A Novel Idea

Dressed to Quill

Posted on: July 2, 2010

I have been writing full time now for two and a half months and seem to have established a uniform. No, I’m not talking about my multicolour flannel pyjamas and comfy terry toweling robe. Although I must confess I am sitting here in my Ugg boots (the most comfortable and the ugliest footwear I own).

No, my winter writing uniform has a lot in common with the ‘House wife/husband at the shops’ look. It consists of slate grey track suit pants, a long sleeved t-shirt, a woolen jumper, a polar fleece jacket, covered by a woolen thigh length coat with the biggest buttons you’ve ever seen. I’m typing in cut-off woolen gloves despite the little column heater pumping its guts out next to me. I’m more bird-woman from Mary Poppins than Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City right now.

I am comfortable. I am productive.

You wouldn’t believe that I gleefully pour over my monthly subscription to Vogue magazine though.

I am concerned that I risk becoming labelled with the F-word.

That’s right: FRUMPY.

It really is an insult I hope to duck my entire life.

I’ve started to wonder if Connor finds me any less attractive now that he’s coming home to a fleece-clad woman rather than a sexy sophisticated business manager.

Let me be clear, I have absolutely no evidence to support this. Except…

Except last night.

Yesterday I dolled myself up to attend a play in support of a new actress who I grew up with. I even put on make-up (I forgot the lipee though and my wallet – I seem to be turning into an absent minded creative).

Upon seeing me in my finery Connor suggested we go out to dinner rather than eating the leftovers we had planned – what a treat!

It was fun and so spontaneous. The food was great too.

But I couldn’t help wondering: am I doing our relationship a disservice by dressing to quill rather than to thrill?

Fellow feminists in the audience – resume your seats – I’ll never be the good little 1950s house wife.

Further, if my clothes are bland (they’re not actually – they’re good quality but the most comfortable tend to be the most basic), will it infect my writing with a kind of drabness?

Do I need to look like a Lorrikeet to write colourfully?

Picture courtesy of: http://nrpg.org.au/page/Newsletters.aspx

Total aside: I loved the touch of the Jenny Kee jumpers in the hiliarious series Kath and Kim on Australian ABC TV. Great example of clothing reinforcing characterization.

A quote from a great writer on the subject of clothing:

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art. 

~Oscar Wilde

A quote from a great mind:

If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies…. It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it. 

~Albert Einstein

While I agree that substance should trump style, I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive.

When I dress well, I do feel better about myself. Does that translate into writing better? I think I shall have to experiment.

Do you have a writing uniform?

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

92 Responses to "Dressed to Quill"

Writing uniform: anything close to pajamas makes me feel like i’m home with the flu, like in grade school (this is why i sleep in semi-clothes and never drink 7-Up). guess my uniform would be baggy jeans and a comfy t-shirt. and, no, i’d say how you dress doesn’t affect your writing since writers are even more colorful on the inside.

[…] I have been writing full time now for two and a half months and seem to have established a uniform. No, I'm not talking about my multicolour flannel pyjamas and comfy terry toweling robe. Although I must confess I am sitting here in my Ugg boots (the most comfortable and the ugliest footwear I own). No, my winter writing uniform has a lot in common with the 'House wife/husband at the shops' look. It consists of slate grey track suit pants, a long … Read More […]

Great article. I also LOVE the Rainbow Lorrikeet as an example of flamboyance and beauty 🙂

It’s a truly beautiful bird.

Thanks. So many beautiful birds in the world, but Australia has some of the most interesting IMHO.

Seeing as I have four budgies, I’d have to agree with that!

I love comfy sweatpants and a teeshirt for writing. it helps me focus on the writing and nothing else!

While I will say that you shouldn’t have to dress nice for anyone to notice you or make you feel relevant, it does make you feel more confident. When you project more confidence people tend to respond. I understand it’s ridiculous for men to expect their women to look done up every single day, but it is nice to see from time to time, mainly because you have an aura of confidence which makes you even more appealing. When my girlfriend is wearing a t-shirt and jeans she is comfortable but she will even say she feels “frumpy” which is completely displayed on her face and actions. When she is dressed up I see a total change in her demeanor and her smile is even brighter. That’s why I love it. But, I make sure to tell her that I want her to be comfortably beautiful, it’s up to her to decide what makes her feel comfortable and beautiful. I know it’s my job to compliment her no matter what. 🙂


Good on you Raul.

I have to agree. I am guilty of that and while I can go to work in jeans and a t-shirt I make sure that I try and look a little nicer at least once a week when I go out with my boyfriend. He has said he’s noticed a change in my demeanor, and while he likes me even in my jeans and a t-shirt I can notice he’s extra surprised when I put something a little nicer on.

write colorfully which always helps

Not so sure sitting around in lingerie promotes better writing 🙂


Oh goodness I think how you dress doesn’t effect your writing. The way you dress could effect your mood while writing possibly. I write while I’m at work, mostly because it’s convenient; but I also enjoy writing while I’m still laying in bed.

There are people who when they dress professionally go into a different thinking mode and mood. But when they go back to relaxed clothes, they are more inclined to enjoy writing in comfort.

It would be a neat experiment though. Have fun!

Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

I don’t have a writing uniform, except that I’ve never tried ‘dressing to thrill’ when sitting down to write. Inspirations frequently hit me late at night or early morning, and I write in my jammies.

Being comfortable when writing is my main objective, and casual clothes or jammies fit the description best for me.


Thank you! It’s so great to feel connected to wonderful people around the world…

I adore the pic of the colourful parrot! Uniform? Whatever i have on when the feeling strikes me…and i usually have PJs. I can write anywhere, anytime, and what I’m wearing doesn’t matter. Dress your quill for better results. Have fun with your passion. http://maydelory.wordpress.com/category/romance/ Thanks and best of luck!

I don’t have a writing uniform but I do have a writing buddy. He’s my Indian Ringneck parrot. He chirps and chats as I write. I notice he gets a bit sullen on days I don’t write. I get a bit sullen too. When writing is in your blood, you have to keep it flowing!

Does he fly freely around your house?

I think you’re right. I liked the quote by Oscar Wilde.

Honestly it’s important to me how I am dressed. On the one hand it depends on my mood how I dress myself but on the other hand my clothes are controling my mood. 🙂

Great post. My writing uniform is usually Batman boxers and a comfy t-shirt in the summer, and anything fluffy, fuzzy, and heat-holding during the winter. That’s something to explore though, writing when dressed decently. I’ve never tried it. =P


I enjoyed your article and your writing uniform. I just starting writing about two months ago also and I find that I am the most creative when I get out of bed in the morning.

I write in my old gown and robe until I get dressed somewhere aroung 12 noon. Yes, mine is “furmpy.”

My relationship with my husband is still fine. He remedy is to go to the golf couse for a couple of hours. When he returns, I have changed into a decent looking woman complete with makeup.

Keep writing. I enjoyed the humor also.

Sandra Van Asch
“Where’s God In All Of This?” is the title of my blog.

Sorry for the misspelled words. Hum! how does one edit what they wrote on a comment?

Sandra V.

Thanks Sandra. Best wishes with your writing.

I just love their bright colors, it’s so full of life and very eye catching. what kind of bird is this by the way?

This is a Rainbow Lorikeet. We’re blessed with them here in Australia.

Very interesting post.
I’m inclined to feel that it might not necessarily be what it is that you are wearing, but what it is that you are feeling when you are wearing something (or nothing?).
It might be that when you are wearing your greys you are feeling more drab and when you are wearing your finer clothes, you are feeling more creative.
Might I suggest that when you sit down to your computer, in your greys, close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine yourself dressed to the nines. I mean really FEEL into that feeling that you have when you’re fancily dressed.
My guess is that you might find yourself being just as creative wearing greys as you would be reds and yellows. 😉

With Love and Gratitude,

The Intentional Sage

You write well, I like your post.
I, too, have slipped into frumption as I’m working from home now after many years in the corporate world. And I see it as a perk of the job.
I am ‘What Not To Wear’.
(I also have pet rainbow lorikeets that show me up.)

Thanks Liz. Are the birds house guests or window shoppers?

The sad thing is that sex sells. Sometimes the outside is better than the substance that is inside the wrapper. Sometimes you get flashback of the Black Sheep because sometimes things look better from across the room. I love the advice at the end “Write well. Write often. I see how some people write and I fall in love with the way they so elegantly deliver their ideas. Hopefully I’ll be able to do the same. Matter of fact hopefully I can half way do the same. I will put forth the effort. This article was cool! thetruthisextant.wordpress.com
God bless!

Best wishes with your writing Alex.

I really like your post, and it really got me thinking about my ‘uniform’ and how I think about myself. I think it can affect how a person writes, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re feeling frumpry, do what I do – get a change of scenery. Thank you for all your hard work.

My pleasure 🙂

I think that it’s what in your head that effects your writing, not what you’re wearing. So try telling yourself that you look good, even though you are wearing a pair of fuzzy pj’s, and then see if it helps.
And no, I do not have a writing uniform. But I tend to get distracted when I have my hair down (I start twirling it).
Also, when you get frumpy, eat a Christmas cookie! It makes you feel better.

“When I dress well, I do feel better about myself. Does that translate into writing better? I think I shall have to experiment.”

If you like it, I love it. I, however, dress up. It’s just my style. Is my creation better than yours because I’m comfortable dressed up and you’re comfortable dressed your way? No! We are both writing, and that is the real issue.

Lol good post, but can Quill really be used as an intransitive verb… I thought it was just a noun!
(not that I don’t like the odd neologism!) 🙂

Hello tomcat. Yes, was waiting for a grammarian to comment 😉 I like using words as verbs that most people only think of as nouns.

Great writing! I like to be comfy when writing….shorts, tank tops or sweats and a t-shirt. You posed really good questions, one’s I must experiment with myself. Although, I find that with most things I do, the more comfy the better.:)

Your uniform sounds a lot like my uniform. But is there anything in world more comfortable? I think not.
I’m with Albert on this one.
I intend to put it to the test later, but I doubt I’ll be able to write anything profound wearing a slinky dress and heels. Now, if I owned a Jenny Kee I might just produce something spectacular.

women are built for comfort i think ….. go with what ever pleases you … dags days are cool ….. im always back into my winter pjs as soon as i collect the kids from school lol lol love it … makes me feel comfy and relaxed . rather than trompin thru the house with heeled boots on … lol love your writing mate xxx

Yes, feeling better DOES translate to writing better, absolutely, so you go girl- wear what you want!! :o)

I have “writing uniforms”; in summer I stay all day in my nightgown – silky pretty little numbers – love them. In winter my house is cold so I tend to add on during the day – joining you as the bird-lady in Mary Poppins. (Nothing neither silky or pretty about that) Might add that I still never feel warm.
I love clothes, fashion and style – I love making up new outfits and having fun with clothes, but what’s the point when I am only around the house? When I go out (even for shopping) I tend to go a little over the top just for the pleasure of finally dressing!
Like your blog, stay comfortable and creative 🙂
Visit me: http://annadannfelt.com

[…] dejar un comentario » I have been writing full time now for two and a half months and seem to have established a uniform. No, I'm not talking about my multicolour flannel pyjamas and comfy terry toweling robe. Although I must confess I am sitting here in my Ugg boots (the most comfortable and the ugliest footwear I own). No, my winter writing uniform has a lot in common with the 'House wife/husband at the shops' look. It consists of slate grey track suit pants, a long … Read More […]

Yes – flannel nightgowns. In the neighborhood, I am called “Florence Nightengown.” I do get dressed during the day after early AM attempts at writing.

I have been slow and stilted out of the writing gate. It is not at all how I usually write. I am self-conscious and have lost my humor – the best part of my writing.

I like to write about current events and that dominates the blog. But creative writing is emerging. At the moment I could wish it could go back in its hole.

I’m sure your humour is still there. Watch some Monty Python or whatever you enjoy. Not much that feels better than a belly laugh 🙂

Since I live in a different hemisphere, my current writing outfit is more likely to be my favorite beach caftan, with my islander sliders on my feet. Or maybe my plaid Bermuda shorts and a tank top.

I don’t think our ‘muse’ or our readers worry about what we’re wearing. We can’t let it become just one more distraction that keeps us from doing what we’re supposed to be doing… putting words on paper — er,– on the screen, — er, on the blog, — er, well, you get the idea!

Keep writing and blogging!.

P.S. Kath and Kim didn’t do so well in the US. Sorry…

Thanks. Australian humour is a bit unusual.

I like to write about current events and that dominates the blog. But creative writing is emerging. At the moment I could wish it could go back in its hole.


Congrats on being on Freshly Pressed. What can I say, you have to be comfortable to write, I honestly don’t think it matters if you dressed like Sarah Jessica Parker and sat in front of your computer. (though that might be a fun experiment to try) However, if you’re feeling frumpy, that may affect your mood, and if your mood plummets, then that may possibly affect how you write.

I feel out of place when I don’t wear EVERY color of the rainbow… Matching is for conformists 😛

I loved your post but it was the Lorrikeet that drew me in. I like to dress up for deep house cleaning. That made me wonder if dressing for writing might actually be important. I am a writer and a visual artist. I definitely have painting clothes. I don’t mean a smock and beret…I have specific clothes that signal a day of creativity.

But I wonder if writing needs a quieter “uniform”…something that is flannel…house camouflage…something that allows the mind/creativity to move easily between dream and idea…clothing that is more like a smooth rock for the story to flow over rather than a megaphone with feedback to shout through.

I do think writing needs the vessel to be as unobtrusive as is possible now that I think about it. Thanks for jarring these ideas into my conscious thought.

As far as dinner dates…Yes…the Lorrikeet look is preferred.

You’re welcome. Love ‘house camouflage’ 🙂

I used to have a writing uniform: pyjamas. Essays, creative pieces, blogs. They were all relegated to a time I could be comfortable and in comfy clothes. However, working regularly and trying not to be down to the wire on my own deadlines, I’ve begun writing during the day. It’s been an interesting experience, seeing the differences and similarities.

Writing? Ha, I write in whatever I’m wearing. I’ll write in the library in my school clothes. I’ll write in my bedroom in a sun dress and a dressing gown (like I am now). I’ll write in the garden in a pair of mini shorts and a vest. Yup. Anything.

All the best writing is done in a state of dishabille.
Mind you, it sounds a bit cold where you are – cuddle up to a hot-water bottle and the Muse will call!

Barry I’m a bit of a wuz really. Australian winters are pretty mild.

We should be sending you photos for a “what writers wear” fashion piece – but I think it might be a bit embarrassing to see us in our sartorial states!

PS (bare feet, threadbare cargo pants, paint-flecked T-shirt, and two-day stubble. I’m the only person I know that looks like a homeless person in their own home.)

I wear the hugest, blulkiest, greenest woolen sweater i own when i write/do typing work in the winter, so i completely understand.
I’m sure your husband understands your creative side and your need for comfort and warmth. And I’m sure your writing won’t turn bland like your sweaters.
I do find that its fun to get all dressed up some afternoons even when I’m not going anywhere. I do my hair and wear my best dress and then cook dinner and eat while watching shows on the BBC. So I think you should remember that all women like to feel pretty even if they don’t have anyone to see them.

Sorry for the long rambler! Best of luck 🙂

I think it speaks to the writing when you fall into bed after a long day at your desk and then wake up and get right back at it without even scraping the drool from your cheek (let alone changing out of whatever grubby thing you’ve been wearing for however long.) That’s some good juicy writing! But it’s not pretty. Still, I have a big pair of electric blue butterfly wings strapped to my desk chair so at least I’m wearing something fabulous. One spring, while editing a novel, I decided to dress in soft tees & flouncy minis (all the better to see the desk-eye view of my knees. I loved it and swore I’d do it next time a new project came around but luckily the writing was too good and I ended up in my Dad’s old white hanes which I’ve stained from countless days at my desk.

I can totally relate to your post. Most days I wear track suit pants and a jumper (basically my gym gear). I don’t think it affects my creativity in any way (I’m a designer). In fact, I’m very productive and I save a lot of time not having to dress up and put on make up everyday. But I do notice that when I do myself up my husband gets more excited to see me!

How could you possibly miss the significance of being asked out to dinner because you had gotten ‘gussied up” (we used to call it)? Doesn’t that tell you something?

I’m ashamed that ’50’s women should be put down for being feminine. We looked GOOD and we made our husbands proud.

Writing or not, I’ve always preferred being dressed for comfort. Which usually makes me look like a bit of a tramp amongst my friends, but I’ve come to enjoy my (um) simplicity, for the lack of a better word. After all, every group needs at least one person who wears the I-don’t-care look! I always have and always will vote for comfort (something a lot of people I know are very unhappy about).

Great post!


Mood boosters are varied. Each of us might have different mood booster, in this case writing mood.
It’s all up to personal how one makes oneself feel confident in writing. If, say, one has more ideas flow like a river when wearing crumpled T-shirts, go ahead.
As long as one knows how to behave, hehe.Unique post! I like it

I personally don’t think writing should have much to do with what you wear. I don’t write very consistently–I only do it when I have a sudden influx of inspirations or ideas, or when my environment just feels right. Writing is an illustration of the mind.
Your husband probably understands some of the neccessities writers need in order to have complete balance for the mind to think.
Just don’t overwrite. When I did nanowrimo, I had great ideas at the beginning, but writing constantly each day seemed to take the energy out of each word, until I was dragging.
But good luck~

You must feel comfortable. But make your space beautiful even if your outfit isn’t. Personally I can’t understand why we don’t all wear tracksuits all the time. I don’t know how people think in tight clothes!

Nice one… Quill? 🙂

Nice post. Cute…

I LOVED this post! Maybe the right balance is the uniform (to provide comfort for productive writing hours) with brushed hair and lip gloss (to lessen the frump)…that’s a compromise, right? Helps the writing, keeps the fire burning with the marriage. 🙂

[…] I have been writing full time now for two and a half months and seem to have established a uniform. No, I'm not talking about my multicolour flannel pyjamas and comfy terry toweling robe. Although I must confess I am sitting here in my Ugg boots (the most comfortable and the ugliest footwear I own). No, my winter writing uniform has a lot in common with the 'House wife/husband at the shops' look. It consists of slate grey track suit pants, a long … Read More […]

“Dressed to quill.” Love that. The Einstein quote too.

I wear jeans and t-shirts when I write and do my photography. If I were dressed up it would be a distraction, because I wouldn’t be comfortable.
I try to look decent when I go out. The world is getting a lot more casual and I’m conflicted about that. I love comfort, but going to the opera in jeans just doesn’t cut it for me.

Congrats on making “Freshly Pressed,” by the way. It’s a real kick, isn’t it?

Great title for your post! Did you dare say the word “Frumpy”?? Turn away, turn back, don’t go to the frump side. It’s not too late.

That being said, I’m a big fat hypocrite because I love writing in my pajamas. Cold cream on my face, an ice pack on my head from the excessive vodka sodas.

But we must do what we must do!

Dressed to Quill: Hey, If you two have been married for long, you will realize he won’t always see you dolled up! But dressing up like a business woman ever once in awhile will make it special. Age never effects your marriage in bad way. Not if you truly love each other, you will love each other no matter how good (or bad) you look. NICE ARTICLE

I live in New Zealand – I am a wimp about winters (a California native, Hawaii destined dreamer), my writing outfit:
PINK ugg boots
sweat pants
layered shirts
my hair coiled on top of my head and speared with a pen
but I try and keep my fingernails painted, to inspire their ‘tappity tap’ on the keyboard

Ah Pink Ugg boots – stylin’ 🙂

Ah winter in Australia….I am the same….give me comfort clothes! Mr. Big will just have to wait to see the skimpy clothing! Great post love! http://loveittoday.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/what-i-love-today-my-fugly-winter-jumper/


Well, maybe I have the wrong image – but I always thought typing in fingerless gloves was kind of romantic. E.g. I’m so dedicated to my art I forgot to (couldn’t) pay the gas bill and am now bundled up in a rug and living on dried ingredients from my cupboard (such as split peas). Only every so often I get wonderfully dressed up (as you describe – only don’t forget the lippy) and swan about at art openings (or plays) stuffing camembert into my capacious pockets for later.
(This is all much better left in the realm of fiction maybe … ).

At least you have the courage to write.

I miss cheese (good cheese). Once I’m making some money from my writing, some washed rind is definitely getting a run.

I’ve been writing full-time for about 9 months and today is the first day I gave in to wearing a tracksuit all day. I just felt like being comfy. Mind you, there have been many days when I’ve thought, “Why bother?” but then made myself dress nicely anyway. Just in case (“nice” being jeans & a top without holes in it).
On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter what mood I’m in when I get dressed – it changes when I get to my novel anyway.
Try wearing a short skirt and stilettos tomorrow and see if it makes a difference 🙂

Of course, Thoreau distrusted any enterprise that required new clothes. I guess you can put as much stock in that opinion as you might into Thoreau’s writing, however. 🙂

I love the title of this post, by the way.

I keep coming back to read this post. love it.

Most of the time I’m in my comfy clothes, no makeup because I work from home. On occasion I dress up, put on make up and it’s nice to look pretty. I don’t think it matters what you look like when you write because the ideas come from that beautiful place inside of yourself. My hubby and I have been together for 20 yrs. and he still looks at me like the tasty morsel he fell in love with way back when, although those times that I do dress up he is noticably salivating. My motto: wear what you feel like today. Tomorrow is another story. I love your quotes BTW.

Great post.I’m enjoy to read.Thank you.

Good post.It’s so cute.

Hi V 🙂 I really enjoyed your post.

I don’t have any particular writing uniform but anything comfortable works for me. 🙂




I’m guilty…I usually wear all black and let my personalty, words, character and voice rise with vibrant hues. I’m threatened daily that my friends and family are going to call “What not to wear” and tell them to sweep me off to NY and burn my black wardrobe! I’m a person of pattern and black fits me…it’s casual, it’s classy…it’s clean, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s hostile…it’s the perfect frame for my body and life to add drastic contrast to all the other colorful this and that’s that I put out there…great post and I loved reading the comments!

I wear whatever feels comfortable, but I can’t work in pajamas..somehow being dressed like I am ready for bed makes me want to relax not work. Whatever I chose to wear, the must have accessory is always a cup of hot coffee.

*looks down at black pj’s with tigger from winnie the pooh on and the words ‘Cheeky lil’ devil’. Follows the trail up to the over sized jersey and loose, wild hair*
Ah… Writing uniform? Mine’s on order.
I doubt your writing is becoming bland ma’am, rather see it as comfortable and productive. And as for dressing up, dressing down just highlights the times that we do dress up – making it more fun.
Happy writing!

I loved the post, I am newbie to the bloggy wog wog thingy too. Can’t say I have a writing uniform though, it tends to be more of the S-Word – scruffy. And also a bit of the F-Word too!

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  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.
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