Attire can play a major role in establishing a character’s personality. The choice of clothing, shoes and accessories gives readers and writers a glimpse into what a character feels is important.
For a characters who must “fit in,” he or she will dress the part. Banker equals suit and heels; sales rep means a closet full of business attire. A professional character will dress like a professional when on the clock. Even auto mechanics have standard attire – Dickies or some type of khaki pants/shirt combination, steel toe boots for safety, goggles and gloves for added protection.
However, off of the clock, what dress decisions does this character make? These decisions can off an open invitation for exploring who the character is outside of their profession.
Below are some exercises to get you thinking about your character’s attire:
Exercise 1: What’s in the closet?
Got to a site such as Pintrest or Instagram and scan through pictures and images of clothing, shoes, and accessories. Then build a miniature closet of items each of your characters might purchase or wear outside of their profession. Once complete, take a look at what you’ve collected and see if you learn something new about your character.
Exercise 2: Lost it all.
Put your character in a tough position. Maybe their house has burned down or their apartment has been quarantined indefinitely. Give your character a budget of $100 and a ride to the thrift store to build a wardrobe for both work and leisure in the store. Find a thrift store in your area a peruse the racks and see what treasures you find that your characters might both love and hate.
Exercise 3: Play the role.
Give your character the opportunity of a lifetime but in order to collect the prize (money, fame, their dream job) they must dress completely opposite of what they are use to and comfortable with. Explore their reactions? Is this something that maybe they could continue to live with and be comfortable in or do they make the hard decision that it isn’t worth it? Are they concerned about their image or do they try to make the best of the situation? Examples: Plain Jane character gets stripper dress and hooker heels; party girl given frayed jeans, a sports jersey, and tennis shoes; Business man gets a flannel shirt, overalls, and work boots.