Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)

I seem to keep saying, “I am revisiting this topic.”

It goes back to my earlier statement about world building and how things change as the story evolves. For the most part concerning clothes, I am not really changing things because of the world building but I am fine tuning them.

I am a fan of the US television show Project Runway (from season 1) and it is so much fun to see the creations each week to see if anything inspires me for something unique in my world. Every outfit that every character wears does not need to be described in each scene. However, I do need to know what typical attire is for each of the levels (not strict classes) of my society. If they are invited to a formal event, what would they wear and would they normally own that type of formal (or not) wear or would they have to acquire it?

You can create something that becomes a signature for a particular character. Look at the show Person of Interest and see how each week he is in a suit and it becomes a moniker for him. It would be totally out of character to see him in a t-shirt and blue jeans. If he did appear dressed so casually we would notice and want to know why and what is going on here.

This is just one of the many little details that can make your story come alive to your readers. Look at all of the Harry Potter scarves with the House colors that young readers wanted to wear. It can also be a detail that drags down your story. I have read many short stories that describe every article of clothing a person is wearing and it has absolutely no baring on the story. It didn’t create a style that was referred to; it didn’t draw attention to the character, and it only made the paragraph long and boring.