Relationship with Clothes

            Think back to your childhood. What type of clothes did you wear? How much influence did you have in the purchase of your clothes? Did you have drawers full or only two outfits? Were your clothes stylish or faded and worn?

            How did you feel when you stepped out of the house? Were you ashamed or proud? Did you cover up your clothes with a jacket or strut about knowing that people were checking you out?

            Our relationship with clothes is formed in our early years. A child with few options might become an adult with closets stuffed and drawers overflowing. A teen who would only wear designer brands might choose the high-end brands as an adult.

            Your character’s preferences most likely stem from childhood options. While it isn’t necessary to detail every outfit your character wears, it is important to give readers a feel for how he dresses at varying situations.

            Your task is to write a story in which clothes are mentioned several times. Consider weather, situation and finances. Perhaps another character comments on an outfit or maybe she goes shopping and tries on dresses or slacks.

            Readers will want to see the design, the cut, the colors, the fit.

            Have fun with this one.

Clothing Selections

What we wear says a lot about us. Work clothes might be three-piece suits with ties and well-polished shoes. Or maybe jeans and a faded t-shirt. Or a uniform with mandated styles of shoes, hats and even jackets.

At home we might prefer to lounge in PJs, slippers, and robes. Or maybe shorts and light sweatshirts. Or perhaps nothing at all.

Church clothes range from casual  to dressy, depending upon the congregation’s understood rules. Swimwear could be sexy Speedos and bikinis or one-piece suits that provide protection for arms, chest and torso.

Your character has preferred styles of clothes. What he’s wearing when we meet him tells us quite a bit about him, therefore it’s important that you provide details without giving us a complete list. A few hints here and there will suffice.

Your task is to write a few opening scenes in which your character is wearing different outfits depending upon the activity. Remember to give details without boring the readers. Give them just enough that your character’s choices establish personality, but no more than that.

Have fun with this one.

Clothing Styles

It might not seem like a big deal, but how your characters dress truly is!

Imagine punk rockers dressed in all black with studded necklaces and high-laced black boots. Now picture characters in fancy dresses and suits.

What do you think of with each?

Having taught the punk rockers, I think of kids who often are on the fringes of high school society. They are good kids, but don’t meld with cheerleaders, jocks or the AP crowd. They might be in college prep classes, but often are the creative types who enjoy their own style of music. Of course all of this is a stereotype and there are exceptions.

The second group reminds me of the upwardly mobile or those who are already in the top 1%. They are more sedate, preferring parties and small gatherings over rock concerts. I see fancy cocktails being carried around by hired staff and delicate appetizers on trays. A sit-down dinner for a hundred. A fund raiser for a politician. Guests arriving in limos and chartered buses. Again, stereotypes.

Do you see how important clothing is? Not only does it set the tone, but it tells us a lot about our characters.

Your task is to make several lists. Divide each by clothing styles. Think of how age influences how a person dresses as well as socioeconomic status.

Choose one of your lists to work with. Write a story for that character in which clothing style is mentioned, but not all in one or two sentences. Scatter the descriptions about so that your character’s personality is slowly revealed.

This won’t be easy, but have fun with this one.

Fill in the Details

Characters do not walk around in a void, naked, in empty rooms. You must clothe them, feed them and have them interact with objects.

When you create a character, one thing you might consider doing is looking at images online, finding people in the same age group, same size, same coloring. Look for clothing styles that fit the character’s profile. For example, you might not see a 60 year old woman baring her midriff and wearing skin-tight jeans, but she might wear a track suit with t-shirt, a cashmere sweater over a loose cotton top and black flats.

Print up a selection of clothes and put them min an album. Refer to them often, but don’t spend time in your story describing everything that the character wears. Occasional references keep the reader grounded.

Think about the houses or apartments in which your character lives or visits. It must have furnishings, right? Considering your character’s level of income and lifestyle, place chairs, tables, desks, curtains, bed and so on. To get ideas, once again, look online and print up what you see.

When your character enters these places, what does she see? Chrome and leather modernist chairs? Glass-topped coffee table? Mahogany end tables? Describe them once, but not necessarily as a line-by-line listing. Instead, infuse the story with little details throughout, sharing something new and refreshing each time.

Your task is to create a series of scenes in which your character walks into a room, looks around, and takes in the view. Describe what he sees, giving detail sufficient enough to paint the picture for the reader.

Do this over and over. Dress her in different outfits. Have her walk into a doctor’s office or a IT company for a job interview.

Have him sit down to a meal, and when it is presented, actually look at the food before him. Describe it, thinking of colors, textures, arrangement, taste.

Have fun with this.

Good luck.