Dressing for Success: Inside the Writer’s Wardrobe

Karly White Humor

“Just let the wardrobe do the acting.”

—Jack Nicholson

Dear writer, now that we’ve taught you how to drink on the job, it’s time to address an even more serious issue: How does a writer dress? Can you pick up some sweats while grabbing your wine at Wal-Mart? Are ties too much of a choking hazard if you’re working with a typewriter? Can you repeat outfits if only your cat sees you every day?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

The Classics

When you imagine a writer, I can almost guarantee you picture something like Johnny Depp in Secret Window: shaggy hair, unkempt beard, reading glasses, and, of course, pajamas with a terry cloth robe thrown over to complete the look. It’s a classic ensemble. But just how many writers actually don this lackadaisical uniform?

Well, that depends. What’s this writer’s current project?

Many of the most famous writers of all time have had distinctive looks. Who can forget Lord Byron’s dandy velvets and furs? Ernest Hemingway’s unbuttoned collars and rolled-up sleeves? Zora Neale Hurston’s jaunty hats? The Brontës’ plain black dresses and despairing eyes? In fact, some writers are inseparable from their off-the-page styles, and cultivating a look can be as important in the Instagram age as cultivating a distinctive voice.

Cultivating a look can be as important in the Instagram age as cultivating a distinctive voice. Click To Tweet

Are you a recent college grad looking to explore the pathos of the human psyche? You can’t go wrong with a hat. Not just any hat, though. The best hats for this are wide-brimmed fedoras or porkpies, vintage if you can find it. For male writers, this look pairs best with a beard.

If you’re working on the next great American novel, you can’t go wrong with the classics: blue jeans and flannel. Pair with cowboy boots only if you are thinking about expanding into westerns. Never add a hat to this ensemble.

What about nonfiction? Do you write soul-searching memoirs or explore the personalities of the long dead? Patches, meet elbows. Pick thick glasses, no rims. Morose looks are a plus.

The Modern

Are you an up-and-coming social media personality with a regular blogging schedule? If you’re a girl, the choice might be obvious: yoga pants. Obviously, you don’t use the same yoga pants you’d use for actual yoga practice. Ideally, these should be brand-new and color coordinated to your top. Numerous outfit-of-the-day selfies are practically a must. If you’re a guy, you unfortunately don’t have as many comfortable options—a button-up shirt and tie are still the norm for serious bloggers. At least you get pockets.

Becoming the writer you aspire to be starts with dressing for the part; clothes make the writer. #styletips #writingtips Click To Tweet

What about technical work? Well, we all know technical writers don’t see the light of day and thus, comfort is king. You can just wear pajamas. Or yoga pants (ones you can actually do yoga in). Just remember to change into something presentable on the top half if you have to Skype with colleagues.

The Genre Writer

Male genre writers working in sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and the like: grow out your beards. A vast, luxurious beard distracts from your obvious lack of style (think Patrick Rothfuss); an unkempt hairstyle can accomplish the same. For women writers in this genre, it literally doesn’t matter. You’re invisible! Embrace it! Use it to your advantage!

You can wear pajamas, as long as you wear something presentable on the top half if you have to Skype with colleagues. #styletips #writingtips Click To Tweet

Romance writers more or less dress like the characters in their books. Silk shirts with minimal buttons or corsets are suggested, but if you prefer a more niche romance (say, cowboys or dinosaurs), feel free to shake things up. Chick lit is more twee—think off-brand knockoffs of designer looks and meticulously styled hair that you spend most of your writing morning on. This works for both males and females.

The Academic

For academics, your usual wardrobe is similar to that of the nonfiction writer, but it’s best to combine with the facial hair of a speculative fiction writer. You can even add a hat if you’re so inclined (think Oxford schoolboy, not Yankees fan). Feel free to experiment and mix and match styles, depending on your latest project. Chances are, you’ll be so busy with your thesis, you won’t remember what you’re wearing anyway. (Just remember: you must put on pants to go outside.)

Hopefully, this list can provide options as you begin your literary journey. As they say, you have to dress for the job you want. Becoming the writer you aspire to be starts with dressing for the part. After all, clothes make the writer.

If your writing could use a style boost, we can help. Contact the Scribe Source today.

About the Author

Karly is a writer and editor with a keen instinct for the way text should sound, no doubt a result of her daily consumption of everything from The New York Times to C. S. Lewis’s novels to her son’s Dr. Seuss books. She has been a part of the Scribe Source team since 2014.