Wordy Wednesday: Clothing Your Characters

So, I’ve been semi-putting off writing this post all day. Which is why, once again, it is now practically too late to still count as Wednesday. But so much is going on right now, and I’m getting worried about getting everything done in time, and all I want to do with my life is lose myself in cheesy YA beach reads and have time to watch a movie without having to work during it. (I know. I have shallow, shallow wants.)

No more putting off the Wordy Wednesday in favor of things that don’t need to get done until tomorrow night anyway, though. The winning option for this week was writing process, so today I’m going to talk about clothing your characters, or using fashion in your fiction.


I don’t know about you, but I am quite possiblyaddicted to ModCloth. Their stuff increasingly composes my wardrobe. On top of this, my critique group likes to play this game in which we try to outdo each other by finding the ugliest clothes on the site, I have an ongoing wishlist of items I’d love to purchase if I ever have the money, and I spend a kind of crazy amount of time ogling all the gowns and shoes I will never have reason to wear (because who doesn’t want to pretend they have a ball to go to, right?).

The other day while scrolling through the party dresses, I came across one that absolutely screamed, “OLIVIA. OLIVIA WOULD WEAR THIS.” (Olivia being the reluctant assassin protagonist of one of the novels I’m working on, Cadence.) It was crazy how much that dress looked like Olivia. I could picture her scoping out a ball full of corrupt businessmen and politicians from the edge of the room, lips stained red and a gun strapped to her thigh.

Intrigued, I searched for dresses that some of the other characters would pick and, sure enough, I found others that matched their personalities just as well as Olivia’s did.

Olivia’s party dress is royal blue and fairly plain, with a swoop neck, intricate back, thick straps, and a flowy, knee-length skirt. Practical but feminine. A color that’s bold, but wouldn’t stand out in a crowd.

Another character’s dress is soft pink, with a sweetheart neckline, a short, flouncy skirt, and lots of lace. It shows off how she’s very outgoing, sweet, and girly, but also sophisticated.

A third is short and tight–a rick, dark shade of plum. This is another outgoing character, only this one’s the other side of the coin: instead of sweet, she is sarcastic. She’s whiny, flirty, haughty; a slow burn. Open with her affections. Passionate about her friends. More interested in how she looks than how practical it would be to run in stilettos.

The important thing to note here is that, over the course of Cadence, we only ever see one of these three characters actually get to choose clothes, and even then it’s only street clothes. The rest of the time they’re all in various uniforms. But just looking through ModCloth, I can tell you what each of these characters would think of any particular article of clothing.

Figuring out what your characters would wear in different situations, and what they’d think of different types of clothes if they saw the pieces in the store, is a great way of getting a grasp on the larger traits of your characters’ personalities.

We all have different goals for what we want our clothes to do for us. Some people like to wear bright colors, and others like dark, and others are all about pastels. Some people want to let their quirkiness shine; others want to keep up with the latest fashion trends; others want to be able to pull something on as quickly as possible without having to worry about whether this-shirt-goes-with-these-pants or not.

Maybe your character has volleyball practice after school and she doesn’t want to take the time to change before it, so she wears a t-shirt and sweats all day. Or maybe your protag wears Toms all the time because he likes to help people (and we ALL KNOW that’s why you wear Toms, right?).

I can tell you that Olivia hates wearing skirts, because they’re impractical; loves Converse, because they’re tennis shoes but also look nice enough to wear places; and has a thing for bright colors, because they’re such a contrast with the plain black uniform her organization makes her wear.

Basically: Olivia is practical, but craves the opportunity to be impractical without worry. And this is something I wouldn’t have figured out without her clothes (and my ModCloth addiction).

So, peruse ModCloth for yourself. Ask yourself what your different characters would think of some of the pieces on the site. Put them in an imaginary scenario and figure out what clothes they’d pick and why. Really think it through.

After all, you never know when your characters are going to have to attend a ball. You don’t want them to have nothing to wear.



A reminder to anyone who wants to write a guest post or do an interview for while I’m traveling, you have until the end of Friday, June 20th to email those to me at [redacted]. Show me your beautiful words!



PS. It’s after midnight again. Sorry! I should be more on top of things again beginning, like, three months from now.

3 thoughts on “Wordy Wednesday: Clothing Your Characters

  1. Pingback: Wordy Wednesday: Character Development Tricks | Julia the Writer Girl

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