author, creative writing, writers, writing

Character clothing; fashion tips for writers

When creating characters, appearance is just one aspect to consider. And within appearance there are numerous ways to describe your characters. One of which is their clothing and fashion sense. It can tell a lot about a person, so take a look at the tips below.

Only mention clothing if relevant
As with most aspects of writing description, you should only mention a characters’ clothing if it is relevant. Sliding in information on what they are wearing can help build an image, and reveal personality. But avoid an information dump. When you first see a person do you immediately assess their outfit? When you’re telling a friend a story, do you tell them in detail what the other people were wearing? Probably not. So don’t make your characters do this. Mention what stands out, what is relevant, and what adds context.

Use clothing to portray personality
Clothing can be a great way to show your characters’ personalities, without having to simply tell the reader facts about them. Are they eccentric dressers? Do they wear casual clothes to formal occasions (or the other way around)? Perhaps they make their own clothing. When you write a scene, picture your characters and consider if any aspect of fashion could enhance the scene.

Use accessories to imply wealth/status
Alongside clothing, accessories can imply character in many ways, including wealth and status. What jewellery do they wear? Is it expensive, vintage, handed down through the family? Do they wear sunglasses even when it’s cloudy? Do they wear flamboyant accessories to catch the eye, or pull hats down low to hide their face?

Consider your setting
For believability, make sure you have considered your setting before describing clothing. It should match the local environment, the weather, and any traditional styles. It should also reflect the time period of your story, so ensure you’ve researched if necessary.

Don’t forget other fashion statements
Fashion isn’t all about clothing. You should consider piercings and tattoos as well. Body art is often used as a way to express oneself, and so can show a lot about a person and what matters to them. You can also describe hairstyles, makeup, fake-eyelashes or nail art.

Do you consider fashion when writing your characters? What do you use to give the reader insight? Share your thoughts below!

Until then,
Keep writing,

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22 thoughts on “Character clothing; fashion tips for writers”

  1. Great tips, as usual. I think there’s one more aspect to point out, that applies to action sequences: what the character is wearing may make a difference when it comes to the injuries they take (or don’t). For example, when a character makes a daring escape, emerging with their clothing torn and/or blood-soaked may be a way to give another sense of what they had to endure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michelle, very thought provoking. To me, the clothes can be an illustrative part of a novel. They can be used to define social strata in a small town, eg. I was thinking of the great book “Where the Crawdads sing?” when the person of highest character, was the young girl who raised herself in the swamp, but dressed in a tattered manner, while her antagonists were well dressed socialites who looked down on her. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Michelle, that is ironic. I hope you enjoy it. During the pandemic, we have been shopping our own book shelves for new reads. I gave that book to my wife and asked is this one I might enjoy? Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome tips, Meelie! One of my reading pet peeves is a book where every time a character enters a scene, the authors spends paragraphs describing what they’re wearing. It slows everything down. I much prefer your tip of mentioning clothing when it’s relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The big issue i have is to go with kind of accessories I have. Every time I go out confused with the suiting accessory and till now not finding a solution to that. Anyways well written

    Liked by 1 person

  5. To a point I think about it. Will Diaz pretty much wears the same thing constantly. White shirt, black vest, blue or black jeans, and cowboy boots. He has his badge on his belt, and a Colt Python in a high rise holster on his hip. In many ways he looks like he blew out of the old west.

    But unless there’s a reason, I rarely talk about what my characters wear.


  6. Thanks for the post. I’m writing a manuscript now and I put in about a hat my main character bought because she is very pregnant, it is Easter, and she has nothing new to wear. (This takes place in rural Appalachia early 1900s) She wears her new hat (called a cloche) so no one will notice her old clothes. She gets upset because no one notices her hat and all they can talk about is the fact that she hasn’t had her baby yet. She comes home upset and flings it on the bed.

    Liked by 1 person

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