What to Wear?

Welcome everyone.  I’m glad the weather does not usually effect our ability to have these virtual visits, but horse-feathers, it’s cold out there!  Or at least it is cold for a lot of us.  The question of what to wear is answered by “A coat!”

Life October 1929

Life Magazine, October 1929

Have you guessed that I’m leading into another writing process post?  Some people don’t like “descriptive writing” but I find some level of description helpful, whether I’m writing or reading.  An occasional mention of a character’s clothing can help in several ways.

To me describing a garment is particularly helpful if the story is set in a different era, or an entirely different world.

I enjoyed Robert Jordan’s descriptions of the clothing of the various cultures he built in to the world of his “Wheel of Time” series.  The garments helped define the nationalities. They also helped me keep up with the vast array of characters in that voluminous high fantasy series.

Also a quick mention of clothing can firm up the physical environment or climate.  Your character might wear a tank top or a cozy sweater, sandals or fur-lined boots.  Regardless of the garment it can help the reader feel your fictional world.

“What to wear?” can help develop a character’s personality.  I don’t mean just the items of clothing you choose to dress them, but what they pull out of their closet and why.  For instance, Ralda Lawton, the heroine in Atonement, Tennessee (© 2012) has a tendency to feel frumpy.  Ralda’s “go to” at-home garment is a tattered sweat jacket.  It also shows up in book-2, Atonement in Bloom, (currently in progress).  Meanwhile her friend Bethany (© 2012) consistently wears black.

Also in “Bloom” a new character is easily identified when the townspeople discuss him — because of his bowler hat and suit.  That’s not something one often sees in quaint Atonement, TN.Lew with hat

In writing a series, describing attire can serve as a reminder about aspects of a character.  Bethany’s affection for hats is brought out in “Bloom.”  I used the sequence to let you see the playful side of my Goth accountant.

The sound of a squishing footfall told me I was not alone.  I didn’t have to look to know it was Bethany Gwen.  Maybe it was logic, maybe it was intuition, but I knew it was her. 

Bethany lived farther up the street in the opposite direction.  She was an early riser, an accountant, and a Goth. She was a study in contrasts. 

A vivid color caused me to look down instead of up when I turned toward her.  Bright pink flame and swirl designs covered her shiny black galoshes.  On each boot, amid the pink flames a scull rested atop crossed cutlasses.  I shook my head.  In all of Atonement, only my friend would wear such foot-gear.

“Those are great,” I said of the galoshes, giving her a lopsided smile.

As was her usual habit, nearly everything else she wore was black, including an antique top hat and the ruffled umbrella she carried.  Bethany had tied a hot pink ribbon around the hat to match the boots.  The black garb made the galoshes seem even brighter.

“You like?” she confirmed and stuck one foot out in a precarious way.  “I couldn’t resist when I saw them online,” she said.

“Oh yes,” I said with a chuckle.  “Hey, wait a minute, you’ve cut your hair,” I commented moving a step closer to be sure, since she wore a hat.

Bethany doffed her top hat and bowed.  Then she stood and ruffled her new pixie cut.hats-vintage-magazine-red

As you see, that scene was not really about clothes.  It lets you know about the character’s personality.

Do you have a favorite book that makes use of clothing descriptions?  Or is there a character you enjoy who has a signature item of clothing?  If so, then be sure to mention it in a comment here.  You know I love hearing from you.

Mega hugs!

PS:  My apologies if you can’t get the videos in your location — or if commercials have been added.

Also known as “The Way You Wear Your Hat…”

73 thoughts on “What to Wear?

  1. You make great points here, Teagan. Adding details as to what the character is wearing can make the scene seem more realistic, as you explain. Thanks for taking time to share your pointers with us as we appreciate the help! HUGS

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never really thought much about clothing in books – but I did always pay attention to what Bethany wore in Atonement – like you said, it explains more about her personality. As for my own clothes, I’m wearing less of them these days since it’s 70 DEGREES in KY in January – I’m missing some snow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL, that was a terrific segue. It’s unusually warm here too (though 20+ degrees cooler than the 70s!) I’ll be sure to redirect any snow to you, Teri. LOL, or wish I could. I hate snow and ice with a passion.
      I appreciate the feedback about Bethany. I’m happy to know I succeeded there. Cars are another thing I try to let imply something about the character. But that’s probably a lot more open to individual perceptions than clothes. Enjoy the January spring while it lasts. I’m sure you’ll get your winter weather soon. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning dear Teagan, from a cold London, but nothing like your cold! I love descriptive writing, and am particularly interested in what a subject wears…and yes quite often it does define what sort of person they may be…..flamboyant, shy, etc. Many moons ago, I went through a stage, (about three years) of wearing nothing but pink and purple……I would paint my shoes, pink and purple…sometimes a purple background with pink poker dots, etc. I did get over it, but still look back to that time with a smile on my face:) Maybe it’s because I am such a visual person, that the more descriptive the writing, the better it is for me. On that note, I am imagining you wrapped up very warmly and drinking lots of hot drinks…..Keep warm and enjoy what will be a momentous affair in Washington this week!!:) Janet. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janet you are a delight. I so enjoy your visits. I loved your description of the pink and purple phase! I’ve probably told you that I seem to have a physical need to be surrounded by color. Since I find so little of it here, I have to wear it. (Much to the astonishment and disdain of the people around me.)

      My color to wear to work today is maroon. (Dull for me, but bright for “DC drab” as I call it.) For many years I’ve used a certain datebook that gives a color for each day. It combines traditional (Celtic I think) color correspondences with astrology to select a color for each day. I enjoy it.

      Ah that big event! (Is there an emoji for a raspberry? 🙄 ) I’ve no interest in being jammed into that kind of crowd, not being able to see anything (as if I wanted to), and taking hours and hours to get home. I would have gotten a day off, but I’m cheated of that since it is my pre-scheduled day off. But i’m sure “he” will be all over Twitter with it with play by play tweets.
      I’ve read that he wants to do away with several gov Departments, including mine. Perhaps he’ll tweet about that during the swearing in…

      Time to get ready for the office. Past time. Thank you for your beautiful post today. Hummingbird hugs!

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      • Thank you Teagan for this lovely response…..and yes I am quite sure that “he” will cause all sorts of damage……and if I were in or around DC – I would avoid it like the plague!! Did I tell you that my daughter, Christie campaigned for Obama in the states of Massachusetts, where she lives, and was actually at his in inauguration! Christie said it was wonderful – a celebration – I am sure somewhat different than the upcoming event:) I will think of you wearing beautiful bright colour today…and I will do the same, even though I have to go to the dentist – only for a cleaning….otherwise, I wouldn’t be so glib:) Have a good one my friend…sending love and magical hummers. Janet. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

        • I didn’t know — how wonderful for Christie! Wow.
          Today’s color: white. Not what I pulled out of the closet last night… But that’s easily fixed with a strand of faux pearls.
          Sending good thoughts for your appointment. ❤ More hugs.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you: what a character wears might tell the reader a lot about that character…
    Worth noting that the kind of clothes might also be related to a certain time (as you say:
    “To me describing a garment is particularly helpful if the story is set in a different era, or an entirely different world)… … I bet you´ll have to do a lot of research in that sense, depending on the historical background of the novel (or short story)… even if it is contemporary, Fashion changes all the time (I remember now a quote from “Downtown Abbey”: It´s a fad, it will soon pass”) 😀
    I am loving Bethany and her hats… I think that hats in women are “special”, they could show certain disinhibition, a carefree attitude, so to speak.
    Great post. Very interesting points here, dear Teagan… Hugs for your week! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Aquileana, thank you so much for visiting! I’m pleased you enjoyed Bethany and her hats. When I wrote this post I realized something… In my head, Bethany has always had a collection of hats. However, I just realized that I didn’t point that out in the “Atonement, Tennessee” book. At any rate, hats and costumes get a good deal of attention in the sequel. When I’m able to edit book 2, part of the chore will be deciding if I’ve done too much describing for an important sequence at a costume party…
      Huge hugs back to you, my friend. Wishing you all good things in this new year. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Terrific post, Teagan. Any description adds to the setting or to the character, but adding clothing does define an era. I love reading vivid descriptions such as those you used in Copper the Alchemist & the Woman in Trousers and in Guitar Mancer. I need to read Atonement. Sending hugs your way, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Teagan, interesting post on descriptive writing, I have never actually thought about this method when writing but it makes so much sense. the quirkiness of a character does help us to identify and remember them throughout a series. Enjoyed your last short story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A warm Teagan’s Books welcome to you Cheri! (I found your comments in my spam folder — so sorry for all the trouble you encountered trying to comment.)
      Thanks very much for your kind and encouraging words. Have a wonder-filled new week. Huge hugs.

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  7. Atonement is a great book for character development, and I can picture the characters quite well from your words. I am enjoying it!

    One book you may want to check out when you have time is A. B. Guthrie’s “The Big Sky”. It is another one where the descriptions of clothing, the characters and land bring the reader into that period in history, as well as place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s wonderful to see you Lavinia. I’m so very happy that you are enjoying “Atonement” — that means a lot to me. Thanks for the Guthrie recommendation. I love seeing what makes an impact on others. Wishing you a wonder-filled new week. Mega hugs.

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  8. Greta post Teagan. I have always enjoyed the extra attention you tend to pay to descriptions (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but not only clothing, you also do that with places and things and machines. Your scenes are always a little extra vivid, but never too much. That’s one of the things I hope I can learn how to manage.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Teagan this is great and you are very descriptive and precise when describing clothing in your work, it’s all perfectly appropriate for the era and that is a gift to be able to help your readers to clearly visualize, it bring the characters to life. I really enjoyed the video of the hat store in the village. There are only a few of them that I know of in the city and that store is delightful. This was wonderful!! Mega hugs my friend,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kind words. That means a lot to me. I am concerned that I might have gone overboard describing costumes (for a big party scene) in Bloom. But that will have to wait for my editing process, once I fix the problem I found in my mythology…
      I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post and the video, Suzanne. I don’t know how old the video might be, but I hope the shop is still there and doing good business. Stay warm. Mega hugs right back! 😀

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  10. I totally agree, Teagan. A signature clothing item or style works just like a signature mannerism or body feature. It’s memorable and adds interest to the story. I have a fairly heartless character who almost always wears ivory or white. When she has to wear a dark color, it adds tension to the scene (I hope, haha). Hats are great because there is so much versatility in that one item. Great post. Stay warm and cozy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your words, Diana. Absolutely — when one is known for a singular color, a change of hue instantly adds another layer to the narrative.
      It’s a cold rainy day, so yes, I’m staying inside where it’s cozy. 🙂 I’ve had a cold all week, and determined to get over it this weekend. Toasty hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lol… Love the way you brought Steede and Emma into it. I’ve been wearing mr wooly (my hat… er, don’t tell everyone I name him) and the twins (my wooly gloves. They’re actually triplets, but well… It’s complicated.) Did I mention I had matching slippers… Why do they call them slippers? I did have a pair once that made me slip and slide on the laminate, I fired them… In a bonfire. Anyway, I’m babbling. What I’m trying to say is, great post Teagan! (Phew! I got there.) 😎

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Great post. You know how to dress your characters so that they become memorable to the readers. I love the charming Atonement fashion, and look forward to reading your second book. Best wishes!

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  13. Cold here in Italy too. I swear we hadn’t have such a cold winter for a long time.

    I agree with you on clothing in books. I’m not a fan of descriptions, I use them very sparsely in my own stories, but I do agree that a good description strategically placed can telll a lot of things to a reader while pretending to do something else. I mean, it may look like the writer is describing the characters and what they wear, when in fact an author is filling you in on the character’s personality, attitude towards life, habits, not to mention their culture, the place they live in and the time. In short, a description may relive you of a lot of info-dump 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Precisely, Sarah. Also, as with many things in stories and in life, it’s more about *how* it was said than *what* was said.
      It’s not as cold here as when I wrote this post, but my world is covered in ice.
      Thanks for visiting. Mega hugs.

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  14. This really got me thinking, Teagan, I’m not particularly good at clothing descriptions although Ive been trying to observe and note more to use in my writing so this really was well-timed, for me. I know just what you mean about the cold, we keep going from deep freeze to deeper freeze to rain to freezing rain to snow to warm back to deep freeze, arrgh, I’d say pick one but I’m afraid it would be the deep deep freeze, so…layers it is!
    I guess I’m mostly like Bethany, I wear black, a lot, like almost all the time although I bought myself a red sweater at Goodwill today ($2) and it’s gorgeous so I’m breaking out! 😉
    No one book jumps out at me right now, but my mind flashed to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (also books), the clothes are absolutely divine, from the roaring 20s, I love them.
    By the by, I noticed how you dangled ‘Atonement in Bloom’ out there, just out of our reach so we look like cats chasing a string or a red dot, fine, I’m proud to be a cat, they sure know how to dress! 😉
    Hope this weekend treats you kindly, dear friend, you certainly started my weekend off with pure delight. 🙂
    Mega long cool Tom Baker as The Doctor scarf and an Arthur Dent towel hugs xoxox

    Liked by 4 people

    • Donna, you are such a delight. Thank you for visiting here. I’m sorry to be late in answering. I’ve had a cold most of the week, so after work yesterday… I didn’t even turn on my computer. (I had this post waiting in the scheduler.)
      You made me smile with the Tom Baker mention. His scarf is a perfect example!
      Sorry to dangle “Bloom.” A while back I found a problem in my mythology. I’ve yet to set aside enough time to repair that issue…

      Oh, Miss Fisher’s! I have not seen the books. However, I freely admit that I’m a clothes hound, incongruous as that may be for a middle aged fat woman. The costumes in that show leave me drooling. Gorgeous.

      I’m so glad you got that red sweater, Donna. To me, red is a strong powerful color. You’ve just reclaimed your power! Wear it proud. (I realize that everyone does not have my [apparently] physical need for colors… but I think it’s important to nurture ourselves with colors.) Way to go!
      Stay warm. Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. LOL sorry it is so cold there for you Teagan-we are fortunate to be in the Islands enjoying even lovelier weather than our normal Florida winters. I am 90% of the time in a swimsuit, short sleeve shirt and shorts and of course my infamous FLIP FLOPS while at home. I do own several coats/jackets for a rare few weeks of cooler temps in Florida including a black leather coat. Describe your heart away my friend. Big Hugs to you! xx

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  16. Teagan, your descriptions give your characters distinct personalities, make them more likable, and remembered! Realize I need to add more clothing descriptions in my 1940 book characters. It can show not tell something unique about them. Thanks for the reminder! Huge hugs & a peaceful weekend! 🎶🎆🎶 Christine

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      • Thanks so much, Teagan, for your encouraging words! Sort of restructuring the book with new famous grandfather history & Registered Nurse Elizabeth’s high drama romance with a medical resident. It needed links to bring Elizabeth to Germany & the truth about grandfather’s heritage. Months of extensive research put me on a different path! A blog coming soon with an excerpt! Have a peaceful weekend! 💛 Christine

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    • Your books are always vivid, Olga. I ran into an issue with the mythology I created for Atonement, when I got to book 2. I feel I need to be able to sit down and devote huge focus to it… Rather than the bit at a time I am able to give. I’m not sure how to approach that time-situation yet. I remind myself that at least I caught the problem before publication. I was very close to being finished. So I still hope to get it fixed and finished. I appreciate your encouragement. Thanks very much for taking time to read and comment. Mega hugs.

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  17. You’ve always kept us well up to date with the various costumes worn by your characters. It’s endearing to ‘see’ the little quirks they have and adopt.At least they’re all very individual.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I for one like your descriptions. I think you do a marvelous job in letting us know exactly how folks are interacting with each other through the use of descriptions. I was enthralled by Ian Flemming’s character writing and descriptions as he made James Bond and the various cast members almost living characters. Super post. Hugs.

    Liked by 4 people

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