by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky
Recently I was browsing through pinterest, looking for images that would help to crystallise my ideas for my main characters and the elemental world they inhabit. About half an hour into this exercise, I realised that I was increasingly drawn to fashion pins – and that got me thinking, how important is fashion to a fictional identity?
In more visual media – television, film, games – fashion is a very distinct and defining feature; think Dean Winchester, Queen Amidala or Lara Croft…. (I really hope you all came back to finish reading this post after feasting on all of that eye candy…) 🙂
But books? How does fashion help to define a character? Aren’t their thoughts and actions and relationships better vehicles for understanding and relating to them?
It may seem easy to pass off fashion as frivolous, but think about how you and your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues dress. Fashion – from the clothes we wear, the jewellery that adorns us and the tattoos that are inked into us – is our primary statement about how we want the world to see us. In any given day, we may speak to a handful of people, we will share our innermost thoughts with even less – but with our fashion choices we speak to everyone who sees us. Our choices scream our individuality (or lack thereof), our confidence levels, our mood, our personality.
Romance novelists understand this (either that, or just love to express their own fashion fetishes) – and many use it to emphasise particular character elements or create another personality layer. But fashion references (subtle or otherwise) need not be exclusive to one genre – I think it has a lot to offer speculative fiction as well.
Yes, steampunk and cyberpunk come already with their fashion milieu, but utopian and dystopian fiction can also utilise the power of fashion. Both utopian and dystopian worlds are strongly visual in their narrative – particularly in an architectural sense – and I think this opens up an opportunity to extend this design element to fashion. Like landscape description – strategic placement and relevance is key – but done well, fashion could provide another avenue through which we come to know our most loved (and hated) characters…