Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dressing Your Characters


Do clothes make the man? Mark Twain thought so. It’s only a saying, but there’s some truth to it. An expensive ‘little black dress’ could give you a boost of confidence, while an pair of old jeans might give you a comfortable, relaxed feeling. Formal wear makes us stand up straighter and mind our manners. Military uniforms do the same thing.

My mother always told me not to judge people by the clothes they wear, but most of us do judge, at least to some extent. One reason is because clothing clues us in about personality. Clothing may say something good, or something bad in other people’s minds. Clothing broadcasts a lot about a character, so we should use it when and where we can.

Sometimes we’ll finish writing our manuscript and realize we didn’t ‘dress our characters’ very well. They’re not exactly naked on the page – readers can fill in the wardrobe – but we, as authors, are missing a great opportunity to show the reader our character’s personality in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways. So, we need to dress them like little girls dress paper dolls, and show style preferences that reflect who they are.

Instead of saying a teenage girl is flashy, we can put her in a multi-colored, attention-grabbing dress. Have her striding into the scene swinging a sunny yellow purse, and wearing a turquoise straw hat with pink silk flowers. Let her wobble forward in green spike heels. Paint a picture that characterizes the girl’s personality by showing, not telling. What does this clothing selection tell you about the character? Judging from the picture I painted of the girl, which pair of shoes would she like best?


There’s a good chance she’s not a shy, introverted girl! But don’t take her eye-catching appearance at face value because she might be trying hard to be someone she’s really not. More later.

Are your character’s clothes sloppy or neat? Casual or formal? Do your people like what they’re forced to wear, like work uniforms or suits for the office or courtroom? Or maybe they don’t care what they wear. Think about why they do or don’t. It could tell the reader a lot.

A Question: If the heroine wears shorts and a tee shirt to a worship service, would you as the reader make any assumptions about her? You might, but depending upon the circumstances, you could be all wrong.

If she’s at a worship service in the middle of a field on a hot summer’s day, you’d probably think her clothes were totally appropriate. Most everyone would be dressed informally so she wouldn’t stand out as different from everyone else. In that case, her clothes aren’t making much of a statement – except that she’s conforming to the group much like everyone else. Obviously, she likes to fit in. (However, short shorts and a halter-top might attract attention, some of it negative.)

If her clothes were a little more extreme than shorts and a tee shirt, some people might approve of her courage or flare, but others might think she was looking for attention or showing off.

But if she were a guest at a fancy wedding held in a cathedral, you’d wonder why she showed up in shorts. Most people would gape at her. The reader would wonder why she wore something so out of place. What was she thinking or wasn’t she thinking at all? We might search for an explanation for her odd behavior. Didn’t she have anything else to wear? Is she trying to attract attention? Is she just strange?

The unusual or unexpected clothing choice grabs the reader’s interest, and if she doesn’t know the reason behind it, she’ll keep reading until she finds out what’s going on.

Clothing choices say a lot about our story people. It says one thing about the heroine if she looks completely comfortable in a bikini in church (yes, I know that’s absurd), and another thing if she looks embarrassed and tries to hide. From her behavior we can make an assumption about what she’s like. Her personality shines through even though she’s not saying a word.

Readers can learn a lot about your characters by WHAT they wear and HOW they wear it.

Clothes reveal personality.


Of course if we’ve never seen this character before we have to remember she might be trying to fool people! Maybe she’s in disguise. It’s always a possibility. We might want to dig a little deeper.


It’s also important to know how the character takes care of her clothes. Does she throw her things in a heap in a corner of her bedroom, or hang them up carefully? Are her clothes clean, or are they dirty and wrinkled? Even if they’re worn and faded, are they neat and laundered? A fashionista who spent a fortune on her wardrobe would probably take good care of it, but if money wasn’t an issue, she might be careless and figure everything can be easily replaced. Her attitude about life comes through loud and clear.

Where do you find fashion ideas?
Catalogs and magazines are great for fashion ideas for writers of contemporary books. Since I write historicals I can’t find what I need in the clothing advertisements that come in my mailbox every day. Exploring the nearest department store won’t help me.

So I search the internet, read tons of articles on early twentieth century fashion and look at images. I also have old Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs I got from Amazon, and paper doll books. Check out the library or a bookstore. Pictures are everywhere.

How do you decide what your characters will wear? Do you give it much thought?

If you’d like a chance to win a $10 gift certificate from Starbucks, please leave your e-mail address.








105 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Coffee's always good, Cara. Thanks foe your post today.love the idea of getting to know the character by what they weaker or don't wear, how they take care of them. Thanks

Connie Queen said...

I love this, Cara. How many missed opportunities have missed to show my characters personality? My current heroine wears jeans and t-shirt w/running shoes, but that's as descriptive as I get. No colors or other details. And now that I think about it, I don't think I've even mentioned the hero's clothes except one time he wore a baseball cap. I'm in the rough draft stage but now I'm making notes to enhance the clothes details.

Chill N said...

Such an informative and use-able post, Cara!

I hadn't thought about clothing choice until reading your post, but my characters are so real to me, I have a strong sense of how they dress when I start the story. The challenge for us historical writers is that often the pix of are black and white. So it's back to research for info on colors :-)

And what an interesting thought about how dress might mislead someone about a character's personality in a story!

Nancy C

Tina Radcliffe said...

Great post, Cara. Pinterest is becoming one of the most fascinating places to see character fashions. Especially historical.

Laura Frantz in particular puts up some amazing stuff.

Julie Hilton Steele posts cool vintage stuff too!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Admission:

My character's clothing is freaking boring.

I need to step up my game.

Dee LeRoye said...

Speedbo..."Take A Chance". I can't remember what anyone has worn all month and since I'm still hoping to finish it by the 31st, or at least get the 60,000 words, I'll have to dress them in April. However, Kimi wore a nightgown through the first couple chapters because her captor thought he could keep her from running away if she had no other clothes. And Chance ordered a red print dress for Sarah from Montgomery Ward.
Ah, some great thoughts.

Wilani Wahl said...

I never thought about dressing my characters except for part of a wedding scene. Yet another great tip for me to learn.

I was able towrite 2,000 words today so I am at 18,000 now.

Thank you for your encouragement and teaching.

Vince said...

Hi Cara:

Enlightening post!

Clothes equal personal setting.

I believe that anything setting can do for a story, clothes can do for a character.

Thanks, you’ve given me a whole new resource to explore.

I'll have to read the Seeker posts on settings in the morning to see how this theory holds up.

Natalie Monk said...

Wow, I've never thought that much about clothing in my novels, but I definitely pay attention to it in other novels.

I...Well, um...Tina stole the words right out of my mouth about Pinterest, lol!! I love it when Julie Hilton Steele is on there. It's like a historical dress-up party! They have great ideas for modern fashion, too. If you're looking for cutting edge fashion (though not all of it is very pretty to me, lol), then follow "polyvore" on Pinterest. Polyvore.com is the fashion version of pinterest, but they also pin to pinterest. It's interesting to see what the newest trends are, even if I don't like them all, haha!

I'm going to have to pay more attention to clothes in fiction now. I can't imagine watching "Gone With the Wind" without all of Scarlett's fancy ball gowns and dresses, how could I expect less from a novel?

Melissa Jagears said...

What do your clothes say about your characters?

All I could think was, "well my clothes tell you I'm a slob, that I either have very little money or it is so low on my priority list that I spend my money elsewhere" and then I think, yep, that's all me. ha ha

Seriously, I need to go shopping sometime soon to like some fancier thrift store .....when I have no children with me...who am I kidding?

I'll just go look at Laura and Julie's Pinterest boards and pretend I'm wearing something off of there.

But yeah, I pay little attention to my characters' clothing, because I really don't care about mine much. But I should, huh? Grumble.

Carol Garvin said...

Boy, what a lot of great ideas, Cara! I dress my characters, and I do give some thought to it, but haven't taken full advantage of everything you've suggested. I think it may be because I'm not terribly fashion conscious myself. I want to look nice and be dressed appropriately, but I don't spend much time either shopping or choosing my clothes for the day. So that's obviously rubbed off on my poor characters.

My critique group pointed out my brief reference to "white lace panties and bra" in a scene, and suggested white was very blah... could''t I make them more interesting in a print, or a nice colour? My choice of white wasn't conscious, but it does suggest something about my character's personality. Now I need to go in and finish dressing her in more outfits to confirm what I've started. :)

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Carol
caroljgarvin (at) gmail (dot) com

Jenny Blake said...

A girl in shorts and t I would think oh shes a city girl in a city church. Here in a lot of city churches dress is very informal in the rural areas here I would think she may be visiting.
At a wedding or cathedral would wonder if she didn't have anything else to wear or maybe looking at her demeanor wonder if there was an issue like she got soaked on the way or her luggage was lost at the airport or train and she didn't have time to buy anything else before the service because the said transport was running late.

Hallee Bridgeman said...

Great post, Cara! Clothing are so much a part of setting the scene. Pinterest is a wonderful tool for that -- though I'll confess that I look and choose outfits, but never remember to "repin" them. I need to get better about that.

Hallee

Glynna Kaye said...

LOVE this, CARA! I'm ALWAYS forgetting to TELL what my characters are wearing and have to go back and fill in the blanks! This is especially important at the opening when you want your readers to SEE your characters clearly. Important, too, if changing the way they dress later in the story reflects an internal change as well.

Jackie said...

Hi Cara,

I keep clothing catalogs in my office. Clothes mean a lot to some of my characters, like the accountant. Others are more focused on baking I keep a variety of catalogs for different personalities. I love your post today, it makes me feel okay that I think clothes are important to my characters.

Thanks!

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning, Marianne! Right now I'm drinking a latte. It's the best way to start the day for me.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Connie! You don't need to get down the details in a rough draft, but eventually it's important to give the characters some color and style.

Cara Lynn James said...

Nancy, it is hard to imagine color from black and white photographs. Paper doll books (I think they're published by Dover) and fashion books really help.

Cara Lynn James said...

Tina, throw in some quirky accessory to define your character better. Or maybe give her a favorite color.

Cara Lynn James said...

Congratulatons of writing so fast, Dee! Is the nightgown plain cotton, a night shirt or does it have lace?

Kav said...

I totally never considered this aspect at all. But, wow, it makes sense. I've always thought that kind of detail was mostly for historicals but now you have my mind whirling with possibilities. Yet another way of going deep into character with a minimum of words. Awesome -- thanks for that!

Rose said...

Cara,

I LOVE this post. Dressing my character's is always something I seem to forget to do while writing a rough draft. I always have to be mindful of it in the revision process.

I use catalogues too for fashion ideas.

Annie Rains said...

My characters usually just show up on the page wearing what they're wearing. I do tend to watch people in my environment and admire what they wear, so I'm sure that influences that to some extent.

Thank you for a wonderful post! Please throw me in the hat for the Starbucks card annierains (at) gmail (dot) com

Victoria said...

This post really caught my attention. I hardly ever think about what my characters are wearing, and if I do, it's never in relation to their personality. Now I've got lots of thoughts running through my head and I can't wait to put this into practice! Thanks!!

Victoria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Kirst said...

Great post, Cara! I enjoy describing clothing but find myself relying on the same colors. As you said, historical writers have to dig a bit to find clues as to what our characters might wear. How do you avoid being repetitive with your fabrics/colors?

Cara Lynn James said...

Wilani, you've written a lot this month. Good for you! I have trouble writing 2,000 words in a day so I have to settle for less.

Cara Lynn James said...

Vince, you're right. Clothes do equal personal setting. The beautiful fashions on Downton Abbey are certainly part of the lavish setting.

Cara Lynn James said...

Natalie, I got me to thinking that clothes reflect the times. After the Civil War Scarlett had to use the curtains for dress fabric!

Cara Lynn James said...

Melissa, you might not care much about clothing, but if your character does, you'll have to start thinking differently! It could be fun. Or not...

Lee Kilraine said...

Wow, Cara, I don't usually put much detail and attention into what my characters wear. In fact, I am so bad about this that I recently had one chapter that I passed on to my CP and when she passed it back with comments it ended with, "You know your heroine was naked during that whole scene, right?" Yikes! "Clothing choices say a lot about our story people." I really am missing an opportunity for showing more about my characters. And I bet a few details go a long way like in some of your examples. Time to stop recycling all those clothing magazines. Thanks, Cara!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Carol! It's fine if your characters aren't clothes conscious, but maybe one could be. That would distinquish her or him from the others.

Missy Tippens said...

A great reminder, Cara! I need to use that more, especially in just showing my character in her clothes (and not telling). The reader needs the chance to discover the personality and the situation.

I needed this reminder to show character through clothes! Thanks, Cara.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jenny, it's good to remember someone who seems to be dressed inappropriate for a certain occasion might have a great story to tell that explains the reason.(Wow, that was a long sentence!)

Cara Lynn James said...

Hallee, I love Pinterest. I don't know why I forgot to mention it.

Cara Lynn James said...

Good point, Glynna. Dressing a character can be an important part of layering.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Snort. I am so laughing at Melissa and her fancier thrift store shopping so that she doesn't look like a snob.

Come visit me, Melissa. We have the world's awesomest thrift store ever in our town. It's a St. Vinnie's, which should make Ruthy and Julie happy.

Okay, as for my character's clothing, unless it's practical or I'm using it to make a statement about someone's personality, I pretty much ignore it. And I absolutely do as little research on clothing as possible.

Actually, I take that back. When I wrote my first French Rev novel, I looked EVERYWHERE to get info on what my peasant characters would be wearing, and came up with absolutely nothing. There are books upon books written about the aristocracy clothing, and nothing about the peasants. That right there pretty much tells you all you need to know about why there was a revolution in the first place.

Mary Hicks said...

Oh, Cara, I love this! Clothes are an interesting giveaway to a persons personality—and sometimes not!
Pinterest is a great source to find almost anything you'd like to study about dress.

I wear a lot of neutral colors, plus black and white. But inside me, there's a red, yellow, pink and summer green person.:-)

Chill N, what are you doing up so early??? :-)

Jeanne T said...

Cara, I love this too! I haven't put as much thought into my characters' clothes and what their wardrobe says about them. They truly do say a lot about the wearer. Thanks for giving me some ideas on how to add a little more depth to my characters in the readers' minds. :)

Mary Hicks said...

I often go into too much detail about my characters dress. I can't seem to help myself, I guess because I do like clothes.

Melissa, shopping is an art. There are some really neat Goodwill stores. :-)

I do not discriminate when it comes to shopping. I shop all the way from Neiman Marcus to Goodwill, and everything in between.

I have a wonderful black coat I bought at Nordstrums, I wear it with my coach bag that I bought, like new, from a thrift store.

I like quality, but the money you can save with wise shopping helps pay for quality editing.:-)

Janet Ferguson said...

Great article! I've focused on a tiny bit of what my heroine wears. I could certainly do more. I love Jackie's idea about keeping catalogs. Sales ads to my twenty-something daughter should keep me up with the latest styles! Thanks for the great post!
PS I like coffee

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi CARA what a fun post. What woman doesn't love to play around with clothes?

And we can put the best on our characters.

Thanks for all the great tips.

DebH said...

wow. i've never really considered this aspect of using clothing to clue the reader about a character's personality. thanks for the eye opener.

as for me, i'm a fashion illiterate. i think some friends were considering me for that "What Not To Wear" show - that's how bad I am. *sigh* if i look good in an outfit, ten to one a family member bought it for me. down deep, i'm just a Wrangler jean, soft sweatshirt (or t-shirt), tennis shoes, and pony-tail through ballcap (colo rockies or avalanche) kind of girl.

too bad i can't wear that to work. *heavy sigh*

every once in a blue moon, i like to play dress up, but finding the right dress that doesn't make me feel like a trussed up chicken prepped for roasting is tough...

DebH said...

SANDRA
you said What woman doesn't love to play around with clothes?

erm... me? *heh*

Cara Lynn James said...

Jackie, I think clothing contemporary characters is equally as important as dressing characters in historicals. But in historicals readers seem to expect more wardrobe descriptions probably because they're not as familiar with the fashions of the day.

Cara Lynn James said...

Kav, no matter what era you're writing about the details of clothing add to the layers of character. And it's easy.

Cara Lynn James said...

Rose, I like catalogues a lot. L.L. Bean is great for sports, cottage type furnishings etc.

Jennifer Smith said...

I love this post. This is something I need to work on in my writing. I've noticed that for a writer, I don't pay much attention to detail when it comes to what other people are wearing. Often, I've thought about how if I did, it would probably help me create more believable characters.

Cara Lynn James said...

Annie, I think we're all influenced by the typical style of where we live. In Vermont L.L. Bean was almost considered dressy because it was so informal, back-to-the-land and cold.

Cara Lynn James said...

Victoria, I like to wear traditional styles so I don't stick out like a sore thumb.

I used to dress more according to my mood. If I was in a down mood I'd wear something cheerful and put on makeup so I looked better.

Or for a character her clothes could reflect her mood -- maybe beige.

Cara Lynn James said...

Karen, that's a good question. Back a hundred or more years ago there weren't as many fabrics. They were natural materials instead of synthetics and I imagine they were harder to take care of. So poorer people tended to wear darker colors.

I use the fabrics they my characters would've worn a lot -- silks, satins, fine cotton etc. Accessories were really popular then. They had a lot of crazy hats!

Cara Lynn James said...

Lee, time for some new and different magazines! Go to your bookstore or library. My B&N has a Starbucks so I go as often as I can.

Janet Dean said...

Cara, thanks for this post and the excellent reminder that we can use clothing to show the character or cover up what's going on underneath.

Like you, I write historicals. I have a wonderful book of photos for each decade of the 19th century. Add the Sears catalogue, mine is a reproduction, and the Internet and we have no excuse for getting the fashions wrong.

I loved paper dolls and their adorable outfits. But keeping them on with those little tabs was tricky.

Janet

Ruth Logan Herne said...

You know, I don't think I take enough care of my character's clothes as I should. They're contemps and most of the time they're in blue jeans.... unless their job requires a uniform or a dressy outfit or dress.

I'M IN A RUT, CARA-MIA!!!!!

I need to grab out the stinkin' turquoise and aqua and sunny yellow. I need to paint rainbows with color words.

I NEED A COLOR WARDROBE INTERVENTION!!!!

Cara, I should probably pay you for this. I WON'T but I should.

That's almost as good, right??? :)

Pat W said...

Fun and thought provoking post Cara. I'm with Deb H. Just let me wear jeans and a tee and flip flops or maybe running shoes. Such a tomboy. I very seldom played with dolls. My mother felt this was so very sad lol.

My character prefers jeans as well but she's much better in choosing her clothing than I am in real life.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina, right????? ME, TOO!!!!

I had fun in Loving the Lawman because she made vintage clothes... and she was a stylin' chick.

But most of them are blue jeans and khaki-types and I'm just seeing that I'm ridiculous.

I'm with you, we need to break out of el-boor-O.

Pat W said...

Oops I forgot to report word count.

1079 yesterday, 361 today for a total of 15, 512 for the month.

Myra Johnson said...

Fun post, Cara! I agree--how our characters dress can say so much about their personalities.

I really had fun with Julie Pearl, the heroine of Pearl of Great Price. She manages her grandfather's flea market, so she's always wearing some kind of vintage outfit, usually from the '60s or '70s.

In an as yet unpublished novel I wrote a few years back (and hope to revive soon), a teenage girl is a neat freak at first, but as she spirals downward following her mother's death, she gets messier and messier.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Carol Garvin said that shopping is an art.

Carol, you're so right. I know part of my dearth of knowledge is because I don't shop. I've become the quintessential online shopper. It's ridiculous but necessary, so maybe I'll start working my "shopping" head around virtual sites.

I love going to the Salvation Army thrift stores and Goodwill but I rarely have time, so I'm messing with my cute/trendy/fun/layered/affordable info gathering.

Carol, thank you for reminding me of that!

Myra Johnson said...

Also, what's great about finding catalogues from the era you're writing about is that you can use words from the catalogue descriptions to help you describe the clothing for your readers.

Mary Connealy said...

My characters clothes are so tricky. Usually the heroine's own one dress, maybe two. I get so I don't even mention clothes. I need to try and liven that up. I'm missing opportunities to characterize through clothing.

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Cara!

Thanks for the reminder. My poor characters.

Like Ruthy, I've gotten pretty boring with my clothing choices. After all, writing Amish stories doesn't take a lot of imagination when it comes to dressing your characters!

But my new WIP takes place in Deadwood in the 1870's, and my heroine is a recent transplant from Boston, along with her society-raised aunt. I think they need some fancy duds, don't you?

And the difference between my heroine and her aunt in their attitude toward their clothes can help reveal more about their characters! I love it!

Olivia said...

Thanks! I have begun to use this valuable technique in my writer's toolbox. Please enter me in the drawing.

Debby Giusti said...

Cara, such a lovely post and an interesting topic that I sometimes overlook.

I don't provide much description of clothing in my stories and need to include some of your insightful suggestions into my WIP. Thanks for the reminder!

Recently, I did give a young secondary character chipped nail polish and felt it expressed the "look" I was attempting to achieve. Often the little things make the difference.

How fun to dress historical characters. I love reading about the long skirts and high necks. The gloves and hats and capes seem so romantic! :)

Although gloves and hats weren't that long ago. I bet you remember, especially in military circles, when both were proper attire for certain functions.

Love the cutie modeling the special costumes! Adorable!

Debby Giusti said...

Just got word of Killer Voices announcements tomorrow, starting at 9AM, with each of the five teams announced at hour intervals.

Good luck to all who entered!

LoRee Peery said...

A first for me this month -- I came here instead of writing first. I also skipped exercise class to go out and pick up branches and corn debris our high winds created yesterday.
I always picture my characters clothed. And I describe clothing if it is noticed by the POV character, whether it be adding to attraction or a distraction entering into thoughts.
Yay, Starbucks. loree(dot)peery(at)outlook(dot)com

Cara Lynn James said...

Missy, I think writers just assume everyone knows what people wear these days, but we forget that clothes say something about a person.

Cara Lynn James said...

Naomi, I think the French peasants wore rags!

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary H., go for some color and let the 'real' Mary come out!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Jeanne! I think personality types tend to pick similar style clothes. A casual person probably wouldn't clomp around in spike heels unless she had to.

Cara Lynn James said...

LOL, Janet! I have a 25 yr. old daughter so I can always ask her questions about style. She knows much better than I do.

Cara Lynn James said...

Deb H., from your description of yourself you sound like a casual, relaxed kind of girl. Are you?

Cara Lynn James said...

Hey, Sandra! I'll bet you get to dress comfortably and casually most of the time. I envy your lifestyle!

Cara Lynn James said...

Jennifer, details about clothing can be layered into a manuscript at any time -- first draft or last one.

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, my catalogues are reproductions, too, but I'm sure they work just as well as the originals. The internet, Amazon etc. are so helpful!

Meghan Carver said...

I love dressing my characters, but I don't think I do as much as I could to use it to tell more about their personalities, etc. Great thought-provoking questions! Would love to be entered in the drawing. MeghanCCarver(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks!

DebH said...

Cara
I guess I am casual (VERY casual), relaxed girl, until I get involved with sports - then I get a tad competitive (grew up with two brothers).

oh, forgot to say it'd be nice to win a Starbucks card. nm8r67 at hotmail dot com

again, a great post for that layering thing that was talked about yesterday. it's like you ladies PLAN this educational stuff. Seekerville is awesome.

Chill N said...

Cara -- thanks for the tip about Dover's paper doll collection. I found three that will be a great help. But oh my ... the one of the Gibson Girls makes me want to write a story of that time period just to use the clothes :-)

Nancy C

Cara Lynn James said...

Okay, Ruthy, start thinking about how a uniform of jeans and a tee shirt can define your character better. Red jeans -- maybe they're bright enough to attract attention etc. Red jeans and a pink shirt -- maybe she's colorblind.

Cara Lynn James said...

Pat, you're doing great with your word count! I'm impressed.

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, even if your character is poor and only has one dress, she can always accessorize with a belt, or ribbon or a piece of lace. Didn't they crochet detachable lace collars?

Cara Lynn James said...

Myra, good point. I love the descriptions in the catalogues and the low prices!

Cara Lynn James said...

Jan, it sounds like dressing your characters in your wip will be much easier than trying to define personality through Amish clothes! I like Amish books but often the characters seem too much alike. Their clothes sure don't help to differentiate them.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, I'm taking your bright jeans advice to heart....

Red jeans, hot pink shirt, stiletto heels....

And a pony tail!!!!!

And we'll name her "Roxie".

PERFECT!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary's heroines have to pull their accessories out of the MUD first, Cara....

And no bleach.

Those poor girls!

Cara Lynn James said...

Debby, I certainly remember the hat and the gloves from when I was in the Navy. For years I dreamed I lost my cover (hat) and was in big trouble! Actually, it was a nightmare.

Mary Connealy said...

btw I sort of want high heels in all those colors in your blog. Of course I can't walk in high heels. And I'm suddenly 6'10" but except for those two drawbacks, I LOVE THEM!!!!

Cara Lynn James said...

LoRee, good for you noticing clothes! You're the first one today who pays attention to what characters wear -- besides me.

Cara Lynn James said...

Thanks for stopping by, Olivia!

Mary, I love high heels, too, but when I wear them I pitch forward to much. Not very comfortable. I really haven't worn spike heels since I was young and that was a long time ago.

Cara Lynn James said...

Nancy, Dover books are really helpful to me.

Cara Lynn James said...

Deb H, I'm so glad you like Seekerville. We don't plan our blogs together, but it's nice that it seems so!

Haven Brown said...

I'll admit it... I'm vain. I love clothes. Comfy, pretty, or work clothes: I love them. They give characters a bit of sass in reading. If the girl is wearing a sweatshirt everywhere she goes I assume she spends most of her time with her nose in books or she is utterly depressed. My mom's a bit of southern belle when it comes to dressing as if you will see people in the day. (Apparently sweatshirts indicate depression. If this is the case, I suffer from chronic depression when it drops below 60 degrees outside.)
Anyway, I love reading about the outfits in books. It feeds the spark of vanity in me that I don't give into in reality because I don't like packing more than a box of clothes into a moving van.
And Mary Connealy, I let my mother squeeze long, flowing dresses over my head now only because Mandy Linscott showed that she could chop wood while looking like a girl.

Piper Huguley said...

Cara.

You are so right. Clothes do matter. And the historical dress at the start of my self-pubbed novel that will come out in August is a part of the plot. I had never given it that much thought before. It was gratifying that my thoughts were confirmed when I got to get dressed up when Julie and I went to the Charleston Museum. Fun!

Welcome to Seekerville my new 2014 GH sister, Lee! Good to see you here!

Cara Lynn James said...

Haven, I think you have control of your clothes instead of having your clothes control you! When I can't fit everything into the bureau drawers and closet I give some stuff to charity.

Cara Lynn James said...

Piper, it's so great that our characters' clothes are free and beautiful and look fantastic on us!

Dianna Shuford said...

Hi Cara! I loved reading your post. For the last year or so I've been trying to focus on setting to tell about my characters, and part of that setting is how the character dresses. Thanks for the reminder of focusing on those small things that can give the biggest impression.

diannawrites (at) bellsouth (dot) net

Terri said...

Cara, you've hit on a topic I love! I love shopping and buying clothes - especially shoes.

So when it comes to dressing my characters I have a blast. I have to watch it or I could go overboard and talk wardrobe way too much in my story.

One of my favorite things to do is go online and look at clothes I could never afford. Gives me an excuse to look at some swanky clothes without feeling guilty.

Sometimes my heroine might never wear the clothes, but another character in the story will.

Oh, and if there is an excuse for my heroine to go to a black tie event, I really have a great time.

Wedding dress shopping for my heroine - it just doesn't get any better.

Clothes can reveal so much about your characters. Shoes were one of the key factors in the novella I'm currently writing. The minute I thought of them, my heroine became real to me.

Cara Lynn James said...

Terri, you're a girl after my own heart! I love clothes, too. So I find it fun to dress my characters.

Cara Lynn James said...

Dianna, personally I think clothes are a lot easier to get right than setting. I love both setting and clothes.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Cara! Great post on clothing your characters! Clothing is just as important as the setting and using all 5 senses when we write...but sadly, it is the most overlooked element of description.

Too bad.

You gave wonderful examples of how the character dresses helps show their personality. So subtle, yet so effective. Isn't it fun to see the heroine in shorts and wonder why she wore them to church? That would keep you reading, wouldn't it?

Thanks for the fun post, Cara. And personally? I'll take the sneakers over the heels anyday!!

Natalie Monk said...

Oh, I meant to mention this earlier.

If anyone needs historical fashion ideas, follow Kaye Dacus on Pinterest! I'm amazed at the organization and all the fun historical pieces!

She also has fun geeky boards for TV shows and movies. :)

Edwina said...

Really great post. I love clothes, jewelry, shoes - the whole outfit. How could I have forgotten to use those to bring out my characters' personality? Thanks, Cara, for the reminder.

CatMom said...

Sorry I'm a day late commenting, Cara - - but THANK YOU for this post (AND the reminders about clothing for our characters). That's something I do need to work on, because my clothing-related details are usually minimal---VERY minimal, LOL.
Blessings on your weekend!
Hugs, Patti Jo :)

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Cara, you are soooo right!! One of the books I judged for the Rita was a realllllly great story about a banker disguised as a bar owner in 1900 San Francisco, and would you believe they had a cowboy with chaps on the cover??? To this day I swear they put the wrong cover on the book, and it nearly ruined it for me. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Mark Abel said...

Cara, this is great. Closing in on the finish of my first novel and my wife has been reading along as I progress. The other day she commented that she has no idea what so and so looks like. However, she also noticed she has a very clear picture of what my dark, and mysterious, sexy female antagonist's, body looks like! Guess you can see where my head is. Also looks like I have some work to do and appreciate your help. Thanks!