One of the reasons I love Judy Reeves's A Writer's Book of Days so much are the odd bits of trivia she's collected about writers. For example, in the September section of the revised edition she has an entire page detailing the quirks of famous scribes that includes Alice Hoffman's habit of repainting her office a different color every time she starts a new book (a shade that resonates with the story's theme, naturally) and Charles Dickens' habit of walking twenty to thirty miles a day (his shoe bill must have been hefty.)
What writers wear often makes interesting trivia, too. Some of you might know that Edgar Allan Poe only wore black, while Emily Dickinson dressed solely in white (Mark Twain liked wearing white, and you might have noticed Ray Bradbury attired in the same in the video I posted on in early October.) During my rookie year a couple of female pros I met advised me to get into full professional dress (suit, stockings, pumps, makeup, the works) before starting write, as this was supposed to give me a going-to-work attitude. I did try a modified version of this; while I was writing StarDoc I'd always put on a pair of my old hospital scrubs, and they did give me a bit more of a medical mindset.
According to Judy there are writers who liked to work in their underwear (John Cheever) or naked (Forrest McDonald), but I think the majority of us prefer to wear something. Because I start my work day around 5 am these days I actually write most of the time in my version of PJs -- an oversize T-shirt, shorts or (if it's chilly) leggings. Most of my wardrobe is solid-color because I find patterns a visual distraction, but as long as it's not too loud I generally don't care what color I wear.
What we have to wear (or absolutely can't wear) in order to write depends on our individual quirks. One of mine is writing barefoot; for some reason I can't so I always wear socks when I'm working. I can be superstitious about colors, though; I have one old green shirt I'll wear when I feel I need some luck -- usually during deadline week -- but I never wear the color yellow only because I dislike it so much (nothing in my wardrobe is yellow, in fact.)
I think physical comfort can be an important part of the process, too. Heavy fabric like denim makes me feel hot or weighed down when I sit for long periods of time so I never wear jeans when I write. I'll wear long-sleeved shirts when I write during the winter months but I always roll up the sleeves for more freedom of movement; I never wear rings, bracelets, watches or any jewelry because the weight and feel annoys me. I put my hair in a clip or wear it in a ponytail to keep it out of my face when I write. When I was younger and my hair a lot longer I'd stuff it up under a baseball cap before I sat down at the computer.
I know there are ladies out there who won't be seen without makeup, but since writing is a solitary art it's probably safe to go barefaced (lock the office door if you have to.) The only cosmetic I wear when I'm writing is Cherry Chapstick or some sort of flavored lip balm; this because I have an unconscious habit of biting my lower and upper lip while I'm writing, and the taste reminds me to knock it off (that one took me years of sore lips to figure out.)
Your writing attire is a matter of personal preference; if you want to suit up before hitting the keyboard because it makes you feel more professional, do it. If you don't need to dress the part, I recommend wear something comfortable that doesn't bind you anywhere. If you're feeling blue, try putting on an outfit that has happy associations, or that makes you feel good about yourself. Or if you really want to write in your shorts or your birthday suit, go for it -- all that really matters about writing attire is that it doesn't keep you from writing.
Do you have any particular quirks you indulge in when you dress to do your job? Let us know in comments.