1. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Your Character's Style

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cutecat22, Feb 28, 2015.

    How do you go about deciding on your character's style, as in, what they wear?

    This may seem like a stupid question (I'm famous for those) but have you ever really thought about it or does it just come naturally.

    There are times when I like to describe or make reference to what my characters are wearing so I've been thinking about this quite a lot lately.

    Obviously, a lot will depend on their job or in what timeframe your story is set, (I can't see Grog the caveman waving goodbye to his wife while he rides the local dinobus to the stone age version of Walmart for a new pair of slacks ... - OK, so they did it in the Flintstone's ...)

    But even they had their own style. You wouldn't dream of seeing Wilma Flintstone in anything other than her white, one shoulder dress and victory roll hair updo. The same goes for Robert Langdon from Dan Brown's books, he was always in slacks and Harris tweed.

    But what about your characters? How do you decide what they wear, where they shop, whether they use a rucksack or a messenger bag, socks or no socks (one of my characters never wears socks) etc?
     
  2. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I rarely go into detail about what my characters wear. In historical novels the clothes are often very complex and a passing mention of a particular form of dress usually does the trick, while in contemporary or SF settings it is far to easy to become dated if the clothes are too specifically set out.
     
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  3. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Good point although in historical settings there are things that would be quite easy to describe depending on the genre. Corset bones holding a bulging bosom and full skirts hiding sinful, white fleshy bottoms etc etc.

    I get what you mean about dating the book with contemporary and sci-fi (we don't want a repeat of the 80's double denim) but that doesn't mean you can't go into colours (Star Trek used colours to denote rank) and general items of clothing such as a business suit, summer dress, indecent shorts and a bikini top etc.

    I guess what I'm also saying, is how do you know what your characters would and wouldn't wear? As I said, I have a character who doesn't wear socks, she also wouldn't wear a bikini but would happily parade around her living room in nothing more than a pair of panties and her boyfriend's oversized jumper.

    Do you think attire goes some way to telling your readers just what your character's type is?
     
  4. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    In general I allow my character's words and actions reflect their personality rather than their clothing. Most people dress in a fairly uniform manner in relation to their class, age, racial group, etc. Deliberately creating an eccentricity of dress to display character doesn't really work for me.

    Stiff corsets and bulging bosoms and the like were the rule and not an expression of individuality. In most eras of history, conformity was more important, if not vital in order to fit in. Many countries had sumptuary laws limiting what the different classes could wear.

    Teenagers of every generation like to think that their styles of dress are rebellious and revolutionary, but viewed as a group they reflect the same monotony as every other generation.
     
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  5. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Very true!

    I do like to know what characters (not just my own) are wearing, I don't particularly want a catwalk rundown but a general idea to paint a picture in my mind is always helpful.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    For me it comes with their personality, what is happening with them, and the general setting of the story.

    In one WIP, that's sort of fantasy-ish, Brenna, my rich boy, dresses in layers of trouser and vest and coat. All very tweedy in a conservative, but expensive kind of way. He also dresses this way as a way to hide his indulgences, so to speak. Not a dandy, not at all, but very well and thoughtfully appointed.

    Devon is a sailor aboard a large fishing ship. His dress is loose and utilitarian for the most part. Though when we meet him he's dressed to the nines because his pockets are uncustomarily full.

    In my other WIP that is sci-fi, Marco, who we meet as a prison inmate, is utterly unconcerned with dress. Utilitarian and plain to a fault. Orman, who is an intellectual is dressed for the most part in casual clothing, as much as it matters. I despise "science fiction clothing" and dress my people in very real world ways. 50 years ago science fiction had us dressed, in 2015, in silver jump suits. We still wear pretty much the exact same things as were worn in the 1950's.

    aliensburke2.jpg

    But, like Bryan, I don't go into these descriptions unless they mean something to the story. An opening, or a paragraph where the story stops to give me a tip to toe detail, is a serious turn-off... for me.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2015
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  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I agree, I don't go for the tip to toe description unless it has some meaning to the story.

    I write erotic fiction so at some point, the jockey shorts or the lace bra/knickers etc are going to get a mention, as too is the suit that gets coffee spilled on it, the jodhpurs worn for a job, the bow tie that's removed and put on someone else, the camel colored slacks of a character's mother, the battered sneakers of a child and the snuggly jumper of a lover, laced with his (nice) individual scent ...

    I also have a character who starts out wearing extremely boring and utilitarian underwear until she's introduced to something softer and with more lace.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't spend pages and pages describing the warp and weft of each item of clothing just like I don't have massive descriptions of the weather but there are times when clothing (and weather) play a part in the story or go some way to letting the reader know what the character is thinking/feeling.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2015
  8. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    I design (amateur artist here) character outfits based on the archetype I want the character to fill, or something reflective on their abilities. Like the most pure, the most introverted, sexy, dark, normal... Other times I just design them to try and look as cool as possible.
     
  9. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    The book I'm writing takes place in modern times. The way they dress isn't that important, but I did make it a little thing. My female main character wears jeans a lot because she works in IT. Plus, it's a subconscious way of rebelling against her mother who believes she's too old to wear jeans all the time. The male main character is the opposite and wears suits all the time. This is because he believes he's taken more seriously if he wears a suit. The woman's clothing slowly changes to casual skirts when she realizes the man likes them. He also starts to loosen up on his dress after falling for her.
     
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  10. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    Only when they are wearing a disguise or some kind of armour do I tend to go into detail. For the most part I'll say things like "he wore a pair of denim jeans, a black leather jacket with a t-shirt underneath and a pair of large, black leather boots".
     
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  11. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't consider what they wear in detail (partly because fashion bores the tits off me); but the amount of attention they pay to what they wear is important. I have some characters who will just throw on whatever is clean and others who will spend time searching for the right outfit. That is about as far as it goes though.
     
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  12. Teviya Abramson
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    Teviya Abramson Member

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    I do something of the same thing as Yume, sort of. I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, however, I consider it part of world- (or at least scene-) building to try and determine how my characters would dress on any given occasion. I do it in this awesome little website called Polyvore, where you can create "collages" by using pictures of clothes one would find in actual stores (here's my account if you want some examples: http://tabramson.polyvore.com/ BEWARE SPOILERS). It actually helps me determine who the character is, figuring out how they would dress. For example, a major character who will come into play in OPERATION: Brownout, the sequel to Whiteout, is the picture of professional, up-to-the-minute fashion, and is an extremely straight-laced, by the book kind of person, while her partner is all about function over fashion, and only follows rules when it suits her. My Whiteout protagonist, Charlotte "Charlie" Watson, would wear Chuck Taylor sneakers every day of her life if she could, something I did not know about her until I put together her character set and found the absolute perfect pair of turquoise Chucks. Fashion and the way a character looks in any given scene is also rather important in my novels, since my characters essentially work undercover, and if they're working for an important dignitary or something, they have to look the part. I try not to go into too much detail about what my characters wear (ie. describing each outfit in a scene) though, since it can be boring if it's not essential to the scene.
     
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  13. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    Must try nao. It'll help to figure out what girls (and guys for that matter) actually wear instead of giving them short skirts and sweaters two sizes too big.
     
  14. Teviya Abramson
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    Teviya Abramson Member

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    Have fun! Look me up if you need help, but it's pretty easy to use.
     
  15. Yume No Okami
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    Yume No Okami Member

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    Sure thing. :)
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. I don't usually write about what my characters wear, unless it's directly relevant ("You're wearing a suit? You know what a suit IS?") but all the same, I know their style.
     
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  17. Sipsik
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    Sipsik Member

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    This is clever to ask advice for. What I do sometimes,no quite often, is probably a mistake. I picture all the clothes in my head, but I forget to describe them, so for the reader this caharacter may look like something s/he is absolutely not. Clothes play a big role in everyone┬┤s lives, it shows very clearly, for example music tastes, and those can lead to what kind of worldviews people can have. So looks must not be underminded.
     
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  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    You got it!
     
  19. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I tend to mention clothes if I'm trying to show something about the character indirectly, or fleshing out their personality for the reader. As people have previously mentioned, the type of clothes your characters wear can say a lot about their personal issues/motives/general ethos and I bring it up when it's appropriate.

    I don't really sit down and decide what my characters are wearing unless it's necessary, but my current MC's outfits did get a mention. She was knighted but in two minds about the king, so at first she served in her old hunting gear and it was a big moment when she switched to the official uniform.

    Interesting topic, @cutecat22 I've loved reading people's answers to this :)
     
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  20. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do put a good amount of thought into it - although not equally for every character and not at the same point in development for every character, because clothes are of different importance to different people. They're reasonably important to a lot of my characters because my story is set at a TV network and a number of the characters are on-air personalities - but I put a lot more effort up-front into the fashion choices of the sidekick character who runs the network's fashion and music blog than I did into my semi-tomboy reporter MC (although I've since done a lot more work on her aesthetic). And then the cameraman gets almost no attention on that front as he's the type of guy that usually shows up to work in a white t-shirt and couldn't care less.
     
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  21. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I don't go into too much detail with the clothes, mostly because my MC is a young man and doesn't care. My other MC was alive in Wales in the 19th century, so I googled 'traditional Welsh costume' and found pictures of women in really peculiar hats. I decided against describing any potential headgear.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I pride myself on asking what I think are stupid questions which actually, turn out to be quite interesting and thought provoking.

    :D:oops:
     
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  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If it's important to the character I'll describe something. I come from a background of reading The Babysitter's Club which had excellent 80's clothes porn for preteen girls. Anyone remember Claudia with her lobster earrings, fedora's and lavender shoes and Stacey with her plastic shoes, tight jeans and magnificent perm? For more literary examples Francesca Lia Block does the same thing. All her character have great clothing descriptions.

    I think clothes are a wonderful way of not just expressing someone's character but also the observer. For instance Kristy in the books noticing Claudia's outfit can say more about herself than Claudia.
     
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  24. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    Oh yes, I remember those. Red and blue tights, oversized sweaters galore and some kind of matching print two-piece with city names written all over it for Mary Anne's first date. Spectacular detail.
     
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  25. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Funny enough I vaguely remember that about those books (I was one of the few boys that read Babysitters Club - mostly because the franchise that young boys were reading at that same time was 'Goosebumps', which I had absolutely no interest in - and the Babysitters Club was at least character driven). The one thing I remember about those books is the characters being really distinct and easy to picture. Never really thought about those as an influence - or thought about them at all really - but funny enough, twenty some odd years later I'm writing a story with an almost-all-girl main cast. Probably had a lot to do with it.
     
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