(Corning New York)
Question: I can write what my characters look like, sound like, and even talk like. But no matter how hard I try I can not find the correct way to describe their clothing. My book takes place in the modern times, and as a thirteen year old girl I find it hard that I just can't seem to write about their clothing. Is there a simpler way of describing clothing that I'm just missing?Answer:
How important is clothing to your story? If you intend clothing choices to convey something about your characters' personality, then a few telling details are all you need. For instance, put a man in an Armani suit and a Rolex and the reader will infer he is trying to impress people. Put a teenage girl in nothing but hoodies and loose sweat pants and the reader can infer she is trying to avoid getting attention from boys (self-esteem issues perhaps, or a bad experience).
Similarly, you can convey a character's activities or affiliations with clothing details. For example, the adventurous Lyra of The Golden Compass
wears her fur parka like a uniform, in the same way Indiana Jones wears his leather jacket and hat. Athletes will invest in expensive running shoes, office workers will dress for work, etc.
Most of the time, you only need a few telling details. Or to put it another way, there's no need to include any detail that does not convey something important about the character or contribute to the story in some way. Too much detail just gets in the way. There's almost never a need to describe an entire outfit in detail from head to foot.
One exercise that can help is to comb through magazines for photos of people who look like the characters you want for your story. (S.E. Hinton, for example, based the character of the Motorcycle Boy in Rumblefish
, on a photograph she saw in a magazine.) Look for details in clothing that convey the impression you want to make.