I’ve got nothing to wear.

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

How do you decide how to dress your characters?

The simple answer is – Realistically.

Many of my books are set in the far future. If you remember the sci-fi of the 1950s, then according to them, all my characters should probably be dressed in shiny metallic one-piece jumpsuits, with short boots and a fixed, determined, grin.

However, my cast tends to be dressed in the same way that we are. Andorra Pett wears jeans and a tee-shirt, or a boiler suit if she’s working. Everyone else has normal clothes, a mixture of styles.

It’s the same with the Steampunk settings, the dress is nineteenth century, lots of suits and gowns for the ladies. My character Jessamine, of the Orphan Detectives, shocks Jackson Thwaite when he finds her wearing trousers, it wasn’t what he expected a lady to wear. Which is a nod to the times and not an expression of any “ism”.

The thing is, the clothes are what is required by the setting and what the function of the wearer is in the scheme of things. Working people wear overalls, office types have suits, officials might have a uniform (unless they’re secret police when they will look like everyone else). There’s casual gear for weekends.

Not forgetting the specialised wear required for certain situations.

It rains a lot on several of my worlds, on Nova-5 they have the anti-static hat, which repels water as you walk. On the slightly less advanced planet Fallop, a one-piece oversuit does the same job.

It’s a case of being appropriate for the function and creating a picture in the reader’s mind.

Little things like a hat can set a scene and create a background.

For example, a person in a rumpled suit would help you to picture an overworked and world-weary detective, whereas a smarter suit and tie would suggest an executive. I’m not necessarily harking back to the days of black or white hats, my characters are not good or bad purely based on their dress. I’m just tapping into people’s perception, based on familiar tropes. Without becoming stereotypical.

I’ve got far too much to do working out the plot and all the other parts of the world to create new fashion for everyone, they wear what’s practical for the job in hand. And in general, that means roughly what we would wear to do the same job today.

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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6 Responses

  1. phil huston

    The specific item thing, specific hairstyle are keys. You can dress one from the top down or the bottom up or suggest the whole get up with a hat or shoes. I have one or two that get the full treatment just for effect. Mostly it’s pieces. One guy buys cheap underwear because he’s in a hurry and it it ends up sticking to him like grapeskin. Those sorts of things. Faded Levis, worn-out cowboy boots and an $80 haircut. Hollywood, where everybody’s a game show host? You bet.

  2. P.J. MacLayne

    You have to wonder, however, if sometime in the future, they’ll create an even more durable and comfortable fabric then denim and jeans will become updated

  3. Amy Miller

    Little things really do set the scene. I’m always trying to balance so that there are little things, but not so many that the reader starts to fall asleep.

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