A Look Into the Wardrobes of Everyone's Favorite Authors

·14 min read

Being a fashion site, we're always giving you the latest sartorial insight from designers, buyers, influencers, and stylists. It's an obvious thought—you look toward people in the industry for inspiration, right? I realized recently, however, that a lot of my "fashion" following isn't even comprised of people who work in fashion at all. While I love to see what other people in the industry are wearing, it doesn't mean that I can't take a look at what others in different fields are doing with their clothing, especially those in the arts. My Instagram following is filled with interior decorators, painters, graphic designers—all of which have wardrobes that live to tell a story. Today's wardrobe dive? Authors. They have a copious amount of talent to write their experiences into poetry or create fictional and imaginary worlds, and they can be just as creative with their outfits.

While we may know our history of great writers, they've had their fair share of overlap with the fashion world, farther back than you think. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald were known for their three-piece suits and low-waist dresses, and many years later, Joan Didion starred in a Celine campaign. Their appeal to the industry was that they were very much out of fashion, which made their personal style feel more authentic and different. Below, I asked three modern-day authors about their classic "writer's style," how they correlate confidence with dressing, and everything regarding their routines at home since authors did the work-from-home thing before any of us.

Orion Carloto

Authors like Joan Didion, Maya Angelou, and Virginia Woolf are often praised for the way they embodied their sense of self in their clothes. How would you describe your sense of style?

My style is a mosaic of all of the things I love but in fashion form. Architecture, film, music, and poetry, you can find these aspects in the clothes I'm wearing if you just look close enough.

What is giving you creative inspiration right now or even in the past year?

Reading about the minds of visual artists like Cy Twombly and David Wojnarowicz, architecture and design by Le Corbusier and Dieter Rams, high-fashion archives, indulging in books that once felt too difficult, and my desire to master the art of medium format photography.

What has been your go-to "writer's uniform"?

A tight black turtleneck, flared black trousers, and a "please swallow me whole" blazer or coat.

I personally think all artists, especially writers, have such a unique and forward sense of fashion. Are there any particular pieces in your wardrobe that you've been heavily gravitating toward or can't wait to wear once we head back into normalcy?

Heels, heels, heels!

What are your thoughts on the correlation between dressing and self-confidence?

I think it's easy to acknowledge the mood change one has when putting on an article of clothing that fits like a glove. There's a remarkable correlation between the two. I remember a coming-of-age moment in my life when I was 15 and a freshman in high school. Around that time is when I had discovered parts of the internet and music I had never explored before. I found this shift in energy that almost immediately translated into my day-to-day. I quit the cheerleading squad and donated my trendy clothes. I joined the theater club and began thrifting for clothes that felt more grungy and alternative. My staple outfit was a pair of dirty, off-brand Doc Marten boots, a black-and-white striped T-shirt, denim Levi overalls, and an oversize patterned cardigan on top. It had finally felt like I was scratching at fashion's surface and was dressing for me rather than dressing to fit a trend. My sense of style felt like armor. That, in turn, began to shift my self-confidence in a way I never quite experienced before.

What's the last wardrobe item you purchased, and what was the reasoning behind it?

Going back on the "please swallow me whole" ideology, I bit the bullet and punched a staple piece of clothing that had been on my mind for a while—a gorgeous black Junya Watanabe oversize trench coat. Comme des Garçons has this incredible ability to simultaneously appear effortlessly classic yet avant-garde, and that's something I've always admired. Acknowledging timelessness is such an important process of mine when it comes to purchasing additional pieces for my wardrobe.

What's a favorite book you read in the past year? Why did it resonate with you?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Having owned a copy for years, I had never got around to reading it until I experienced a great loss of my very own this past year. Grieving is such a strange phenomenon that one could never be fully prepared for. Yet Didion goes into great detail on the vortex of it all—something I've struggled to put into words. It's lonesome and honest, heartbreaking and tender. And though I was particularly overdue, it couldn't have come to me at a better time.

Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking ($10)

As an author, you're probably already used to the work-from-home lifestyle, which can be tricky for some. How do you motivate yourself in your creative process?

I hate admitting that I'm one who can get distracted easily—a chirping finch outside of my window could send me down a rabbit hole of possibilities. For me, the easiest way to stay motivated is to remove all obvious distractions and create an environment of pure, ambient bliss, meaning… the phone gets placed in another room, classical music is dancing around my ears, and my carafe of warm coffee is just an arm stretch away.

Shop Orion's books:

Orion Carloto Film for Her ($17)

Orion Carloto Flux ($11)

Tahereh Mafi

Authors like Joan Didion, Maya Angelou, and Virginia Woolf are often praised for the way they embodied their sense of self in their clothes. How would you describe your sense of style?

I realize only now that my style is an outward interpretation of my emotional state. In fact, it tends to present as the user interface design for the hardwiring of my most current self. When I was younger and less comfortable in my own skin, for example, I opted for harder, heavier fabrics and much more fitted silhouettes—pieces that felt more like armor. I still gravitate toward these kinds of pieces, but as I get older and settle more gently into my own body, I find myself reaching for softer textures and more forgiving textiles. My sense of style is what my body needs it to be.

What is giving you creative inspiration right now or even in the past year?

Parenthood. When I became a parent, I had to recalibrate. Where before I could afford to occasionally wear impractical clothes, I live now always at the confluence of form and function. I get dressed every day knowing that I have to be able to give my daughter a bath in my chosen outfit.

What has been your go-to "writer's uniform"?

It really depends on the day. Some days, I dress my body like I'm wrapping a wound. I feel tender. I require more layers, tighter fits. Other days, I feel light and need less compression.

I personally think all artists, especially writers, have such a unique and forward sense of fashion. Are there any particular pieces in your wardrobe that you've been heavily gravitating toward or can't wait to wear once we head back into normalcy?

These days, I find myself gravitating toward every article of clothing I'd been saving for a special occasion. I'd never really subscribed to this idea—the idea of saving clothes for a special occasion—but 2020 disabused me of any lingering inclinations I might've once had. I don’t wait for a moment anymore. I just wear the sequins to the grocery store.

Who are some of your favorite style icons? Could be anyone—from a historical icon to someone in your family.

There's very little to love about the 1950s, but I've always been heavily inspired by the more classic looks of that time period. Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn… but then cut that with my nostalgia for some of the terrible fashions of the late '90s, my respect for the wild imaginations of designers like Thierry Mugler and Iris van Herpen, my aspiration toward the elegance of Haider Ackermann and Giambattista Valli… There's almost too much inspiration out there. So many brilliant minds.

What are your thoughts on the correlation between dressing and self-confidence?

I have complicated feelings about this. I don't think putting on a beautiful outfit is a panacea for painful, debilitating feelings of worthlessness. In fact, dressing nicely can sometimes have a counterintuitive effect: Some people put on nice clothes and are promptly berated by the people closest to them. If you're not already confident, being made fun of for having made even a small sartorial effort can be a punishing blow.

Self-confidence with regard to fashion might be as simple as understanding that you deserve to dress however you want. Cherishing your body the way you see fit is crucial to self-love, and if you hesitate to take such a step for fear of what people might say, well, any voice that would deny you the chance to feel better about yourself is not worth amplifying in your life.

What's a favorite book you read in the past year? Why did it resonate with you?

One of the most compelling books I've read in the last year was Skyhunter by Marie Lu. All of Marie's books are amazing, but this one felt like the anthem of 2020—science fiction as a metaphor for so much of the pain we've all felt in the last few years. It was haunting and beautiful, and I loved it.

Marie Lu Skyhunter ($11)

What's the last wardrobe item you purchased, and what was the reasoning behind it?

The last thing I bought was a pair of sandals… Summer approaches!

As an author, you're probably already used to the work-from-home lifestyle, which can be tricky for some. How do you motivate yourself in your creative process?

I've been working from home now for just over 10 years, and I've learned about myself that getting fully dressed every day is critical to my mental health. Even if I never leave the house, I need to delineate my on-duty/off-duty hours. The ritual of dressing and undressing is super helpful in helping me change headspaces.

Shop Tahereh's books:

Tahereh Mafi An Emotion of Great Delight ($17)

Tahereh Mafi A Very Large Expanse of Sea ($10)

Tahereh Mafi Shatter Me ($11)

Madisen Kuhn

Authors like Joan Didion, Maya Angelou, and Virginia Woolf are often praised for the way they embodied their sense of self in their clothes. How would you describe your sense of style?

Casual and effortless. I rarely wear makeup or a bra, and my wardrobe reflects the same sense of ease. "Girl next door" comes to mind (but without the sexist undertones). I like having clothes that I can throw on any day of the week that are comfortable enough to wear around the house. My writing style is relatable, and I seem to dress in a similarly approachable way.

What is giving you creative inspiration right now or even in the past year?

Twenty-twenty was a challenging year for me. I quickly sunk into the habit of doing the bare minimum because I felt like I was just trying to pass the time until this chapter of life was over. All the days blended, and my depression and anxiety only deepened that sense of dullness. Lately, I have been trying to acquaint myself with "main character energy" and intentionally romanticize my everyday life. I'm so good at romanticizing the past and the future, which comes through in my writing. I'm working on allowing the present to inspire me just as much because I know that one day I'll be feeling nostalgic about today.

What has been your go-to "writer's uniform"?

Truthfully, sweatpants and a cropped tank top. I love being comfy. I'm often wearing my Simon frames from Warby Parker. The one consistent thing across all outfits is a scrunchie. I tend to put my hair up in a messy bun when I write, and I love that it doubles as an accessory when I'm not using it.

I personally think all artists, especially writers, have such a unique and forward sense of fashion. Are there any particular pieces in your wardrobe that you've been heavily gravitating toward or can't wait to wear once we head back into normalcy?

I am looking forward to wearing overalls and sundresses all summer longtwo things that, in my opinion, never go out of style. I also just bought matching Crocs for my husband and me, and I have no shame about my love for them.

Who are some of your favorite "style" icons? Could be anyone—from a historical icon to someone in your family.

Rachel Green and Monica Geller, probably, because they remind me of my mom. Oh, and Emma Chamberlain.

What are your thoughts on the correlation between dressing and self-confidence?

For most of my life, I've had an internal struggle between rejecting the desire to focus on outward appearance and acknowledging the fact that I almost always feel better when I don't wear my pajamas all day. I'm still learning how to enjoy fashion while understanding that my worth and identity aren't tied to how I look. But I notice a difference in my confidence when I'm wearing clothes that I feel represent my personality. It’s good for my mental health to get up in the morning and put on a cute outfit, even if I won't be leaving the house.

What's the last wardrobe item you purchased, and what was the reasoning behind it?

A forest-green Youswim swimsuit. The color green is really resonating with me right now, and I'm looking forward to sprawling out on a beach sometime soon. I love wearing as few clothes as possible in the summer.

As an author, you're probably already used to the work-from-home lifestyle, which can be tricky for some. How do you motivate yourself in your creative process?

I'm the type of person who gets really into something to the point of obsession and then entirely disengages. I'll go through phases where I write three poems a day for days and then none at all for weeks. Even though it sounds counterintuitive, I've found that having a lot of structure and a routine allows me to tap into my creativity sustainably rather than at the whim of my varying muses.

What's a favorite book you read in the past year? Why did it resonate with you?

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. I adore the way that Ocean perfectly maintains the essence of poetry within the form of a novel. It is a heart-wrenching and important piece of art. He mentions something in the acknowledgments that has stuck with me: "Rules are merely tendencies, not truths, and genre borders only as real as our imaginations small."

Ocean Vuong On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous ($15)

Shop Madisen's books:

Madisen Kuhn Eighteen Years ($11)

Madisen Kuhn Please Don't Go Before I Get Better ($14)

Madisen Kuhn Almost Home ($10)

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This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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