How to Develop Your Character’s Personal Style
As much as I don’t want to admit it, a person’s clothing choices say a lot about who they are. Their style can give clues as to where they came from and where they hope to go, and also leaves a large impact on how others view them as a person. Here is a guide on how to create a logical fashion sense for your character.
I’ll start with an obvious one- the time that your story takes place. Thoroughly research what styles were common in their era, plus what types of clothing would be worn by your particular character based on their job and reputation. Make note of the material, weight, and cost of each item, especially if your story is in a historical setting. Even if your plot takes place recently, like in 2007, you should still take the time to recall what was popular during that year.
Seasons are also a biggie when determining your character’s clothes. Make sure that your character is dressed appropriately for each season’s weather, and consider what colors or designs are popular during each month. For instance, a character set in a summer roleplay in the US would likely wear bright, thin clothing, as that is what is usually sold during warmer months.
Be sure to think about is where your character was born. Someone who grew up on a ranch in Wimberley, Texas is going to have a much different outlook on clothing than a kid who was raised in Paris, France. Although the style they wore while growing up may seem completely different than how you imagine their current wardrobe, it is still important to consider their roots and how that will affect them in deciding what to wear.
Also, judge their current location. Research the climate of where they live, and dress them accordingly. Look up the general style in their area. People in Seattle, Washington are known for wearing dark or neutral clothing with many layers, and those who live in Los Angeles, California have a reputation for paying close attention to designer labels and popular trends.
This one is especially important if your character still lives with their parents. Even if your character’s guardians don’t specifically dictate what their children can and can’t wear, they still impact the choices that your character will make. A person who was raised in a conservative home is less likely to don that revealing dress with the corset, unless she had a bad relationship with her parents and wishes to rebel. Your character will also probably dress similar to their parents, even if they only do it subconsciously.
Your character might have an older brother or sister whom they look up to. In that case, they might strive to copy or impress their sibling by wearing similar clothing. Or perhaps they are resentful towards their sibling, and go out of their way to dress differently. Maybe they just get whatever hand-me-downs are passed on through their brothers and sisters. It all depends on your character’s situation.
Family can also influence your character’s style because of the amount of money they hold. A relative’s riches may trickle down to your character’s wardrobe, whether it is through birthday gifts or pre-charged credit cards.
The job that your character holds will determine not only what they are allowed to wear, but also what they can afford to wear. Many businesses have strict dress codes, which your character will have to follow if they plan to keep their job. Their job may also influence their style choices after work hours, if they have a high profile occupation that requires them to keep a certain image.
Even if your character is unemployed, you must keep that fact in mind when deciding on a style for them. Unless they come from a rich family or have a wealthy spouse, they won’t be able to afford expensive clothing. Consider having them shop at thrift stores, or other cheap shops.
What is your character’s dream? Are they a determined middle-aged man intent on making it big as a politician? Keep them in dressy outfits and suits. Or are they a romantic young woman, desperate for a boyfriend? Make their ensembles flirty and easy on the eyes. As your character’s goals change, so will their wardrobe.
If they don’t seem to have a specific goal in mind, allow that to reflect on their style. Perhaps it will be unpredictable and spontaneous, or just plain comfortable.
Individuality only goes to a certain extent. The truth is, even if you are determined not to follow any trends, you will dress similarly to those that surround you. Think about your character’s friends, and what they wear. Your character will most likely dress similarly over time, even if they don’t realize it.
Friends also shop together occasionally, which means that their style will rub off on each other.
Lastly, think of everything else that is special to your character and try to incorporate it into their appearance. If they are a big animal rights activist, give them some vegan shoes instead of those leather combat boots that everyone’s wearing. Or say they went through some tragedy in their life, such as witnessing the death of their parents at a young age. Maybe your character would get a tattoo with their parents’ initials, or just a locket with their parents’ photos that they wear daily. It all depends on your character’s personality and past.
Also think about other details that are unique to your character. For instance, if you’re playing a FtM guy, they may want to wear a binder and baggy shirts on most days. Research your character’s religion, and see if it has any regulations as far as physical appearance goes. Don’t fall back on stereotypes, but do be logical when determining what your character will wear.
So where do you start?
Go to a site like Polyvore and start making outfits that your character would wear for different occasions. Other places to check out are fashion blogs, magazine websites, fashion tags on tumblr, and social media websites like Pinterest. Find some clothing for your character and save it to your computer so that you will have a reference in the future.
Of course, you can always come to my blog and request a custom outfit for your character too. That’s what I’m here for, after all!