Some attributes and ideologies never change, even in the 21st Century we still judge people by their appearance. First impressions are important whether they are right or wrong – how we dress speaks volumes about our personality, social status, priorities, and values. First impressions can be readjusted over time, but no matter what the first time we met the person and what they were wearing will always be first and foremost in our mind.
In fiction, clothing serves the same purpose, granting authors the ability to influence their readers in subtle but effective ways.
Developing Your Character thru Clothes
As authors how we dress our characters is very important when laying the groundwork for our scenes. As a child, I remember watching shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Dennis the Menace” while the theme of family values was evident the mother’s/woman’s attire never worked for me. Why would the women always be decked out to the nines like they were going out to the store wearing a nice dress, dress shoes, stocking, face all made up and hair coiffed, but they’d be doing housework swinging vacuum cleaner and waxing furniture? Didn’t women wear housecoats and rollers? Make up every day even if they weren’t going out in public? So, even as a child there was something not right realistically in the presentation of a “stay at home mom” doing the cooking, cleaning, and all the household choices and still managing to look like a Stepford Wife.
We all know that even the film industry falls into the art of Character Dress Up. Come on we all know in prison, your attire is either orange or black and white jump suits, yet when court date rolls around they parade the accused in a business suit or a nice dress. Why? Because they want to convince you of the integrity of the accused. Make his version of the truth believable, they’re playing on the jurors and courtrooms sympathy. Even, derelicts receive a make over.
What message are you trying to convey to your reader?
Spend time with your characters ~ get to know them, their strengths, weaknesses, eating habits, the way they walk, how much makeup they use, what’s the man’s favorite cologne, does he use an ornate walking stick etc.
- Does your character have a sense of style ~ Goth? Bohemian? Label conscious? Bargain Rack?
- Does she suit her dress to the occasion, or wear whatever she wants whenever she wants, screw occasion?
- What type of car does she drive? Domestic? Foreign? Luxury? or Mini Van?
- Is the man fashion trendy? Custom Made? Off the Rack? Conservative? Flashy? Casual?
Is your character rebellious in their dress ~ All black attire? black lipstick? piercing? tattoos? Suffering from low self-esteem, hiding under oversized clothing? tacky attire? sloppy appearance.
However, you decide to dress your characters ~ each one of these questions above should spark and create scenes.
Write, Write, You’ve got a blank slate.