Writing clothes, or what to wear when you really don’t want to be distracted


Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

I am ashamed and a bit embarrassed to state I don’t have any sweatpants at the moment. I certainly don’t have a set that matches my surroundings and computer, allowing me to lounge in peaceful positions. To be fair, my surroundings when I write are anything but peaceful, scattered with pens, notebooks, reference texts, a cup of something, and the occasional chocolate item (for strengthening).

Yes, despite being a writer with my head in the clouds and definitely not in sartorial splendour, I lack this essential garment. I’m wondering if I need to invest, just to speed my writing along.

Part of why I don’t have sweats has to do with hemming – every pair of pants I own has required hemming and even with the elastic bottoms of the average sweatpants leg, the ballooning of extra material over my too short legs is distracting and potentially a tripping hazard. We won’t get into how things tangle up in my under the desk bike I use to fool myself into thinking writing is an aerobic activity. (Undoing tangles seems to be, though. That bike is heavy.)

Plus, they are expensive these days, sweatpants. And unless this book actually gives me more royalties than my first one, (Recycled Virgin, coming in at roughly $20 so far this year) (please buy a copy as winter is coming), I may have to do without. Even used ones at thrift shops are more than that and, ummm, used sweatpants conjure up images of underwear not worn…

I do have writing clothes, though. I just read this article by an author, Heidi Soyinka, who bought clothing like her characters would wear, to put her into the mood. She bought vintage clothing of all sorts as she tried to get into her characters’ heads.

It made me think about what I wear to thrash through my novel. I suppose, for me to be in the mood, I should put on a nursing uniform, one of the old ones from the Kingston General Hospital School of Nursing, the ones with the aprons and starched cuffs and collar.

I rather suspect the excellent Museum of Health Care might have something to say about me filching same from them.

And, unfortunately, I gave away my old nursing student uniforms. Maybe I could get away with my kitchen apron, just pretend the food stains weren’t on it, tie it up tight so I had the necessary chest constriction…this would help keep the chocolate stains to a minimum, I suppose…

Fortunately for my writing, I remember my nursing school uniform days, the nylon stockings that always grabbed, the uncomfortable shoes that were the cheapest available, and which squeaked unattractively and ruined my arches. My student uniform was pink and white striped, with a white bib and cuffs and it was unspeakably horrid, fitted tightly over my already too round figure. I was furious that the one male student in my year didn’t have to wear pink stripes, and got to wear a much more practical scrub suit, with no nylons to be seen.

So no, don’t want to repeat this.

I suppose I could try coughing excessively, as I am writing about Tuberculosis and a hacking cough and sore throat would bring me into the scene – but in these COVID times I feel my neighbours would report me to the health police as a vector of infection.

I could open the windows wide, as they did in the sanatoriums of the time, bringing in bracing and clear air, but it does get chilly sitting and writing, and besides, my companion birds would object. They dislike chills. Even in the slightest cross breeze they puff up and glare at me with their beady eyes. It’s disconcerting.

So I’m left with my usual not-so-glorious clothing for writing. These involve some jeans-type things (inexpertly hemmed) with elastic waists so they don’t compress, and some sort of overly loose top. These are things that I never wear out of doors as they are too disreputable for polite company – after Covid lockdowns I’ve worn the seams off some of them, and they look chewed. Could be I’ve chewed them in agony over some unexpected plot twist (characters WILL misbehave)–I can’t remember.

But something about putting them on does set me up for writing. It says, to myself and anyone who happens to come to the door, that I am not going out anywhere, that my focus is internal that day, that I don’t want to be disturbed. Add unwashed hair and anyone who doubts I am really busy would quickly grasp I didn’t want to be seen. I have frightened Amazon delivery persons on a writing day, and they are tough.

And in them, I’m comfortable enough to sink into my story, let my brain go play. That’s more difficult with fancy clothes. They distract, as I tug and rearrange them. But perhaps that’s only because I’m trying to cycle as I write?

I think, instead, I’ll turn on some music from the 1940’s to generate atmosphere – that’s easier than having to change, and the birdies even like it.

Keep an eye out for my upcoming book, Spit and Polish, expected Spring 2023.

2 thoughts on “Writing clothes, or what to wear when you really don’t want to be distracted

  1. Suzy Juneau

    Hi Dorothyanne,

    You have a wonderful way with words. I laughed and worried about the birds catching a chill. I was going to say that I don’t have sweatpants either, but my mother brought me a 3 piece outfit from Brazil, grey sweatpants, blue and red turtle neck and grey quilted vest. Quite comfy, but got much more use out of the teeny Brazilian string bikini she brought me with a wave design. She also brought a golden suede dress which I wear a lot. Like the idea of wearing the clothing of the book but that could get uncomfortable, corsets etc Take care of yourself and eat lots of chocolate, the cure for almost everything. Hugs, Suzy

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  2. Dolly Hei

    Dear DA ~ Love your frisky sense of humor in almost every line here. Makes me think your spirits are pretty darned good, and that’s nice to know. If you’re faking it, then you’re pretty darned good at that, too.

    For the past forty years, I think, I have chosen denim as my fabric of choice. Always in pants, sometimes in jackets and often in over shirts. Am I trying to hint at my daddy’s early persona as a Texas cowboy? Oh how I loved knowing that about his history when I was a little girl. Or do I like the boyish feel of it because I grew up with four brothers? Or just because I’m a country girl at heart, and it’s a practical, tough fabric, kinda like me.

    Anyway, thanks for the peek at your wardrobe and moods. Always happy to know more about you, my friend. Love you. DA

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