Last week I talked about how to develop purposeful fantasy fashions. This week Victoria Smith is going to take over and talk about some of the more practical elements of using the fashion you’ve developed. Enjoy!
Worldbuilding is hard. Being a fantasy writer—a novice one, mind you—I should know. While I’d like to think I have a natural talent for certain aspects of writing, I am by no means an expert. Still, I will offer my personal opinions, tricks and tips to help you with the tangible parts of worldbuilding. One for today: fashion or clothing.
Before really diving into fashion in worldbuilding, there are four questions that should be answered, with any part of worldbuilding:
Why does it matter?
What does this aspect of your world/story truly add, if anything?
How does it affect your story?
What would change if this aspect were changed or thrown out?
How does it affect your characters?
Would its disappearance leave your characters missing something?
If it weren’t there, would it really make a difference?
Does it make any difference at all?
Now, I’ll be honest, sometimes I don’t like these kinds of questions. I don’t do super well with development or outline sheets (although I do outline in my own way) but even I know sometimes these questions must be asked. Personally, I’d probably answer them mentally instead of on paper, because that is how I work.
So, let’s get going and delve into the world of fashion! In each point I’m about to discuss, you can almost always tie it back to one or more of the four questions above.
Know Your Genre
I hope that before you begin worldbuilding you know your genre. If not, I’d definitely suggest deciding this before anything else! Your genre can affect every aspect of… well, your entire story. Fantasy, for example, has a very different set of rules than dystopian. Fans of different genres look for different things in different types of stories, so it’s best to try and play off of this. I’m not saying you must do the same thing every other author in your genre has, just try to keep at least a little of what is expected of that genre within your worldbuilding. Such as, within the fashions of your characters.
Those in historical fiction will wear clothes extremely different from those in the sci-fi realm. Make sure you do a bit of research or have at least a grasp of what a timeline, or genre, expects of your character’s external appearance. This, along with other things, can make or break your story. If someone who devours historical fiction sees their characters wearing a style that didn’t even exist at the time, they might close the book with an eye-roll.
Don’t even tempt them with the thought of not finishing your story!
Decide What You Want Your Clothes to Look Like/Be Like
Now, I know, this one seems pretty obvious. I mean, duh, you know what you want your clothes to look like! But really stop and imagine them. How would you describe the style? Give details! What really makes it different and come alive? Do you wish to leave details to the readers? Or fill in all the blanks? Are there specific colors, symbols, patterns, etc. that might affect your story or characters? Style can be a great way to show off a character’s personality and the world around them, if used correctly. Does your character wear vibrant, bold colors? Why? Is it to help them stand out because they feel invisible? Or is it just because they’re bright and cheery?
Once you find out these things, use them to your advantage.
What Purpose Does Your Clothing/Style Serve?
Make sure you take into consideration who will be wearing these clothes and what they will be doing.
Example: Your main character is a warrior princess who must trek from one land to the next to complete her journey, but through the entire book she only wears a puffy gown with an extensive train, and a two-pound crown on her head.
Unless that is pivotal to your story, or the point is to make it extremely uncomfortable and awkward, this isn’t going to work. While the external aspects of your world can be whimsical or entirely out of this world, there does need to be at least a smidge of practicality when using wardrobe to serve a purpose.
Also, another good thing to figure out is what these fashions mean. Okay, you’re probably like, “This girl is crazy!” but hear me out. Do you have wealthy groups and commoners? If so, how do their styles reflect their positions? Do your aristocrats wear gold and fine silk, or extremely neat clothing?
Or perhaps the commoners do, because the rich have nothing to prove. See how much of a difference that makes?
This is probably one of the most important things, if not the most important thing to remember. Be yourself! Yes, there are things to take into consideration, as I’ve mentioned, but don’t feel you have to conform to every little thing. Be unique! Stand out! Switch things up! What works for other authors may not work for you and that’s okay. This is something I have personally had to deal with and I still wish I could be like other writers. But, I can’t be. I can only be myself. Realizing that truth will bring you one step closer to finishing your book and beginning your author journey!
Write the story you want to tell and have confidence, because I know worldbuilding (and writing in general) is tough. Just take your time and make sure you’re enjoying this world you build!
Thank you, Victoria!
Now, dear reader, what’s your favorite thing about writing fashion? Does clothing description come easily to you, or do you have more difficulty with it (like me)? And, just for fun, what is your MC’s favorite outfit?