Dressing the part: Fashion for women writers

A Roman woman writer, Terentia or Terenzia. She wears the gold hairnet common to the Imperial Period in Pompeii. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A Roman woman writer, Terentia or Terenzia. She wears the gold hairnet common to the Imperial Period in Pompeii.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This post is a bit of fun. Many women – myself included – love clothes and deciding what image we’re going to portray with our dress style. So today’s post is all about the fashions of historical and modern writers in different countries and genres.

Even Jane Austen loved talking about the latest fashions when she wasn’t writing. She once wrote to her sister, “My cloak came on Tuesday, and, though I expected a good deal, the beauty of the lace astonished me. It is too handsome to be worn — almost too handsome to be looked at.”

Today’s post is mainly for women, but if you’re interested, I can post a version for the gents later on!

Does any of this actually matter?

There’s a serious side to fashion.

Let’s say it’s time to finish writing your book. If you feel creative wearing certain clothes, wear them every time you write and you’ll write more often and with more energy!

Then it’s time to promote the book. If you know that you are wearing something that makes you look your best, you’ll feel more confident and find it easier to talk about your creative work with others. If you have a great profile photo, you won’t hesitate to get in touch with someone on LinkedIn. When you’re at a writer’s festival and you have a two-minute chance to chat with a publisher in an elevator after a session, you’ll speak with confidence knowing you look and feel your best, your most creative, your most “writerly”.

Writers come in all shapes and sizes, so ultimately you should choose whatever you feel most confident and creative in (thanks, Modern Mrs Darcy) as your “writer” outfit. But here are some ideas if you’ve never thought about dressing like a writer before…

How about some inspiration from historical women writers who paved the way for you?

(These lovely lady authors are listed in chronological order, or as near as I could make it.)

First up, our heroic women writers from the 1700s to 1800s:

Jane Austen, novelist

Jane Austen. Image source: PA via Huffington Post

The lace, the frills! Image source: PA via Huffington Post

Charlotte Bronte, novelist

Charlotte Bronte. Portrait by George Richmond

The ribbon… Portrait by George Richmond

Louisa May Alcott, novelist

Louisa May Alcott. Love those sleeves, and the high neckline. Pretty and modest. Image source: Seeds of Success

Love those sleeves, and the high neckline. Pretty and modest. Image source: Seeds of Success

The 1900s, a time of change:

Virginia Woolf, novelist and short fiction writer

Virginia Woolf. When she was younger, the white lace was in trend. Image source: Platinum print taken by George Charles Beresford, 1902, courtesy of Hulton Archive and Getty Images

When she was younger, the white lace was in trend. Image source: Platinum print taken by George Charles Beresford, 1902, courtesy of Hulton Archive and Getty Images

Virginia Woolf. When she was older – the black against those pearls! Image source: E-Verse Radio

When she was older – the black against those pearls! Image source: E-Verse Radio

Simone de Beauvoir, memoirist

Simone de Beauvoir. The big, loud jewellery. Image source: Info-Escola

The big, loud jewellery. Image source: Info-Escola

Simone de Beauvoir. She loves her scarves and so do I! Image source: Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson et Magnum, Paris, France, 1945

She loves her scarves and so do I! Image source: Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson et Magnum, Paris, France, 1945

Simone de Beauvoir. The only fashion statement you really need … piles of books! Image source: BooksTellYouWhy

The only fashion statement you really need … piles of books! Image source: BooksTellYouWhy

Isabel Allende, novelist

Isabel Allende. She loves her scarves, too. Always the brightest of colours! Lovely. Image source: Potter Write

She loves her scarves, too. Always the brightest of colours! Love that Spanish vivacity. Image source: Potter Write

Ursula K Le Guin, science fiction / fantasy novelist

Ursula K Le Guin. Le Guin sticks to very traditional colours, grey, black, and white. Image source: Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch, from UKLG's official website

Le Guin sticks to very traditional colours, grey, black, and white. Image source: Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch, from UKLG’s official website

Ursula K Le Guin. Women are allowed to wear slacks now! A younger Le Guin, but same style, same colours. Image source: Fantasy Book Review

A younger Le Guin, but same style, same colours. Image source: Fantasy Book Review

The 2000s, a new millennium:

J.K. Rowling, fantasy novelist

JK Rowling. The picture of modern glamour. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a millionaire to achieve the same look. Image source: Harry Potter Wikia

The picture of modern glamour. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a millionaire to achieve the same look. Image source: Harry Potter Wikia

Elizabeth Gilbert, memoirist

Liz Gilbert. Alive with creative ideas, but she doesn’t let her clothing steal the attention away from what she’s saying. Image source: TED

Alive with creative ideas, but she doesn’t let her clothing steal the attention away from what she’s saying. Image source: TED

Liz Gilbert. A more mellow version, just as creative-looking. Image source: Culturosity

A more mellow version, just as creative-looking. Image source: Culturosity

Christiane Amanpour, world-renowned journalist

Christiane Amanpour. A practical option for the foxholes of Afghanistan. Image source: The Telegraph UK

A practical option for the foxholes of Afghanistan. Image source: The Telegraph UK

Christiane Amanpour. Beautiful and professional in the newsroom. Image source: ABC News

Beautiful and professional in the newsroom. Image source: ABC News

Debbie Ohi, blogger and illustrator of Inkygirl and Will Write for Chocolate webcomic for writers

Debbie Ohi. A role model for those looking for an ultra-comfy fashion option. Image source: BlogTO

A role model for those looking for an ultra-comfy fashion option. Image source: BlogTO

Pim Techamuanvivit, Chez Pim food blogger

Chez Pim. Make a signature colour your own. Image source: Chez Pim ‘About’

Make a signature colour your own. Image source: Chez Pim ‘About’

Chez Pim. Dress to the nines whenever not in the kitchen. Image source: Twitter

Dress to the nines whenever not in the kitchen. Image source: Twitter

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman food blogger for cowgirls and cowboys

Ree Drummond. Ree always dresses the part for her specific role, the cowgirl / pioneer woman. Image source: A Year With Julia

Ree always dresses the part for her specific role, the cowgirl / pioneer woman. Image source: A Year With Julia

TJ Withers-Ryan, editor and copywriter, blogger

TJ Withers-Ryan. Whether working or writing, I dress from historical inspiration along modern lines. I had to rely on my webcam to take this shot so please forgive the graininess!

Whether working or writing, I dress from historical inspiration along modern lines. I had to rely on my webcam for this shot so please forgive the graininess!

One last thing! A new inspiring outfit doesn’t have to cost a fortune. My entire outfit above including shoes and watch cost less than $70 AU.

What’s your favourite writing outfit?

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2015. Re-blogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

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