Creating a Character Via Their Clothes
There are many ways to introduce a reader to your characters. Many times, the way your character looks is one of the first things that a reader learns. A favorite way to tell a reader about your character without actually telling them anything, is to describe traits about your character with the kinds of clothing they like to wear. For example, if you tell a reader that your character wears a crown of daisies in her hair, that she prefers brightly colored skirts that float and twirl around her ankles, and that she wears her Birkenstocks year round, your reader can automatically infer a few things about your character. Creating a character via costuming is especially fun to do in a steampunk setting. Why? Because steampunk is an amalgam of Victorian and Gothic clothing, both romantic and practical and especially fun to play around with.
Let's play with some steampunk costuming.
Character A: Character A is a man of genteel upbringing, who rarely musses his coiffure. You'll never find him with a scuff on his boot, or a stray hair upon his coat. I would dress Character A in the following clothes, to tell my reader about him without ever uttering a word.
The Callahan Frock Coat in charcoal says my character understands fashion, and practicality.
Our gentleman, with his highly polished boots, would have no issues doing a bit of boisterous fighting, should the need arise.
No gentleman of worth would leave the house without his hat. Something expensive, but sensible, without a lot of pomp, I should think. His attitude has all the pomp required!
His walking stick is practical, but obviously handmade and quite expensive. Character A is swordsman, so something sharp might be hiding in there if you twist the handle just right!
Character B: Character B is a woman of wit, sophistication, and learning. She understands not only her worth, but the worth of her opinions. Raised in a home that placed value on education, Character B is the woman you might find dancing the night away at the ball, or just as probably, toiling away in a laboratory.
Our lady's daywear would include dresses of both fashionable taste and practical thinking. The single-breasted dress offers her functionality without the loss of beauty in the stitching and design.
No lady would have a complete wardrobe without a ballgown. This bowknot gown is stunning, and leaves our lady's arms free (in case she needs to wield a weapon in a fight, of course).
Our lady would never go out without her baubles, all of which are beautiful, but are they also deadly? Character B likes to keep secrets, you know....
So there you have it. We've taken 2 blank slates and we dressed them, and in doing so, we've created characters that our readers have gotten to know WITHOUT EVER TELLING THEM A THING! Clothing is important to who we are, it tells people a lot about our likes, dislikes and our inner nature. By dressing your characters with specific traits in mind, you can create the idea of a living, breathing person in the mind of the reader, giving them a more immersive and encompassing read.
Thanks for joining me today to discuss Costuming for Characters. I look forward to talking more about this subject when we delve into other types of punk! Deco, Cyber, Atomic, Bio....what would THOSE characters be wearing?!
Stay tuned and we'll get to play dress up with them, too!