No, that is not my closet. I wish. It appeals to my anal-retentive, minor OCDish nature, but alas, it does not belong to me.
However, on the subject of clothes…
It occurred to me today as I was shopping for some shoes to wear for a wedding I’m standing up in next weekend, how much we may or may not focus on clothing and costuming as writers.
Recently, I’ve read many books that include a fair amount of clothing descriptions in the prose. Some of them were justly warranted, as the outfits were far beyond the norm. But, as a reader, these are parts that I tend to skip over. The parts where my eyes glaze with boredom and I read ahead to get back to the juicy stuff.
Personally, I think clothing descriptions should be kept to a minimum. Include a few here and there to keep us aware of the tastes of the character, but do we need a reminder every time they change clothes? No.
In my MG fantasy series, clothing is only mentioned when there is an aberration to the norm. And there are quite a few aberrations, but I only mention them when they’re introduced. I rarely return to them unless it requires it for the sake of the plot. And only if another major costume change is occurring. Otherwise, I leave them well enough alone.
For my own stories, I was inspired to a great degree by this lovely bit of man-flesh:
And yes, I was the typical teenage girl squealing over Orlando Bloom when the LOTR movies came out. I spent a few of my high school/early college years on the Orlando Bloom bandwagon. But I digress.
Many of the outfits in my MG fantasy world are similar to this, but with their own artistic and creative flair. The costume designers of the LOTR movies did a tremendous job, and they inspired me a great deal. I love old fashioned clothes. If I could wear clothing from the Victorian Era, or even what some of the lady elves wear in LOTR everyday, I’d be a much happier person.
Of course, then I’d probably be living in the psychiatry ward.
Maybe the inclusion of clothing and fashion depends on the genre one writes in? I can see it being more important in character-driven novels when we’re embedded in the protagonist’s mind, and they’re embedded in themselves. Or maybe in romance novels, where people seem unable to keep their clothes ON. And especially in historical fiction, since it is not what we’re used to, I can see more clothing descriptions so that we can become immersed in the era.
So, what is your opinion? Do you see too much or too little of clothing, costume, makeup, hairstyle descriptions in what you’ve read? How do we balance what is necessary for the story and what’s just fluff that can be chucked into the garbage?
“People seem always actually to know, with a degree of pain that has required the comfort of fairy tales, that when you are dressed in any particular way at all, you are revealed rather than hidden.”
― Anne Hollander, Seeing Through Clothes