How to describe what a character is wearing in a interesting way?

This question might be a little silly, but I was just wondering how can I describe a character outfit interestingly? What I mean is that, how should I tell and not show?

Any help and suggestion will be helpful.

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In my experience as a reader, I generally gloss over what a character is wearing if the author describes it in the narrative. If I’m given the choice to inspect a character, which would include their clothing, I’m going to be paying more attention to the narrative since I assume that the author is giving me that choice for a specific reason. Maybe I spot some bloodstains on the character’s clothes as a detective and I can put them on my suspect list for instance.

Otherwise, I would say keep it brief or space out the description so it’s not one big chunky paragraph.

As a writer, I try to describe the clothing as an extension of the character’s personality or I introduce the character in their job (i.e. police officer, office assistant in a big company, car mechanic, etc.) to get the general idea of how they’re dressed.

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As a reader, I also tend to gloss over it, mostly because I have the fashion sense of a brick, and I’m not a native speaker, so most of the time, I can’t make heads or tails out of fashion terms anyway.

As a writer, I like to keep it vague, maybe focus a bit on the colors the characters are wearing when I’m describing their general appearance (“The blue of their dress matches their eyes,” etc.). Or I mention a piece of clothing they tend to wear a lot or something that would be considered unusual in the setting.

But mentioning specific uniforms is of course also important or details that might stand out, especially if there is the choice to inspect the character in question closer.

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You are right, not every character needs a detailed description on what they wear. It also depends on what type of story someone is writing.

I like the concept of bringing the characters in their working places. But describing the clothing style in deep is needed? Or having a simple and easy description is best?

What if some characters in the story are the love interest of our MC? Will you try to define more on what those characters are wearing, or will you keep it simple?

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I kept it simple. In my current demo I described the clothes of the first love interest one can meet like this

“The earthy tones of his clothes compliment his auburn hair and the warm brown of his skin.” And a bit later, “He lowers his gaze again, fingering at the seam of his too-large cardigan.”

And that was pretty much it x)

I generally try to weave such things in when describing actions/movements or general appearence.

There are probably more elegant ways, but I do like to keep such things simple, or I might end up forgetting what I wrote later on or end up losing myself in trying to describe too much and create a text wall instead.

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You are right! Forgetting what you have written earlier or how you have described something is a bad situation, and seeing your example, I guess keeping things simple is not a bad idea. Plus, we want the reader to know how a character looks, and giving tons of details for that is useless.

It’s actually okay not to go into full detailed descriptions of everything about a character and their wardrobe. Physical features are generally better to be described on first appearances though, But there’s ways to describe character descriptions without it being too boring. You can even potentially paint imagery of what a character would look like without going into heavy detail about them.(Or I might be totally wrong). Like…

This wasn’t a person. It was an attack dog. Something to be sicced on your enemies. Ready to pursue and chase down whatever prey was thrown in front of him, and not necessarily exclusive to the people who did anything. Each muscle and movement, carrying itself with spring loaded tension and ready to pounce without a second thought. For any reason. The scars riddling his body clearly from people trying to fight back, but you get the sense, that it only ever ended at the fact they tried.

Maybe not the prime example, but the best I can do as a rough example this early in the morning, since I’m just really not that good anyway.

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What a character wears can be a good way of showing what kind of image the character is trying to present, in-universe. In general, I like to think that character descriptions are a chance to tell you something about both the character being described, and the viewpoint character. What draws their attention most, and what kind of judgements, if any, do they make about it?

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Too much description is going to be dull, and as a writer, we are not supposed to let that happened. I have decided to keep the details as simple as I can and not let it get too heavy.

The example is helpful, and the idea of showing the physical features first can be really helpful because we can describe other things according to a character’s appearance.

I agree with @Scribblesome.

It’s useless to show what character is wearing only cuz well descriptions are a thing and I need my word count~ With clothes show details that are important or might become important later. That in some ways tells the reader the character’s personality or status or smth else.

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Oh, I loved what you said, and you are right, how our character thinks about everything, and what things he/she notices does tell a lot about the character.

The thing about the judgment, I feel like we should let the reader make his/her judgment, and not explain what our MC judgment is about a particular thing or a person because it can be obvious that the MC judgment won’t match with the reader’s judgment. So as a writer, we should let the reader make their judgment and not let the MC have any opinion in it. (Or I am completely wrong in this :sweat_smile:)

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I agree with the general consensus that a description of clothes is usually redundant. The exception for me would be when it’s used as shorthand for an important aspect of character or status. For example, it’s much better to illustrate the wealth of a character by saying “with a swish of silk and a glitter of brocade, she entered the room” than by telling the reader her net worth. Or possibly to help set a general mood. For instance, mentioning that a character is “bundled in furs” is a quick way of letting the reader know what season it is, should that be needed.

But otherwise I wouldn’t personally ever describe a character’s clothing. Unless, I suppose, they’re wearing something really unusual that you need to draw attention to. “Despite the general clemency of the weather, he arrived at the train station wearing a full, military-issue hazmat suit.” :smiley:

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I agree with that, giving a outfit description of a character will be only necessary when it’s something unusual, or else why should we waste energy giving description about outfits of every character :expressionless:.

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Definitely agree, it’s a bit different when you’re writing main characters whose attributes are determined by the player. But I suppose you could work with it and give the player option on how they feel? To quickly steal @Wiwyums example:

That could lend itself to a choice like:

#Ugh, the price of those clothes could feed a village for a week.
#Such beautiful clothes… I wish I could afford things like that!

Or something like that :sweat_smile:

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I go with simple since people typically have an idea of what a police officer, car mechanic, office assistant, or yoga instructor would wear.

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And probably the biggest thing I can think of, is don’t tell people a character is just super attractive to them. Not everyone is going to feel that way or think that. Don’t inform them they find that character to just be the absolute sexiest thing ever. The player will decide what they think on their own. Don’t tell them from first glance they can’t help but be enamored with someone else’s specific definition of attractiveness.

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As a reader and a writer and a reader who will make fan content if I really like the story there are exactly two things I really care about for everyday outfits:

  1. Color scheme
  2. Vibes: this could be the make up of the outfit (a wrinkled t-shirt and cargo shorts) or just a comment about the overall style type (her preppy, bubblegum pink outfit) which can be particularly useful for women’s clothes.

Generally, I like to see this included when you first introduce the character and as a reader care very little about subsequent outfits unless there is a massive occasion or weather change. If character A is going to only wear neutral-colored t-shirts and cargo shorts all summer, then you can mention that he’s wearing jeans or that he fiddles with the sleeves of his puffy coat when we transition into winter time as a way to acknowledge reasonable outfit change. You could also introduce this as part of character conversation when it is in character. If you have a character who likes to tease, maybe they mock character A for buying a pretentious brand.

Times when I like to see more detailed or regular descriptions:

  1. Signature clothing items: If character B loves wearing their pink unicorn hoodie and rainbow striped converse you can easily mention that throughout the story and progressively introduce more detail.

  2. Formal wear, specifically dresses: This doesn’t need to be a long description but please use meaningful words so I understand at least vaguely what style of dress I am looking at when it is introduced for the first time. Is there glitter? Is it silky? Does it have a slit? Long or short? Is the skirt fluffy?

  3. A character who cares a lot about fashion: In this case it is probably relevant to include short, single-sentence descriptions every time the MC meets up with them of whatever outfit they are wearing that day. This is a way to reflect the care they put into picking their outfits without weighing down the narrative.

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Hi @Hoodie

Figure out what you are trying to tell the reader, then use the clothing to convey that message to the reader.

For example: I want to tell my reader that the protagonist’s mother is considered to be royalty, their grandfather considered to be a “typical” druid archtype and that the boy-king is deceptive… so this is how I do this through clothing.

Mother:

Grandfather:

Antagonist (boy-king):

I use clothing description three different ways, but all are used to show my messages about the characters.

In the case of the mother’s clothing … I chose a simple color palette that complimented her undertones and that described her royalty directly in the description. This was done to establish the royalty aspect of her nature and to show everyone accepted that she had the right to wear the “royal” color out in the open and front and center.

In the grandfather’s case, I indirectly used his escort’s clothing to establish that druids wear the typical white robe, that is expected of these types of characters. Then I state the grandfather is the High Druid, which implicitly ties the grandfather to this trope while I go on to describe other aspects of the character that are more important.

With the Antagonist, I go into more details, to showcase the depth of the quality of this character I am attempting to show. As this character plays a key role in the story, I go into more depth and spend more time describing the clothing.

This approach may or may not be in sync with other writers.

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Pair descriptions of their clothing with actions or mannerisms that establish their character or advance the action.

“He pulled at the gloves once more, focusing on the tension of the cloth against his skin as he descended the stairway.”

“With a single crooked finger she pulled at the thin black fabric of her tie, sighing as she leaned over the rails.”

Action, mannerisms, thoughts, personality in general tend to be at the forefront when I [attempt to] write. I tend to use clothing to accentuate these actions, set the scene, or say more about the character. Coats flutter in the breeze during a stormy night. Ties and suits suggest a formal occasion before it’s stated. A character wearing a tuxedo to a wedding suggests that they care about decorum. A character wearing a tuxedo to a seedy bar suggests they don’t understand the idea of dressing to fit your environment, or perhaps, don’t care.

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