This post will deal with the second necessity, clothing. Both cultural and character clothing are addressed here, and hopefully will be a good guide for anyone trying to build both.
Every culture has some kind of common cloth used in their clothing, such as cotton, linen, or perhaps microfiber. Choose the base material use for most things, and then extrapolate the most common grades of cloth, from high to low. Cotton can be used in very course or fine fabrics. Do higher classes of society wear different kinds of material, such as silk? What about velvet? If you’re in sci-fi territory, you can use all kinds of constructed or synthetic fabrics. Invent a plant if you have to, but make sure you’re able to talk about clothing, including fabrics.
The Lupa make all of their cloth from the same plant, wissa, which can made into very course fabric for bags or tarps, thick sheets for towels or curtains, and two or three fine versions for clothing. The finest clothes will also have other plant-based substances which help make the threads very fine. They don’t use any other main source material for fabric, but have learned to manipulate wissa to make many types of cloth from it.
Construction is probably one of the most important elements of clothing for your world–yes, even more than fashion. How we construct our clothes determines fashion and the look of a culture. Japanese clothing is distinctive in the use of robes and tie-and-belt closures rather than buttons or snaps. Elizabethan silhouettes are known for the doublet, panniers, and wigs, while many Native Americans preferred simpler attire adorned with bone, beads, or feathers.
Again, do some research if you have to, and get a sense of your culture’s clothing basics. Lupa often shift between forms, so one of their primary clothing choices is a shift-like garment, with two wide shoulder straps and a long body and can be seen here. They also have basic pants, which are a bit more like capris with a draw string waist, and both t-shirts and tank tops. Most clothing is designed for comfort and ease of movement, and usually anything fitted comes in a wrap style to accommodate body types and sizes. They like practical and multi-functional clothing, as well. Formal dresses are always wrap style. Lupa are people whose clothing is almost always in line with their attitudes.
Fashion is where class distinctions can be made and where characters make their mark with clothing. You can determine who people are, where they come from, how they like their clothes to function, and what’s important to them.
While Lupa don’t have classes, the immortals tend to receive gifts, which sometimes include beautiful fabrics or clothing. Babies are usually kept naked or in shifts due to their extremely active lives. Someone who likes clothing will have many more tailored pieces compared to general use pieces.
Lord of the Rings is a prime example of how clothing can set characters: the difference between Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Hobbits can be easily seen in their attire. Star Trek also uses various costuming to show different cultures and species. Klingons wear a lot of armor on a daily basis, while natives of Risa, a temperate pleasure planet, are usually found in summery, beach-like clothing.
If your setting does has very established classes, you’ll want to look at how fashion becomes more refined as you go up the social ladder. You don’t need to literally have sackcloth or cloth of gold, but whatever your people have should reflect those class statuses. Generally, simple course clothing goes to the bottom, while fine fabrics with impractical styles are at the top. If you’re writing historical fiction, research what was worn at the time carefully, as well.
As for individual characters, yes there are something that are required–archers must have bows and arrows, but also arm guards. A knight will never wears his sword on the right (one mounts a horse from the left), but his sword may show their flair or simple elegance. But try not to stray over into cliche too much unless your character is that emo kid wearing all black and skulls–these kinds of characters specifically want to project certain images. I always recommend building wardrobes (the internet is great for catalogues and dress-up dolls).
Character Examples:3 very different women, and 1 man
Zaira almost never wears skirts, but grew up traveling on Earth, so there is a lot more Western culture Earth clothing in her wardrobe than most Lupa. She tends toward very simple clothing, solid colors, and dark green. Hoodies help her hide, and she also likes a warm wrap sweater, especially later in life. She prefers silver jewelry, specially if there are stars or moons on it, but usually doesn’t wear such decorations. Part of her becoming a different, happier person included a wardrobe expansion in to clothing that is part of a more settled, open life, such as some skirts or patterns, lighter colors, and less hoodies. She learned to use clothes to hide or blend in.
Eiry is a high-end florist with many business contacts and much of her out-of-the-house wardrobe is suitable for business–casual for working in the flowershop, or an elegant skirt suit in cream with matching heels for business functions. She also has some upscale, pretty dresses to wear to events where the florist is needed on site. Almost all of this clothing is in very light colors or patterns with flowers. At home, however, she tends to wear extremely casual clothes, many of which are shapeless: oversize T-shirts, baggy maxi-dresses, and yoga or lounge pants. Some of these are leftover clothing from a dead friend. She uses clothes to appear appropriately in various settings when out, and at home really doesn’t care.
Miara, on the other hand, loves clothes and having a million things to wear. She has both Lupa and Terran clothes from her many travels, and has many Lupa tailored pieces. Her color choices include everything except solid black or white; it sometimes looks like a rainbow exploded in her room. Some of her favorite Terran styles include off-shoulder tops layered with tank tops, corsets, and fun skirts, while she feels quite elegant in a Lupa-style wrap dress. She also wears a lot of shifts for working out. Whatever she wears, she does with confidence and commitment. She treats clothing as an extension of personality and dresses according to how she feels.
Jax has never lived on Earth, and he has a very xcheamo mode of dress, which is mostly just pants in various colors, with very few patterns, if any. If necessary he’ll also put on a very basic shirt. If he has to wear shoes he’ll go with a boot. He’s rather a minimalist, most of the time.
What do you discern from these characters based on their wardrobes? Hopefully some of their personality and character. Do let me know in the comments.