Is it a fashion statement?

May 22, 2010 at 5:01 am (Character, Setting) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


I usually have a lot of fun dressing my various characters.  Mostly because I have such a strong mental image of the character and few of them ever dress for what they end up doing – plus I set them in fantasy worlds and so I don’t really worry about whether people dressed like that in any particular era or not.

That said, the protagonist in my latest WIP is giving me all kinds of trouble. I have a strong mental image of her but the clothes keep changing and they are always very practical, clothes. Lots of leather and denim and most of it torn and patched, which given the hostile nature of the world I’m building makes perfect sense. But it isn’t all that fun to write about. Still, every time I try to dress her differently I just think, there is no way she’s going to wear that skirt and she certainly isn’t going to wear bright colours and try to attract a lot of attention.

I did destroy her denim jacket though. Which lead to the very touching boy lending her his brown vinyl jacket scene which wasn’t really an improvement on her look but was an interesting interaction between the two characters.

Dressing your characters? Fashion statement or practical? Or both? Love to hear your views.

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29 Comments

  1. averyoslo said,

    I write a lot of historical fiction and YA, so dressing my characters becomes super-important. For the historical fiction, dress is a way to convey the nuances of the time period through showing instead of telling. For teens perhaps more than for most, the particularities of dress speak volumes about the kind of person the character is, and what type of interactions they will and will not be able to have.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      For historical fiction dress really is important. Plus if you get it wrong you have a lot of readers telling you all about it. Thanks for the comment.

  2. RBH said,

    Practical, mostly. The last thing I usually worry about is what my character is wearing unless those clothes are going to be torn off in a fight scene, peeled off in a love scene, or symbolic to the scene in some way. Usually my primary focus in a character is their psychology and motives. Then again, I barely notice how I dress on a regular basis… soooo that says a lot.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      True. To some readers what the character is wearing is no where near as important as what they do but for others it is a key indicator of who the character is. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Alex Willging said,

    I have a certain fashion sense with my characters. Somewhere in some story of mine will be at least one character in a long dark coat (being the proud owner of a nice black pea coat myself). Color is also important. The good guys wear blue, black, white, and green, and the villains get black, gray, red, and brown (although I’m not afraid to mix these around depending on the character and his/her personality).

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I have to admit, Calandra from Death’s Daughter got my boots. Okay, I didn’t own the boots when I dressed Calandra, they were just on my wish list. Other than the boots though, most of the things my characters wear I wouldn’t.
      Thanks for sharing your fashion tips for characters.

  4. David said,

    I almost always refer to my lovely wife when dressing the female characters. If I didn’t, it would be an absolute disaster.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Sounds like a plan – I once laid out an outfit I was going to dress a character in just to see if it would work. Turns out it didn’t.

  5. richeperkin said,

    Going through edits as I am right now, I realized I don’t really dress my characters. Not that they’re naked, but I only tend to mention clothing if it’s important to the story.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      It can be quite annoying if the everytime your protagonist dresses you get the full shopping list overview of what they are wearing. The reader just wants to get on with the story. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Mason Canyon said,

    I’d say a little of both. You can make a fashion statement. In your WIP the statement you make will be to set the style for the world you’re creating. You make it practical too because you want it to work for your character. Your protagonist sounds interesting.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Thanks Mason.
      I don’t know that she would describe herself as interesting at the moment – she’s had a rough couple of days and is currently covered in various bits of goop and stinks. Really stinks. This is why I don’t ever want to be a character in one of my own stories.

  7. Lua said,

    For me it depends on the story and my characters… In my last novel, I hardly ever mentioned what she was wearing because it wasn’t really that important to the story so there was no statement of any kind but the story I’m working on right now, about three collage girls who have three very different characters, I’m especially careful about what they ware because it is important to the story…
    I’m glad you destroyed the denim jacket and that scene sounds very interesting! 🙂

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      It is amazing how quick you can create different character traits by discribing what someone is wearing or how they are waring it.
      Thanks for your comment.

  8. tsuchigari said,

    The way a person dresses can tell reams about their personality. With writing I try to drop a few clothing clues here and there to give a touch more depth to the character. However, you won’t find me spending paragraphs doing so. Wow, I sound very stuffy and formal this morning – creative brain still in bed.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think your right in that we don’t want to be reading paragraph after paragraph about clothes (unless that’s the point of the story).

  9. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    I have a hard time with fashion (in many ways!), mostly because I don’t want to date my stories. So I’m pretty vague.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Real world storeis do date themselves quickly with clothes. When I was re-reading an old Goosebumps book I realised that all the teens have a serious case of late eighties/early nineties fashion and they are stuck that way forever. Not the best era to be stuck in really.

  10. AlexJ said,

    Practical. I’m not much on fashion anyway. However, my characters are part of the military fleet, so uniform is the dress of choice. Not much to consider there.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Good point. One of my to-be-worked-on-once-I-figure-out-where-I-think-I’m-going drafts has a military and their uniform wasn’t really working for me. Mostly because the characters involved were just so un-military like it didn’t seem right that they’d actually wear the uniform the way it was intended.
      Thanks Alex.

  11. Jemi Fraser said,

    I’m pretty vague as well. My characters are in Steampunk England and they’re not wealthy, so it’s just the basics.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      True – characters do have more fashion choices based on wealth. Excellent point.

  12. Kyle said,

    For most of the characters I write, I usually avoid describing their attire except for a specific item or two that tells something important about their personality. I normally try to do that because I always think that the reader’s imagination is better than anything I would be able to write, so I like to leave a lot of physical description somewhat vague.

  13. The Old Silly said,

    I take a great deal of care and put a lot of thought into my characters’ dress. Important.

    Good subject and post.

  14. Anna said,

    My characters seem to come with their own sets of clothing, which are definitely not orchestrated by me. Most everything is practical or reflects their status or job. Whenever I consciously try to dress my characters it tends to feel wrong and the outfit gets reverted to whatever they were wearing before I meddled. I’m not that into fashion in everyday life, either, so maybe that’s why I don’t pay much attention to character’s dress.

    Good post!

  15. Jen said,

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog! Your comments were lovely and very much appreciated! Sorry it’s taken me so long to visit, I always make sure to visit my blog commentors but I got a little caught up this weekend!

    So on to the important stuff, your post!

    I loved this post, how brilliant of you to take the time to dress you characters… very much in detail I might add! I don’t focus on the clothing, though I should. It’s not important to me… the character is, her appearance as far as facial features. I think I better get to the drawing board becuase having clothes picked out for her would help create more of a personality! Great view!

  16. Hadassah Fey said,

    Great post; it reminded me about the character details I create with the wardrobes I give my characters. I’m writing a sci-fi thriller set in 2172, so I could do fun things with the clothing, but for most of the book I keep it fairly familiar, and very much work wear for the characters. I don’t really think about my characters’ clothes consciously, but when I do, I want it to show a different side of the character that wasn’t obvious before. But towards the end I decided to go ahead and make a futuristic fashion statement with a sexy evening gown for my female protagonist. I wanted it to be clear that she can pull off more than work wear. And I also wanted her to have one more thing to fight with as the story drew to the climax. 🙂

  17. vividumas said,

    My MC is an ex-fashion model so clothing is very important. It also helps to show her character development throughout the story. As she grows, her emphasis on the materialistic things start to lessen. But I’m a shoe freak, so my female MC tend to wear fabulous shoes. Even if they have to save up to buy them like I do.

    Great posts. I will add you to my blogroll.

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