Character Clothing

by Alisa Anne Andrews
(United States)

Question: I have tried to write for most of my life, but I've only recently started to get the hang of it. I write mostly fantasy, which means I need to create many aspects of the culture, and that includes clothing. I intend to find the styles close to the culture style of the story's world and change it somewhat. I try to look up clothing styles from different times and places around the world, but I can't ever seem to find what I am looking for. Is there a better way to find the style of clothing I am looking for? Are there better places to look for them, or maybe I am not searching with the right criteria?

Answer: Well, since you are creating a fantasy world, what you're looking for may ultimately come from your imagination.

I think you're taking the right approach by looking at costume history. That's often what film and theatre designers turn to.

The other approach would be to consider what materials are available in your fantasy world. Do they have cotton, flax, silk, or some made-up fibre source? Are the animal hides the same as in our world? Which materials are reserved for certain social classes, perhaps because they are rare?

Also, what is the economy like? Do most families weave and sew their own clothing (in which case time constraints may mean fewer, simpler garments) or are there weavers and tailors? For example, upper class women may have more time to do embroidery and fine needle work than the average housewife (assuming sewing is women's work in your story world).

People's environment, occupation etc. also affect clothing choices. Is it cold enough to need furs? Is there a need for waterproofing or more protective garments?

Of course, most of the time you don't need a lot of detail about clothing, unless a particular clothing choice identifies a character or plays an important role in the story. A few details can be enough to give the reader an image of the story world. The rest may be left to the readers' imaginations.

Comments for Character Clothing

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Mar 27, 2012
Thanks ^^
by: AAA

Thanks! I didn't think about a lot of the stuff you wrote about. This will help so much.
The problem is that I like to see partially what I am describing, so I was wondering how to get good pictures of foreign clothing from different eras.

Mar 27, 2012
by: Glen

Again, try googling "costume history." You'll find a lot of websites with images of dress styles for many eras and places around the world.

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