Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab



Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dressing My Fantasy Characters

Image: Spellcaster by dashinvaine

How a character looks is one of the first things I know about them. From the moment I have their name, I automatically know their hairstyle (very important for me.) their facial features, and a basic and not-very-well-thought-out idea of what they'd be wearing. Of course, until the story gets going, I probably won't know how well that will turn out. Karalan is first and foremost a Fighting Artist, so I knew from the start she wouldn't wear a cloak, probably ever. A shame. Despite their impracticality, cloaks are swishy and very cool. Like capes! =D

Image: Evolution of Princess Zelda in the Hyrule Historia, at gameluster.com

A character's wardrobe reveals a lot about them. It may reveal other things too, if it's a magician's robe with lots of hidden pockets for scrolls, potions, talismans, and lots of other fantasy goodies. For example, Ellen Page - an actress I adore - plays a lot of characters that seem to be at home in hoodies and converses, and thus has a sort of down-to-earth, teenage appeal. But as I'm trying to stay fantasy focussed, let's talk about...

Fantasy Staples

Image is Atevora Und Viablau by Axarch.

Cloak, or a lovely drape-y Robe. Oracles, wise men, or any characters who need to make an entrance, step right up! Warning: Cloak may be caught under the wheel of your character's carriage, the foot of their horse, or chewed up by their pet dragon. Terms and conditions apply.

Satchel. Where else will your character keep their letters or documentation of their voyage? Assuming they can write? (My protagonist just about knows how.)
Image is Steampunk Angels by Anne Stokes.

Boots. Are you kiddin' me? EVERY fantasy character's gotta have a good pair of boots! (Actually, most of the people in the village where my protag. Karalan grows up wear sandals. Fake leather is even rarer than real leather in this fantasy world; and real leather is expensive.)

Belt. Not just to hold things in but to strap things to. In it's a steampunk fantasy, your character will probably need to wear about a thousand of these. I really don't why. Still, I love it.
Image is King Arthur Pen Dragon by anitaburnevik.

Armour. Yep, this is probably smart for your protagonist. Keeping in mind that armour is h e a v y y y. If they're not physically fit (well then, they probably wouldn't be in armour anyway) think about how much armour they could realistically wear.

Crown. For a King. A heavy band of gold on their head. Probably encrusted with diamonds. Must hurt their neck.

Image is Hyrule Warriors Zelda by Tiffany-tees.

Circlet. This is hugely popular for fantasy women, whether they're a queen, princess, oracle, courtesan - a huge number of fantasy artwork included women wearing dainty silver circlets on their foreheads. Adds an elegant touch.

Mysterious (Probably Cursed) Amulet. Fit for a queen. Or maybe not, because many fantasy queens seem to prefer going necklace-less and instead wearing corsets to push up their bosoms.

Ring - THE ULTIMATE POWER ACCESSORY!! 
...great article.


One site I love is the Game Of Clothes tumblr. It posts articles every single day of items (usually dresses) that real-life models have worn, then states which character in Game of Thrones would've worn it and for what occasion. It's just fantastic.

I have been heavily influenced by commercial fantasy glamour. Cloaks... they'll get a character killed for sure. You can't really run in a cloak, can you? But majestic, yes they are.


Previous NaNo Help Posts
For Inspiration - It Begins - (Fake) Nanowrimo
For Plot - Writerly Image: The Story Circle
For Narration and Dialogue - The Narrator's Voice Is Your Voice
For Description - Descriptions: Skin Colours


How important to do think description of clothes are for enhancing the image in the reader's mind? Dooooo share in the comments and as always, peace.


Ashana Lian .

6 comments:

  1. Haha, I actually don't have any of this, but I'm writing a futuristic fantasy rather than high fantasy, so it's to be expected. Still, writing it has taught me how important clothing is for getting the reader to understand what the world is like. I've had to sit down and answer so many questions and make decisions about what would be appropriate or realistic. Are jeans still a thing? What about funny t-shirts? Or maybe after the apocalypse people started going for an older style, or even blending some ancient with some new. It's very confusing, but worth it to answer all these questions.

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    1. Ah, that's a good point! I should've mentioned this was geared more towards Ye Olde Epic Fantasie. c: I suppose it would work for futuristic fantasy but that could be kinda weird!!! I've also found the clothes and appearance are really important for helping me understand my characters on a level. It's definitely worth it. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Ooh this is awesome! Wow...there must be so much thought towards what fantasy characters wear (I too think that cloaks are awesomely swishy)...and love this list of fantasy character wardrobe staples! :P

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    1. HAHA yep, I really feel as though in a FAnovel, the elaborate get-up is worth half the storytelling process! I'm glad you liked this article - thanks. =D

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  3. Love this! I always wonder how fantasy authors do it, they have to put so much effort into EVERYTHING! I'd never really given much thought about just how much thought everything takes - from clothes, to the world and to everything else. A Game of Clothes.... MY GOD!!! I am going to be addicted to that, the clothes are all stunning toooooo >.<

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    1. To be honest, this turned out to be a 'joke post' because a serious post would be far, far too long. How I do it is start with the basics, characters and setting, then build outwards and outwards to actions, intentions, emotions, setting, world building, then making sure all the tiny details match up. For example, Karalan never wears dresses, so when she begins wearing them for audiences with Lady Maple, I realised she'd probably stomp around in them and not glide - also she'd probably trip a lot.

      Game of Clothes is amazing! I feel so inspired by those posts. I've finally created a Costumes For Fantasy Characters board on my pinterest so I'll be adding to that a lot this month!

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