I am a guest at Joan P. Lane’s Fashion Flashback blog, which is a great resource for readers and writers of historical fiction, and anyone else who has an interest in the history of apparel.
Considering how little attention I pay to clothes in real life as well as in my fiction — I wouldn’t know a Manolo Blahnik, if it stomped on my foot, and in fact I had to Google the names of shoe designers to get a name to make this point — it doesn’t seem as if Joan’s blog would be a good fit for a guest post for me, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. I talked about how clothes make the character, and many people left comments, which resulted in a rousing discussion.
In the post, I explained (among other things) how I used clothes in A Spark of Heavenly Fire. One of the dramatic clothes moments in this story of a state quarantined because of a dreadful disease, is when my clothes-conscious character has to wear blood-soaked clothes for added warmth. (Actually, I don’t think I portrayed her as clothes conscious so much as self-absorbed.)
Clothing can be used as part of the stage action to show the nature of character rather than just to dress him or her. In another scene in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, a girl polishes a fingernail with the edge of her crop top, and in doing so exposes her breasts. It wasn’t a deliberate or flirtatious act on her part. She was a receptionist, and was simply polishing her nails to show her oblivion of the client standing at her desk.
A third significant clothes moment in A Spark of Heavenly Fire goes to show the depth of a woman’s character. She is big, hearty, aggressive, with a braying laugh, yet she wears feminine clothes such as challis dresses and blouses with ruffles.
So you can see that even though clothes are not a big part of my fiction, with very few words spent describing the characters’ apparel, the clothes they wear do have an impact on the story.
You can find the guest post and the ensuing discussion here: Clothes make the character.
What about you? How do you use clothes to show character or to further the plot in your story? If you don’t currently use clothes except to keep your characters from running around naked, how could you better use apparel to further your story?
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+