach– the ultimate versatility outfit. As I write this, from the feet up: weathered suede black Merrells –sp? a wrap around coffee stained black brace on the right leg, an ace wrap on the left knee, which is getting tired of doing the work of both legs; a pair of cut off sweat pants, under which on a cold day I wear leggings or capris to “layer”– a navy man’s t-shirt of two that I bought for their cotton durability and trenchant bagginess– hiding the proverbial multitude of sins– and under the shirt, one of three stretched out tank tops that I like to think hide the effects of aging and excess…. you asked! Somewhere in here, within this homely antithesis of couture, dwells a writer. Oh yes, and the ultimate fashion statement; for years, I have worn my reading glasses on my head and have mastered Jack Nicholson’s trick in As Good As It Gets: wrinkling my forehead whereupon they come right down to be put to use…. x j,

  5. Freelancing has meant that my dry cleaning bills have gone down significantly. Now I only break out the suit and hose if I have a luncheon or conference to attend. The rest of the time it’s jeans – or pj pants!


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