1. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    For Men: Ladies skirt styles

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Howard_B, Nov 17, 2014.

    Ok I know it's a bit judgemental. Lots of men may know about these. But for what it's worth I have constant problems describing what woman in my books are wearing, and making it even slightly interesting.

    This link to basic Skirt Styles has helped me a lot.

    If anyone has any other links that would help I'd love to see them :D
     
  2. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    These kind of links are always helpful to me since I am not good with terms for the clothing category. The main problem that I have with describing dresses in general is whether or not I should just describe how they look using basic terms, like circle skirt, or if I should just make it easier on myself and name the style of the dress, even if it would seem out of place.

    For example, using terms like "han fu" or "lolita" would make everything easier to portray, but it would not fit into the context of the story. I usually just end up describing everything using generic terms, but that becomes a bit of a research challenge on its own.
     
  3. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    It's a real pain - I can visualise how I want my female characters to look but it is such a handicap not being able to describe them. This link is only one small step toward a solution for me :crazy: but a useful one.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's the thing. I would have no idea what you were talking about if you wrote that a woman was wearing a broomstick skirt.
    The description should be from the POV of the person observing the skirt. So, unless your character were particularly attuned to fashion, she or he would be unlikely to always be using the "proper" names of skirts.

    If your character is a man like you, who, from what I infer from your post, doesn't pay much attention to a lot of the details of the clothes people wear, and wouldn't use the term "bubble skirt" or "broomstick skirt," why would you have him use that term? He'd probably say something like, "The skirt she had on ended mid-thigh. Her legs looked very long -- longer than I'd noticed before. All I could think about was touching her knee and making my way up." Or whatever it is you want to convey about what the other person's clothing is making the character feel.
     
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  5. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Finding one term that is not the best doesn't take away from the value of resources like this, and are easily tested with friends.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the value would be more for those who are writing a piece that is centered in the world of fashion, and specific terms need to be used. Unless the very particular name is somehow important to the story, I don't think in general they need to be used.
     
  7. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Possibly, but in my current spy.MI5 book I found the a-line and pencil style very useful in a number of situations. Do we have to be writing a fashion book to simply try to describe how a character is dressed ?
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    No. But you can just describe how the skirt works well to conceal a weapon in a particular location, because it fits so tightly, and shows off her hips to distract the men, or whatever. You don't have to use the term "pencil skirt" at all.
     
  9. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Oh dear :pop:
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really see how it's an "oh dear" situation at all. You're better off with more description. If you need to look up the term because you didn't know it, there's a good chance your reader won't either, unless you're giving them both the description and the formal name. Which might make sense in some scenarios. But if you're just going for a shorthand to avoid description, you're doing everyone a disservice. You're the only one who knows what you want to convey.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2014
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  11. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually make general statements about the overall impression an outfit makes, 'Suitable for work in an office' or 'clothes that no responsible parent would allow their daughter to go out in'. The reader's reaction to a specific garment may be very different to the intention of the author and that would be counterproductive. If a specific garment is important to the story, I'd describe the relevant aspects of it rather than, or as well as naming it, because the reader may not look up the unfamiliar term.
     
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  12. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    In my recent experience this is one reason why women avoid some kind of books - based on what series of women have said to me in the last three months. They like to have an effort made to avoid being cold and factual and spend more time describing the dismantling of a weapon that what a women wear. I guess I am trying to be more inclusive and build even a small female audience.
     
  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Saved prose for novel
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2014
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure what you're saying here -- some women have read your piece, and have found it too "cold and factual," but want more description of what a female character is wearing? I don't see how that would make a story any less "cold and factual" -- in fact, I could seeing making it even more so.
     
  15. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am more concerned with readers in other countries where clothes might be very different or the novel being read in several decades to come where fashions have changed. What might seem daring today may be drab then.

    I think women are more interested in people than things (men being the reverse). If you have a scene where a character dismantles a weapon, I'd focus on the character not the weapon, describe how he worries about losing a part and how he can't quite remember how it fits back together. He regents leaving the manual behind, etc.
     
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  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing you have to keep in mind is that if your character is describing something that another character is wearing, that description is telling you as much or more about the character doing the describing than it does about the person wearing the outfit. In Aled's example above, if you've got a man sitting at the mall, watching the patrons, and he notices a few teenaged girls, and thinks, "Parents these days are not doing their jobs -- society is totally fucked. Look at those girls over there -- dressed up in clothes that no responsible parent would allow their daughter out in. They'll be working the pole in a couple years and the parents will be boo-hooing into their lattes wondering where they went wrong." A teenaged boy in the girls' class would probably describe their outfits in a very different way.

    You might also set a scene -- he opened the door to the board room and thirty men in identical navy suits with red ties and white starched shirts looked up at him. Two women were there as well, with navy blue blazers that made them look similar to the men until they stood up to reveal knee-length navy skirts.

    In thinking briefly about my stories, I don't think any heterosexual male characters have made particular note of what a woman is wearing, unless they're thinking more about taking the clothes off of her. A man who notices clothing without some reason for doing so -- he's looking for someone for whom he just got a description who just robbed the jewelry store, or he's seeing if she's got a weapon or something, is telling you something about himself.

    (And so is a woman -- Jane looked at Grace. Oh, please -- that is *last year's* Dolce & Gabana wool plaid skirt. Who does she think she 's fooling? And what of the following: Mark looked at Grace and smirked. Oh, please -- that is *last year's* Dolce & Gabana wool plaid skirt. She is not fooling anyone.)
     
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  17. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it a character or the narrator who is describing the clothes? If a character, then the characters particular point of view comes into play. The narrator on the other hand could describe everyone's clothes so the reader can picture the scene.

    I wouldn't make a point of having the narrator describe everyone's clothes. If an outfit isn't unusual in any way, then it isn't noteworthy, and if it isn't noteworthy, why make a note of it?
     
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  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is a good point. Although even with an omniscient narrator I can think of very few instances where it's important to always know all the details of what a character is wearing.
     
  19. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could always include some humor in the novel. I'm sue that women would find a story more appealing if it makes them laugh. Just remember that the 'I' in MI5 is sarcastic. These are people who work on the edge of knowledge, in that grey area between that which is known and that which is not known. That means; half the time, they don't know what they're doing. The right hand doesn't even know that there is such a thing as a left hand, let alone what it's doing. In an environment where everyone suspects everyone else, how much teamwork would you expect? It's surprising they can even make tea.
     
  20. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course, if the question is, "What would make more women interested in a novel," that's a whole other thread.
     
  21. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    I'm afraid as a heterosexual male I don't recognise this characterisation in myself or any man I know. Clothes speak volumes about man or a woman.
     
  22. Howard_B
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    Howard_B Active Member

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    Well considering your own efforts at sarcasm are so poor I would be disinclined to see much value in your insight. Thank you so much for your suggestion though !
     
  23. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    In certain situations that could be true, but in general, particularly in a novel, I have not found the specifics about clothing to be important in telling me all that much about a character unless there is something very unusual about the clothing. But if you feel a description of the clothing is important, by all means you should include it. To the original point, though, I'm not sure the specific style of skirt is needed unless fashion is an important part of the story.
     
  24. Aled James Taylor
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    I wasn't being sarcastic, I was being realistic. Having spent over 20 years working for the MoD, I've heard many stories of ridiculous things, mostly caused by people's reluctance to share information. Secrecy is a recipe for disaster in any organisation. Combine this with archaic practices, outdated traditions and sheer bloody mindedness; comedy is inevitable.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    Did your readers actually say, "I want more narrative about the women's fashions"? Or did they just say that the work was cold and factual?

    If I thought that a work was too cold and factual, I wouldn't want details of women's costumes, I'd want people's feelings and motivations. I want emotion. "Pencil skirt" is just another cold fact.
     

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