The Wardrobe of Your Characters Matters: Why?

I’d like to welcome Nikolas Baron over on the blog today.  He’s discussing the importance of a character’s wardrobe.  Have you ever thought about what it means when you put your characters in a certain outfit?  Enjoy the post!


Do you choose your clothes carefully if you have a job interview? You likely select clean, well-arranged outfits. Even if the position’s duties would not require businesswear, applicants often wear a skirt or a shirt and tie for the first meeting with the employer. They realize that their clothing will make an impression, and they want that impression to be a favorable one. While reading a novel, readers notice descriptions of the clothing of the story’s character as would a potential employer. Yes, apparel speaks to the world. What do you want the garments of your characters to convey? You may be surprised by how much the choices you make about color, cut, and fabric make a difference in the way the world perceives your characters.

  • Conversational Colors

There is a science behind colors called color psychology. Fast food restaurants use colors to make passersby feel hungry. Treatment centers use relaxing colors, like blue, to make patients feel calm. If you employ this science when you choose the wardrobe of your characters, you intensify their emotional impact. Do you want a character to seem malevolent, or mysterious? Dress them in black or gray. Do you want them to be memorable? Use attention-grabbing primary colors. If the character is shy or inferior, try muted tones. Avoid describing the clothing of insignificant characters. To read more about color psychology, click here.

  •  Fluent Fabrics

Wearing wool in summer is uncommon; a character who does this will really stand out from the others. Unless a character is eccentric, design outfits that match the season. Fleece and flannel indicate that a character is approachable and warm. Sexier fabrics, such as silk, suede, and satin, increase the attractiveness of female characters. For good-looking males, leather and linen are popular choices. There are no hard and fast rules; be creative! For example, what should a grumpy, older college professor wear? Over-starched khakis? Scratchy wool sweaters? The possibilities are endless. To take a fun fabric quiz, visit

  • Talkative Tailoring

The suit makes the man. Have you heard that idiom? Society associates power, wealth, and confidence with well-tailored clothing. Describe the quality and cut of your most powerful characters. To further emphasis wealth, mention brand names or expensive fabrics.

  • Articulate Accessories

Accessories also have a voice. Think about what the following items mean in the culture of your target readers and in the society that you will create in your novel: metal piercings, faux fur, designer handbags, tribal necklaces, head coverings, and religious jewelry. If you doubt whether the item will transmit the desired message, provide hints of what the piece means through the character’s actions. For example: He kissed his cross for good luck. She proudly turned out the label of her designer handbag as she walked down the street.

  •   The Call of the Cut

Pay attention when you watch movies. Take note of the clothing worn by a rigid character versus that of an easygoing character. Do you see a pattern? Often, wardrobe designers choose buttoned-up, traditional classic wear for close-minded or disciplined personages. The fit and cut reflect the morals of the character’s personality. A flirt will wear low-cut or figure-hugging items. Study your character in order to make good decisions on how you will portray their modesty and personal characteristics.

Giving careful notice to how you depict the wardrobe of your characters could be the difference between flat characters and vivid, realistic ones. One final note of caution. As I have been working for Grammarly, I have noticed that many authors inadvertently distract from their novel with grammatical errors. Be sure to perform careful proofreading. Do everything right, and what you create may be on par with The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit! By Nikolas Baron


Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

We give them hope and we take it away.

Hope.  We give it to our characters and then take it away.  In the blink of an eye, our characters go from hopeful to distraught.

I’ve been thinking about that particular way of writing.  It has been happening in a lot of TV shows I watch and in the books I’ve been reading.  The author has given these characters a slice of hope of escaping whatever torture they’re in.  But, just like that, they take it away – and make them work through their hopelessness until something else that’s good and hopeful comes along.  And then, they take that away too!

I do that with my writing.  In fact, it adds something else to the story.  It keeps putting them in troubling situations that they have to find their way out of.

I just think it’s cruel to the readers.  😉 

I was reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth last week, and something like that happened in her book.  A lot of somethings like that happened.  I won’t write any spoilers, but I was so upset.  My stomach was in knots, and I wanted to hunt down Veronica Roth and beg her for answers about why she would trick us like that!  Seriously. 

Eventually, it all made sense.  Well, not all, because there is going to be another book, and she had to leave some things open ended.  I get that.  Doesn’t mean I’m happy about it though.

Back on topic here, is it cruel to give our readers that hope and then just take it away? Probably, but it’s a necessary evil I think.  But, I may be wrong?  What do you think?  Is it cruel to give the readers hope and then take it away?  Do you use this particular method in your writing?  Do you think it gives that “edge of the seat” feeling to your stories?

Personally, I think it does.  When something like that happens as I read, I literally cannot read it fast enough!  So, maybe, it’s cruel, but it’s something that makes the story better. 

I’d love to hear your opinion of what you think!  Sound off in the comments below!