The Clothes Behind the Books: How to Dress Like a Writer


Elle Magazine knows what writers like: Long-sleeved silk blouses and exotic-skin totes.

That’s what we’ve learned from the latest issue of the fashion mag, which includes an editorial spread on how to dress like a novelist. This ideal writing ensemble, pictured below, adds up to $7,057, not including the price-upon-request Lacoste cotton pants.

Elle Magazine
For $7,000, that wardrobe better take us to Narnia. 

If you’re a writer, no doubt you already have these pieces in your closet. But what happens when your timeless trench is at the dry cleaners? What other kind of attire inspires?

The Coachella Review asked several writers of various genres to show us what they really wear when they work. Here’s what they said.

Megan Mayhew Bergman • Short story writer, novelist, essayist


My whole thing is—who has time to write?  I have toddlers and a farm. I write in my head, and in a pair of muck boots one size too big that I got off of eBay. I go from barn to desk to kitchen, circle, repeat.

Megan Mayhew Bergman
Barn couture. Animals not included.

And eating lentil chips by the woodstove in my running clothes, no make-up.

Megan Mayhew Bergman, modeling lentil chips
Modeling this season’s lentil chips.

Edan Lepucki • Novelist, short story writer


I often wear this shirt because, as you can see from the photo, it’s reversible, which means I can turn it inside out and have a whole new look.  I refuse to write in pajama pants … it’s uncivilized.

Edan Lepucki
Edan Lepucki in reversible chic.


Paul Tremblay • Novelist, short story writer


What I imagine I look like when I am writing.

Words words words
Words words words

The reality. My it-was-a-long-winter-and-I-was-finishing-up-a-horror-novel fashion: Miskatonic University sweatshirt, flannel pants, Cthulhu slippers, headphones with skulls on them, yeah.

The slippers can really make or break an outfit.
As every writer knows, the slippers can really make or break an outfit.


Tiffany Hawk • Essayist, travel writer, novelist


Maternity jeans; maternity shirt that no longer covers the bump, thus exposing stretchy panel at top of maternity jeans; laptop turned desktop, as two-year-old son and soon-to-arrive-daughter have completely hijacked my diminishing lap. Must-have accessories generally include splotches of apple sauce, peanut butter, playdough, poop, and on special occasions—barf.

Tiffany Hawk in the latest from a very young designer.
Tiffany Hawk donning the latest in youthful accessories — a toddler.


Andrea Seigel • Screenwriter, novelist


Modeling my novelist clothes at my actual “desk” while working.

Andrea Seigel
Plum pants and a tank: Andrea Seigel in repose.


Elizabeth Crane • Novelist, short story writer


Key Item: Vintage cardigan.

Wardrobe musts: Jeans.

Clockwise from top left: Pink Ann Taylor cardigan, Salvation Army, Chicago, $3. Floral Darlene Cardigan, eBay, $25. Floral Darlene cardigan, some vintage or thrift store in Chicago, I can’t be expected to remember, I have 44 of them. Floral top with raggedy bottom that was probably once a dress, Buffalo Exchange, Chicago, $8. Homemade flower crown, materials maybe $8 from Michael’s. Same Old Navy skinny jeans every day, $15 or $20. Anthropologie bag from a couple seasons ago, $180? Dirty raincoat that can’t really be cleaned because it’s waxed or something, Specks and Keepings, $350.00. Grandmother’s pocketwatch necklace. Gap long-sleeve t-shirt from Out of the Closet, Brooklyn, $6.99. RAWK t-shirt, gift from my friends literacy center in Kalamazoo (for sale soon!).

Elizabeth Crane's writing wardrobe
Elizabeth Crane’s writing wardrobe. Flower crown optional.

Updated yellow Chucks without laces, $45. Switch out for night: Blue suede Seychelles heels, $80.

Elizabeth Crane's shoes
These shoes were made for writing, and that’s just what they’ll do. 


Jill Alexander Essbaum • Poet, novelist


Sometimes the author wears pretty things. Last night the author wore this, which is pretty much how she dressed right on up until junior high (so suck it, hipsters). Not shown: A pair of breakaway warm-up pants, Houston Rockets red, worn by James Harden prior to the Shooting Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend 2013 (auction won, gift from her husband). Sometimes the author wears those. Because she likes to say, “I wrote this sonnet while wearing James Harden’s pants.” Who else gets to say that? Ok, who regularly gets to say that?

Jill Alexander Essbaum
Jill Alexander Essbaum with the latest in sonnet wear.


Maggie Downs is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Rumpus, among other publications. She is currently a nonfiction candidate in the UCR Palm Desert MFA program for Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. She did not wear a single statement ring while writing this piece. And she looked like this.

A portrait of the artist with bedhead. Tee by Target.
A portrait of the artist with bedhead and a pimple. Tee by Target.