Does The Wardrobe Make The Writer?

Photo purchased from Shutterstock by KL

A recently published book, Legendary Idols And The Clothes They Wore, by fashion journalist Terry Newman, is replete with stories about famous authors who are known for their trademark fashion styles. Newman argues that there is a close connection between a writer’s wardrobe and his or her writing persona.

For example, James Joyce, Mark Twain, and Tom Wolfe all favored variations on southern style white suits; Fran Lebowitz is famous for wearing men’s clothing;  Jacqueline Susann donned modish prints and styled her hair in a bouffant sixties flip when she became famous for writing glamorous Hollywood characters.

Sylvia Plath, on the other hand, used her wardrobe choices as protective camouflage.

“(Plath) wore precise, neat and prettily prim 1950s twinsets and print dresses that worked as a shield for her psyche,” writes Newman in her book.

Joyce Carol Oates “predated geek chic by decades” in the 80’s by wearing oversized, wiry glasses, Newman writes. Nowadays the glasses are scaled down somewhat, but they remain an important element in the author’s quirky-but-cool style. As an emerging author in the mid-80’s Brett Easton Ellis wore suits and favored “low end Hugo Boss” for nights on the town.

Question for our writer/readers: do you have a signature sartorial style? Does your personal style reflect or resonate with the characters you write?





22 thoughts on “Does The Wardrobe Make The Writer?

  1. At SleuthFest a year ago, I was on several panels where I wore my cowboy boots and hat since I was talking about my new Triple-D Ranch series. The next day, I was merely an “audience” person, so I left the hat in my room. I passed Neil Nyren, major publishing bigwig, in the lobby, and he said, “Terry, where’s your hat?” (First, I was astounded and flattered that he remembered my name.) I told him I’d left it upstairs, and he told me to go back and get it. “It’s your brand.” So I did.

    (I felt a little strange, though, because guest of honor was CJ Box, and I didn’t want people to think I was copying his trademark.)

  2. Robert Crais & his Hawaiian shirts come to mind. When he spun off his character Joe Pike, his avid fans would come to his signings wearing Joe’s signature sunglasses & some even faked Joe’s arrow tattoo.

    Never forget the power of your character’s brand either.

  3. Interesting question I’ve never even though about, for myself or anybody else. My clothing choices & my writing definitely don’t match. If you went by what you saw me wearing, you would either think I wrote modern sagas about gym rats and physical therapists or nurses (summer time it’s big baggy T-shirts and coach shorts, winter it’s big baggy T-shirts and multi-pocket scrub pants).

    Now what you would EXPECT me to wear based on what I write are jeans and cowboy boots–two things I don’t find especially comfortable to wear, especially cowboy boots. Maybe I’ve just never had a good pair, I don’t know. I even have a drover coat and cowboy hat, but they stay boxed up, never used since my years ago trip to a working cattle ranch.

    I call my style “imminently comfortable.”

    But I fear when I become known for my books they’ll be saying “There goes that author with no sense of style.” ROTFL!!!!!! 😎 😎 😎

  4. My writing attire consists of pj’s until around one and then I trade them for workout clothes or a bathing suit. I would hate for anyone to see me in either. 🙂

  5. My wardrobe is boring and consistent. Every day, I wear jeans and New Balance sneakers. During the summer, I wear short-sleeved polo shirts with the jeans. In the winter, I wear turtlenecks, a black peacoat, and a beret. When it’s too hot for jeans, I wear simply-cut cotton or linen dresses—with sneakers. If I’m really getting dressed up, I swap out the sneakers for Birkenstocks or black flats.

    One of my characters, an effete male graduate student, wears Birkenstocks. Otherwise, none of my characters dress like me.

  6. Hmm. My wardrobe is mostly T-shirts and jeans or sweats. My characters rarely wear that sort of clothing on the job, which is where most of their stories occur. Maybe I should wear I fedora, like one of my characters… I like fedoras, but often have a hard time keeping a hat on my head. They blow off, they fall off, and they get knocked off when I inadvertently run into walls or other people. Hmm. Maybe I should dig one out, though, and practice for awhile…

    • Rather, maybe I should wear *a* fedora. Dang. I had the comment all written out and proofed, then forgot to click the Recaptcha before I hit enter. I lost the comment, so quickly rewrote it… if there are any other typos, please consider them precaffeinated and rushed.

  7. I remember reading an article by Lee Child about how he imagined Jack Reacher and clothes were the hardest part, he said. He finally decided Reacher would buy cheap clothes on the road, wear them until they got funky then throw them away and buy another set.

    Lee said in the article he does much the same thing, esp on book tours. He wears the same outfit — jeans, white shirt and blue blazer — and buys as needed. I’ve never seen him in anything else. Wait, that’s not true. He wore a tux to the Edgars once. Reacher wouldn’t be caught dead in one, I suspect.

  8. I’m a Southern California boy through and through. I have a great collection of Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts. Add shorts or jeans and flip-flops and I’m happy. A cool Corona with a slice of lime turns happiness to delight.

    I wonder why Mike Romeo dresses that same way?

  9. A publicist told me years ago that during a signing, everyone should be able to recognize who within the crowd was the writer. My outfit has evolved to a nice shirt, jeans and a sport coat.

  10. Up to this point, all of my novels have been supernatural suspense, and a lot of people comment on how normal I look. I guess they expected goth? I rarely ever wore all black–I like all beige or soft colors. (And now, I don’t wear black near my face because it’s harsh against my skin. Probably TMI!) I used to wear only dresses or skirts at conferences and appearances. Now I go more for polished comfort–Eileen Fisher basics dressed up with scarves, or jeans with boots and a unique sweater. The other day, I was at a store and someone said, “You look like a writer.”

    As to what I wear when I write…You’ve heard of second breakfast? I have second pjs. Usually yoga pants and a tee shirt. Socks optional.

  11. Whatever it is there will be cat fur, no matter how clean, no matter how many times the sticky roller is rolled. And really cute shoes. I’m a shoe whore, and proud of it.

  12. I shelved my high heel shoes, professional attire, and hang out in casual clothes–I have a few special “comfies.” I’m happiest writing in what I call my “ratties.”

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