Clothing and Creativity (1)

Several years ago I wrote an imaginary article about the prospect of a career change.  A family illness made me see life differently, and I’d applied for voluntary redundancy to pursue an illustration degree.  Ultimately, I dreamed of setting up a home studio and working for myself.  I’ve tweaked my original text, but as it does well to explain how my two New Year resolutions support each other, I haven’t changed much.  Here’s part one (of two)…

“I recently made the tough decision to leave a secure job and return to art college, and I’m starting to realise the practical impact this will have on my life. The job I am about to leave is within the public sector, and up to now my life has been very straightforward, governed by rules and routine.  Leaving would mean no more daily rush-hour journeys, or hourly countdowns to lunch or leaving at the end of the day.  Home-working isn’t going to be entirely stress-free, and I’m prepared for that.  However, it does offer a very different and exciting challenge, a more comfortable work environment and flexible working hours.

To make it a success I imagine a dedicated work space, with a radio for company, would be adequate to keep me focussed. However, during a discussion on self-employment, a business adviser also suggested that I wear shoes to deter any interruptions from both husband and housework.  Shoes would be a way to indicate I was actually at work.  So, wearing comfy slippers wasn’t going to be an option!  Their advice got me thinking: if shoes are so important, what about the rest of my outfit?  I was used to wearing suits and co-ordinates, not only to present myself professionally but also to focus my mind.   I thought working from home was the hardest decision I would have to make. Deciding what to wear to get myself mentally ready for work was something I hadn’t even thought about.

Choosing an outfit to work in is a minor issue, but an important one. As a spectacles wearer, I have two different looks so I can be smart and business-like, or bold and contemporary, simply by changing my eyewear, and this can affect my mood, too.  I wondered if the same principles could apply to clothes.  According to Kath Woodward in her book, Understanding Identity*

“Our identities are mapped out and represented through the material items which we choose to wear and in particular what they mean in the wider social context.”

Even if I’m not visible to the outside world, could my outfit affect my mindset and behaviour and the role I am trying to portray?  Then I remembered I once tried drawing in a smart skirt and blouse, and my creativity was restrained.  So, perhaps it is the case that in order to perform a role successfully, I need to get my mind in gear by dressing for the part.  So, how should an artist/illustrator dress for work?”

*Woodward, Kath: Understanding Identity.  London: Arnold (2002); p75.

What are your thoughts on the impact of clothing on creativity?

Stay tuned for Part Two next week.

The post Clothing and Creativity (1) first appeared on Filbert & Smudge.


9 thoughts on “Clothing and Creativity (1)

  1. Hi my friend. I enjoyed reading your post more because I somewhere saw myself. The confusion and the confidence to bring oneself together. An accident in my childhood helped me pursue creativity since I was home bound and I too had to change my path from what I thought I would become. But when you stick on to the plan life has for you and believe in it, trust me it works out much better than what we think. All the best to you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, and thank you. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve come full circle back to the path I always wanted to follow. I’m still taking my first exploratory steps, and I’m happy I’m finally here!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t “work” at home, but I do homeschool my kids. We have a long standing rule in our house that everyone needs to be dressed for the day before breakfast. Now dressed might mean sweats or yoga pants, but at least you need to be out of pajamas and have your hair pulled back in a pony tail. Mostly I put on workout clothes to help me remember to actually get my workout in.
    I know many homeschoolers love having school time in their pajamas, but that doesn’t work for us. We need to be dressed to feel like we have momentum going for the day. I also like to get school work going first thing or else the day just drags on and on. I know everyone is different, but this works for us. I guess I am not really addressing creativity so much as productivity, but perhaps they are somewhat parallel paths.


    1. Hi Cymbrie, thank you for your comment. I agree; I always feel more focussed when I get ready first thing. Plus, I think creativity is more than drawing or painting, and we need to be productive to benefit from it, which goes back to getting ready first thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck on this amazing life change! I am not sure about clothing. I will have to think about it more for artists. I am a stay-a-home mother to 4 girls, 2 of which are not in school. I have a very hard time getting ready unless we are leaving to go somewhere. Perhaps this a challenge to me?


  4. Hi Asheley, are you up for the challenge? I know I’m having a good day when I can throw anything on and just start drawing, even if it’s just a favourite t-shirt and a pair of second-hand jeans!


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