General · work in progress · Writing

C is for Clothing

C is for clothing! That is, the clothes my characters wear. Usually, I don’t think about it all; I just have them wear whatever seems most sensible.

That’s just as well, because I start second guessing myself when I begin to actually consider, in detail, my character’s style. I mean, the current work in progress, the main character is a laid back, smart, charming guy. He wore jeans. I am sure he wore other things- a shirt, a jacket, but the only the article of clothing I mentioned was his jeans and only because he needed to take something out of his jean pockets.

But, later, I needed to really consider what he had in his closet. Was jeans too obvious a sign of a laid back guy? Too stereotypical? But I wasn’t thinking when I gave him jeans. So no. But what kinds

02-CityScape-Coat-Hanger-by-HookPegSupport-Cityscape-Art-1 of t-shirts? The kind with weird pictures and/or strange words or just simple, solid color tees? But words can be interesting. So what quote describes him best? What kind of pictures?

So, yeah, it was hard dressing him. But fun! And I still haven’t got his jewelry ironed out (he has a LOT of piercings).

But is there a wrong way to dress a characters? Do the clothes always have to reflect the character, even when they are not working? I want to say no, but I feel like I should say yes.

It’s just that clothes are a quick, easy shorthand for conveying who a character is. Maybe too easy, because it would be too simple to also stereotype like that. Question is, how do I avoid it?

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26 thoughts on “C is for Clothing

  1. It’s always good to know what people are wearing… even if it doesn’t make it into the story. Knowing those little details just seem to make the character more real.

  2. That’s a great question. I think if you have the character wear something out of character (sorry, bad pun), you might confuse the reader. For example, if your character is the conservative type and you have them wearing what might be considered “hippie” clothes, I would have a hard time getting a handle on the character and might get a completely wrong idea about him. So it makes sense to me to have the character wear what reflects his personality, because that’s what real people do. Their clothing is a big part of their identity. Unless you’re trying to keep the reader guessing… then all bets are off. 🙂

  3. Interesting question, Sonia. I agree the characters dress will create some kind of assessment in the readers mind. I probably don’t put much thought into it when I’m writing. I’ll have to look at that some more.

  4. Sometimes clothing matters, and sometimes it matters in the moment, but much of the time I don’t think too much about what my character wears. I wonder if I should consider clothing more often.

  5. Thought provoking. In my first book, I thoroughly described my characters clothing, but recently I tend to avoid it, concentrating on their thoughts and perceptions.

  6. It gets even more fun when you write historic fiction like I do. You can never know quite enough about Roman era underwear… 😀 Sometimes you just have to try stuff on.
    Fun post!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Tales of colors
    MopDog – The crazy thing about Hungarians…

  7. I’m a guy with no sense of style. I favor dark clothes, and so long as it covers my body, I’m fine.

    However, for stories, I do try to address clothing. In Terran Psychosis, I touched on clothing here and there, but nothing too descriptive. In Karma Repentance (hope to release in 2015) I put more attention to clothing, especially during the sex scene.

    I feel the clothes a character wears, or not wears, is an indication of their personality. Give my ineptitude with clothing, I consulted a few females on what would be good clothing then went onto Google images to find something along those lines and used that picture to help me write about it.

  8. I would think it’s possible to describe a character without mentioning the clothes. But thinking a bit more about it… hm… perhaps it’s still useful to get some hint. A character can also be someone who really doesn’t care about clothes or who dresses in a very “ordinary” way, but still, then that’s part of that character. I do remember reading a book where clothing was mentioned very often, and it really annoyed me, it had nothing to do with the actions or aims or the story itself, it just seemed to be extra words to fill out the text for no reason. Must be a fine balance, I realise now.

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