One of the things I enjoy most about writing (aside from the writing itself, of course, and seeing the finished product on the page) is the research. And – partly because it’s something that I think I do well – visualising how characters look is always a hugely fun part of my research. Clothes are a huge part of that.
I don’t think that the reader needs to be informed of every little dangle of hair or change of clothes in every scene, but there are some moments when I think it can really help bring the reader into the world if I can let them “see” what someone looks like, and what feelings or impressions that look may evoke. A clumsy boy in a school uniform gives a very different impression from a young man in a well-tailored business suit, even if they’re essentially the same character beneath the surface. And while a young woman might not find that ordinary boy attractive…she might suddenly notice him when he’s in that suit.
Naturally, my characters’ tastes are a reflection of my own, since I’m writing them, but it’s still a lot of fun to imagine different outfits for different occasions. Because even though we may find another person attractive (or not) because of who they are, we’re still influenced by how they look (again, for better or worse).
I personally like to use clothing as a way to help set mood or perspective. When Ross helps fit Amber for a wetsuit, it’s as much about him inviting her into his world as it is about him getting the opportunity to see her in something skintight. When Chie dresses in a formal wedding kimono at the duel between her lover and her father, she’s not doing so simply to be pretty or feminine; she’s telling her father that she’s making a choice regarding the man in her life. And when Leon lounges around his apartment on New Year’s Eve in an old AC/DC tee shirt and shorts, that’s him shutting himself off from the world around him.
The choices we make when we create characters aren’t random. Or at least, they shouldn’t be. That’s what I think. Everything a character does or says – or wears – is an extra little glimpse into who he or she is.
…Or maybe I just like looking at clothes. You can decide.