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.

HIGH SCHOOL WRITING PROMPT: Does clothing make the man? In fiction writing, it does! What do you want readers to know about your character? Use clothing to describe him or her.

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.

describe character clothing imageNow 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

A version of this prompt was first posted on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. You can go directly to SchoolhouseTeachers.com to sign up and take advantage of all Sharon Watson’s daily prompts and many exciting courses written by other experts in their fields, or click here to see the courses Sharon has written for SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

Original image public domain / pixabay

Do you have an idea for a writing prompt? Contact Sharon Watson by clicking here.

Teachers, connect with Sharon on Facebook or Pinterest!

The Informer Fall 2014Does the word “outline” send your students into a tailspin? Worry no more! Click here for my latest article in The Informer about an unorthodox method of organizing an essay that really works!

Want daily writing prompts to tempt reluctant writers and delight eager ones? Find out more about Sharon’s daily writing prompts posted on SchoolhouseTeachers.com under “Dailies” or click here.

Get three FREE writing lessons by subscribing to Writing with Sharon Watson! Use the Subscribe form in the column to the right.

the-power-in-your-hands writing-fiction-in-high-school Check out the innovative The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School for your complete high school writing curriculum needs. If you have a storyteller at home, try Writing Fiction [in High School] with hundreds of examples from popular fiction and classical literature.

Jump InGet your middle school student ready for high school with this popular writing curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson, published by Apologia! Featured in Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, Jump In will prepare and even amuse your students as they learn the fundamentals of effective essay writing and storytelling.