fantasy · General · Writing

Perfect Way to Describe Clothing

I am reading Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh. It takes place in India. What part of India, I am not sure. But somewhere in India, somewhere close to the desert.

I am overjoyed. Nalini Singh has Indian characters, but I don’t think she’s ever set almost all of one story in India before.

I particularly enjoyed this line describing the traditional salwar gurta:

Though styles varied, the pants sometimes loose and sometimes tight; the tunics high-necked scooped, flaring out in a full skirt or cut neatly to the body; and most often worn with long, gauzy scarf, it was attire he’d seen many a time in this land, as common on laborers and servants as it was on courtiers. The difference was in the fabrics, the cut, and the depth of embellishment. It wasn’t unusual to see one of the court butterflies in a piece hand beaded with tiny pearls or where the embroidery had been created using fine threads of pure silver and gold.

This describes the salwar kurta pretty perfectly. This description is clearly meant for non-Indians. See, I read this and thought: perfect way to describe ethnic clothing. It references fashion, while also mentioning similarities across fashion and differences in price. And it does all that in three sentences.  Personally, I think that’s fantastic.

One reason it works because the POV character is not Indian; the scarf description, well, yeah, that’s how you would describe it for non-Indians. But that’s okay. It’s short and clear and fairly accurate. Plus, considering the location of the book and the female main character, it was necessary.

It’s stuff to keep in mind when I am writing – or rewriting, as the case may be – my own descriptions of clothes. I mean, in the fantasy worlds I make up, odds are good the clothes don’t actually exist anywhere. I will be making it up out of whole cloth, unlike here, but still. Something to keep in mind.

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