In a story, clothing can be the author’s way of telling us what kind of character we’re reading about.
Judging real people by their clothing might not be too smart, but authors rely on readers to judge characters based on their characters’ clothing.
For instance, someone in a black leather jacket with a skull embroidered on the back and chains hanging from a pants pocket is going to be very different from someone in a light aqua-colored jacket carrying an umbrella with pink flowers on it.
Suddenly, you have ideas about those characters simply by reading what they are wearing.
Here’s an example from C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. Polly and Digory have just arrived in Charn by means of their rings, and they are exploring the place when they stumble into a room with people sitting like “the most wonderful waxworks you ever saw.” Though the figures are immobile, Lewis describes them to us:
The figures were all robed and had crowns on their heads. Their robes were of crimson and silvery gray and deep purple and vivid green; and there were patterns, and pictures of flowers and strange beasts, in needlework all over them. Precious stones of astonishing size and brightness stared from their crowns and hung in chains round their necks and peeped out from all the places where anything was fastened.
Polly adds, “Any one of these dresses would cost hundreds of pounds.”
Without saying, “These people are royalty,” we get the hint. We understand that Polly and Digory are standing in a room filled with exquisitely dressed royalty.
Now it’s your turn: Let’s do the same thing with hats. Write a sentence or two to describe a character wearing one kind of hat and a few more sentences to describe a very different character wearing another hat. Let the hats be an indication of something about those characters that you want readers to know.
If you are stuck for hat ideas, check out this listing of headgear.
Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Watson
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