Monday, October 1, 2012

Clothing: Does it Matter?

Of course it matters. I'm not a closet nudist or anything.

But in our writing. Does it matter?

In Woven, I'm very generic. Cloaks, skirts, shawls, scarves. That's the extent of my description except in one instance where I really wanted to capture the moment and try to give a good description of the MC. It was my way of avoiding the dreaded mirror trope.

But I have this very specific idea in my head for what the characters are wearing, what they look like. And I can't find anything historically accurate for any time period that actually reflects what's in my head.

With Curse of Life I have an even bigger challenge. This one is set in a desert clime. I initially pictured the MC in my mind dressed like Princess Jasmine.

Which is not historically accurate. So far as I can tell. You see, when it comes to anything- history, fashion history, culture, music, any of it- the internet doesn't care about anything but Europe and America.

Which stinks. Because there's a massive world out there to pull from. It's varied, it's vibrant, and it's unique.

And that's the problem.

So now I sit here at my desk with my head feeling ready to explode wondering if it really matters what my characters are wearing. Can I get away with being generic? I have an image inspiration for one character from Curse of Life but finding images for the other characters, for all the characters in every story in my head, is going to prove a greater challenge.

So far, I really like a variety of clothing styles. All of which stem from the 1700s-1800s and would really only work for the kingdom in which Woven is primarily set. Curse of Life has a greater fashion challenge and is the one making me question whether I really need to expend so many brain cells on it when I should be writing or editing.

What say you? Do you find clothing descriptions more helpful if they're generic? Or do you like getting a hint of a specific style without the author going overboard on technical terms?


  1. I try to give as brief but specific a description of each character's clothing as possible, and repeat that at each major change in the story. I think that it helps set the tone, and helps the reader to know the character more.

  2. You know, there are some books I read when I just shake my head at the descriptions. There's SO much and some of it is like a list. You can make your characters stand out and special without so much details. And even then I think it depends on the situation. Not every situation requires that much attention.
    That what I like about being a writer, we can decide how much we need. ;-)


  3. I like the brief descriptions. If it's too much or the writer goes overboard with describing the brands of clothing the character is wearing then it can get tiring. I always try to describe if the clothing is unique or there is something special about it. Not ever piece of clothing requires much attention, especially if the character is a jeans and tee sort of character.

  4. I didn't have a problem with there not being much description in WOVEN. In fact, the little description made scenes like where you describe her vine embroidery and/or the tunics she made for the boys stand out because I could infer, then, that day-to-day clothing was "generic" and this special-day clothing was special. Put things into context for me.

    In my book BECOME, I describe some clothing, just because it's important to the characters--it's in context with their personalities.

    In another story of mine, I'm more generic on the day-to-day stuff (like in WOVEN) but some outfits are described in more detail because the MC finds them shocking/interesting.

    SO, I think my answer to your question is that I, as a reader, rarely need clothing descriptions for the sake of description. However, if it's of interest for one reason or another to the MC or to the story itself, then absolutely, I want to know all about it!

  5. For me, it depends on the type of story if I want clothing descriptions or not. I agree with Ali that if it's important to the plot and MC, you should put it in. As far as accuracy, remember you're writing fiction. Do the research you can and go from there.


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