Appropriately Attired

I did not go tearing into the office this past Monday morning, but instead opened up my WIP (work in progress) and set to work on a new scene. This WIP is giving me fits—most of ‘em do, though a few have not—and I have the sense if I don’t beaver away at it, the story will evaporate from my imagination, along with the motivation to write it down.

Phone rings, and whoopsie, there’s a good possibility I’m going to be called into the courthouse. Foster care laws are written so if the state should snatch your children, you at least get a judge to look the situation over in short order. Sometimes, I get an hour’s notice that I have a hearing, sometimes a day. When the holidays loom, business always picks up.

Scheduling court hearings is like trying to make a Rubik’s cube come right. Certain matters can only be heard in certain courtrooms (with a jury box); others have to be proximate to the holding cells or have AV equipment for evidence presentation purposes. For a foster care case, as many as four attorneys have to be rounded up (for kids, mom, dad, and local child welfare department), along with social workers, witnesses, parties, and supervisors.

So there was a good chance Monday’s case would not be heard Monday, and an equally good chance it would. I live more than twenty country miles from the courthouse…

So, you ask, why not just change into courtroom attire, hop in the truck, and work on the WIP at the office, which is twenty steps from the courthouse? Makes perfect sense, right?


One cannot wear jammies to court. Not only is it frowned upon (the courthouse has a dress code), but an offended judge can hold counsel in direct contempt, which involves a one way trip to the local hoosegow.

I’ve written fiction on the office computer on occasion—romantic fiction, that is. I’ve spent many and many an hour trying to be productive while waiting to find out if a hearing is going forward. Sometimes this means I judge contest entries, draft blogs, or even work on the WIP at the office.

But having a tenuous hold on the current story, I did not want to change out of my writing clothes unless I had to.


Writing clothes? I was utterly bumfuzzled to learn that writing Regency romance has come to mean, for me, that I’m wearing yoga pants, tie-dyed Maggie Moo organic wool socks, a fleecy top, and Nike slides rather than outfits that flatter me or present me as a courthouse professional. And somehow, these clothes make it more likely (in my mind) that what I’m writing will be Good Stuff, as opposed to words produced in an effort to feel productive at the law office.

When did this happen and what’s the significance of it? I know I can’t lawyer in my jammies, but when did I decide that I can’t be a romance author in my lawyer duds? Because, apparently I have.


Do you have wardrobe quirks that surprise even you? Favorite socks? A laundry sorting hat?

To one commenter, I’ll send a pair of Maggie Moo Organize wool tie-dyed Writing Socks, and a signed copy of “The Bridegroom Wore Plaid,” my first Scottish Victorian romance, and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012.


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29 comments on “Appropriately Attired

  1. I have to wear socks to bed, even in the summer when it’s 100 degrees. I have this thing about something reaching from under my bed to grab my toes.

  2. I have “uniforms” Not real ones like soldiers or medical professionals, but just similar clothes that I don’t have to put too much thought into getting dressed. This uniform has changed as I have gotten older. When I was a teenager in the 80’s, the uniform was BIG hair, concert tee, black leather jacket, jeans with the knees ripped out, spandex leggings under the jeans, and boots. Now my middle age mommy uniform is a tunic top and black slacks.The funny thing is, I think the uniform thing is biological. My 10 year old loves wearing tee shirts and jeans with the knees ripped out and tie dye tights under them and I never told her that was how I used to wear my clothes.

    • Brandy, and you must NEVER tell her, and when you’re a grandma, you don’t spill to the grand-daughter. In my mommy bones, I’m sure we adopt these youthful uniforms thinking they’re bold statements of individualist fashion, while we completely ignore every other kid wearing the same things.

      I’m for comfy now, all about the comfy.

  3. When I’m at home, I prefer wearing tank tops even if it’s winter. My thinking is that I can always add more layers if need be (and from December to March I usually do!).

    • Marie, at certain times of life (like for the past two years), the beauty of a summer under layer as become more apparent to me. There I’ll be in court, holding forth in some closing argument, and one of the manifestation of being Of a Certain Age will befall me. I can’t tell the nice man to turn up the AC, so I ditch my suit coat and strut about in my sleeveless shell.

      The ladies all know exactly what’s afoot. The guys look at me like I’m nuts.

  4. As a stay at home mom, I frequently run around in my PJ’s all day long. But if I have specific things I need to get done, I get dressed. And each of those things has a certain outfit that suits it better. So depending on the priority of that day, I will dress for it. I imagine your socks and yoga pants are the same thing. Tomorrow my son has his first home basketball game of the season…I will have on my I ♥ My Indian t-shirt with his number on the back and jeans and tennis shoes…so I am comfortable jumping up and down and cheering him on.

    • Rhiannon, you make it sound so sensible–these clothes for these days, those clothes for those days–but I’d never realized the extent which what I’m wearing affects what I can think about. This would be so much easier if I could limit myself to different hats.

  5. So, I thought about this and realized there is almost always something about my outfit that doesn’t fit. My grey Converse, the tie-dyed socks just peeking out of my shoe, an elaborate looking up-do while I CrossFit (and my gym clothes rarely match). I *know* how to dress but I’m just odd enough I’ll wear a floor length skirt and Converse. Last week it was the Smurf blue tight with my kilt (Come on! I own and wear a kilt!).

    I *can* put on heels and a rocking skirt & blouse and look like I should be the person in charge (it’s how I get the job). But most of the school days after that are all just a little bit off. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’ve done something slightly off kilter until someone says something. And that someone is usually my students.

  6. My relax clothing and my normal clothing are quite similar, with the exception of when I need to dress formally that is. I usually prefer khaki pants with a short sleeved shirt(not polo, mind you) and sneakers with long socks. At home I usually change into a huge shirt (pilfered from relatives :)) and shorts. Occasionally I wear socks to sleep, but only when the temperature is really low in the house.

    Aside from that, I’d say my dress is pretty normal, but it’s unfortunate that I don’t have any clothing from the 80s or “oldie” clothing as my family immigrated here not too long ago.

    • The idea of wearing socks to sleep has been suggested to me as a folk remedy for restless leg syndrome. Cannot bear the thought of wearing socks to bed. Are long socks knee socks as opposed to trouser socks?

      • Long socks for me are trouser length – bit higher than ankle length – socks. It really helps me because I’m the type of person whose hands and feet are very cold yet have the rest of the body feel rather warm. Knee socks are too restrictive for me to wear for more than a few hours, let along sleep. 🙂

  7. When I gave birth to my first daughter, I wore socks and a shirt. I saved those (the socks purposely unwashed, I don’t know why) as a remembrance and for the birth of the second child to wear again. Unfortunately, that one went all too quick (6 minutes at the birth house) and I couldn’t bother about putting that stuff on (I was naked then anyway). As for the 3rd birth, I spent it in our tub (home birthing is just great!!!!), so no clothes either. I would have liked to wear the same shirt and socks on all three occasions, it wasn’t meant to be (well, I mean’t it to be but it didn’t work out…). Anyway, the clothes still are in my wardrobe.

    Another thing is, long ago, I spent holidays in a north-eastern lake district in Germany and bought a locally printed T-shirt (contrary to America, where you can buy items marked with towns, nat. parks, places a.s.o. eyerywhere, it was absolutely unusual by that time – former GDR). Anyway, whenever I go on a holiday there now (20 years after), being canoing for a couple of days taking all equipment with us, I wear that T-shirt, however unshapely it is and carry it around very proudly (I am sure I’ve got the only exemplar left!).

    And what probably almost every (married) woman has as a clothes-thing is keeping her wedding dress in the wardrobe, never wearing it again…

    • You make an interesting point. My wedding dress was off the rack and knee length. I could have worn it again for sorta-dressy occasions. I never did, and yet, I have donated the dress to charity either. What up with that?

  8. The wardrobe shift makes sense to me. Wearing suits means career-mode. Jeans meant horse-mode. Yoga pants/sweats mean relax. Each provides a way to get “in character” like Method actors who sleep in their costumes.
    Combined a certain black silk suit and sky-high black heels apparently signaled to my staff that I was on the war path and that they weren’t the target. Once they told me I realized they were right!

  9. Having small feet usually means no conservative socks for me! I buy them in the kids section and um, they fit my personality coincidentally. So I have a drawer full of colorful anklets and crews that I wear pretty much all year round, even at 100degrees because I wear my comfy Ryka trainers. I have two pair exactly alike and about 6 pairs of yoga pants. I. LOVE. YOGA PANTS. Do I do yoga? uh-uh. I’d like to. I just can’t get past the first downward dog without falling on my face.

    • I think the percentage of yoga pants that actually see the inside of a yoga studio, or touch a yoga mat must be far less than 50 percent. They’re more comfy than jeans, which makes them the wardrobe equivalent of manna from heaven.

  10. I can remember when I had to go into work on Saturdays and didn’t have to dress up, I swear I worked better. I was more comfortable and I think you do work better that way. The older I get, the more important comfort seems to be lol. I now please myself with what I wear, and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

    • I agree. Casual Friday ought to be every day. I can understand having a dress code at the courthouse, because Justice requires a certain dignity, but answering the phone or typing up motions does not.

  11. Grace! Another great read, although I WAS disappointed that Louisa had a HUGE dislike of patchouli. Patchouli has been my scent since the 60’s (when I was almost 21). My husband loves it and I sometimes tweak it a little by adding a spritz of Charlie or a drop of frangipani (my fave, but it’s way expensive). Anyway, can’t wait for your next book and keep up the incredible writing!


    • Karen, I owe Lionel and his lady a novella, I think, and therein, she’ll be captivated by the scent of patchouli, promise. Sometimes patchouli gets doused with that bacon-y, boar hog scent that makes me want to howl. Guys apparently can’t smell it, but the myth is it signals Available Male to women.

      Signals times to open a window to me.