What’s He Wearing?

What’s He Wearing?

By Natalie Bright

Writing Excuses podcast touched upon a subject I had never given much thought to: fashion.

In an interview with Rebecca McKinney, they talk about how clothing descriptions can add depth to characters and detail to your story.

Here’s the link, if you want to take a listen: http://www.writingexcuses.com/2016/05/08/11-19-fashion-for-writers-with-rebecca-mckinney/

Character Profiles

This opens a whole new list of possibilities in my mind. Fashion could be used as a personality flaw. Maybe quirky colors in an attempt for attention or a certain look that becomes an obsession. How about the teenager that changes clothes every time she leaves the house, and how does that reflect her personality? Perhaps a meticulous appearance might be a sign of deeper psychotic issues.

Historical Accuracy

Fashion isn’t the only thing that has changed throughout time. As an author of historical fiction, the podcast reminded me to dig deeper. Think about the materials available at the time of your story. Laborers, European aristocrats, the plantation owners, eastern business men, and the cowboys out west would have dressed very differently.

Take jeans for example; they haven’t been around forever. Levi Strauss first appeared on the scene in 1870 when he took a twill made in France and died it indigo. At first his blue denim work pants were considered for the poorer working man. Miners working in the gold fields of California were some of the first to appreciate the sturdy denim.


Since the majority of my historical stories are set in the west, I have found these books to be invaluable resources:

HOW THE WEST WAS WORN, Chris Enss, Morris Book Publishing (2006).

“Clothes and Accessories”, Chapter Six, EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE WILD WEST from 1840-1900, Candy Moulton, Writer’s Digest Books (1999).

1 thought on “What’s He Wearing?

  1. Excellent subject, Natalie. Clothes definitely are important in a story and should be chosen with care. Make them appropriate for the time period. While I’m sitting here, I’m thinking of a teenage girl who leaves the house wearing something sedate yet when out of sight, changes to something provocative. That story could go anywhere. Me and my writer’s brain!

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