I’ve always loved cool fashion. In my latest novels, The girl from Paris, Vien is a young Parisian seamstress who loves to dream about beautiful clothes. Moving from post-World War I Paris to New York, she designs exquisite clothing for her wealthy clients and falls in love with the city in some of the most iconic venues of New York’s great jazz age. While I love the setting, and adore weaving cool places into my books, I found that paying more attention to what my characters were wearing than usual was not only rewarding, but brought a lot to the writers.
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I was fortunate enough to be able to indulge my passion for cool fashion that fell for dead while doing my research, and that was the thing – the novel was really about beauty, about searching for marvels in tough times. During the long months of lockdown here in Melbourne, when there seemed to be no point in getting dressed and we weren’t allowed to go out at all, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend hours wriggling out of dazzling jazz-era fashion to inspire clothes designed by Vian.
When it comes to movies, costume designers play a vital role in the process, doing extensive research to bring their characters and characters to life on screen, often visiting locations, and then collaborating with actors, directors, and producers to ensure the characters are authentic. Costume design is so intertwined with the art of filmmaking that we consider the way the characters are dressed to be true to life as it is a highly visual medium.
But while movies and TV are integrally visible, a person reading a novel will also conjure up their own imagined presentation of your story.
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This is the basic element that has to be taken into consideration while thinking about fashion. You care as much about researching where you are, the location, the history, and the feel of places are in your book as you do the characters and the story, so I think it’s worth taking the time to think about what your characters are wearing throughout your book. as I wrote The girl from Paris, I realized that like setting, costumes can become driving forces in your story. In fact, costumes can become almost personalities.
The inner story of your character develops in tandem with the outer story of the book, and one effective way to maximize the power of fashion can be to use changing clothing styles to highlight how your character has changed or grown along its narrative arc, or how their feelings about themselves and possibly their pasts have changed. Does your character become more successful, brave, or even less confident as the story progresses? How can you use the costume to enhance this journey and reflect what your character is going through on the inside?
Consider this sleeveless black and white tube flapper dress, made entirely of thread ribbon and tied with metallic thread, which comes with a sheer evening gown with contrasting chenille trim. It was this gorgeous gown that Vien designed for her client Adriana Conte, which turned Adriana into a sensation at the opening of her son Giorgio’s restaurant, Valentino, which in turn became an instant phenomenon in New York.
Writers can use costumes to help their characters sing a different tune than the same old song they sang before. A costume, like a character, can be transformative.
Fashion can be incorporated into the setting, and enhanced, to help bring your book world to life. The 1920s were the time of the new woman, with her wavy hair and knee-length dresses. And there were the modern fashion movements of the time, Orientalism, Ropes de Style, and the illustrious fashion designers, Coco Chanel and Jean Patou. During the 1920s, fashion was a powerful way to express that you were part of the new and modern world. Coco Chanel famously believed that fashion existed outside of clothes. She believed that it all had to do with the way people lived, the ideas, and what was happening at the time. It felt like he was in the sky around us and set the mood.
Regardless of whether your novel is set in the past or in contemporary times, including the authentic fashions in your surroundings can be very effective. You can take the reader on a journey through time by adding fashion to your book’s kit, thinking about shoulder pads from the ’80s, bohemian flares of the ’70s, twin and pearl sets from the ’50s and what they all symbolized, or meant for women of those times. Layering these extra details into your characters’ lives adds more authenticity and depth to your story and provides additional visual launching pads for your readers.
Clothes are an expression of our identity. When you first introduce your characters, weaving their costumes into your portrayal of them can be an effective way to establish them in your story. Of course, showing clothing in story events, the way characters might think about what to wear, or in dialogue, is much more persuasive than simply describing clothing. Bring the costumes to life, to help bring your characters to life on the page. Think of a woman waving a muslin scarf along a street in Paris, while another loves to put her hands in the pockets of her duffel coat and peer out the windows of a jewelry storefront, and dreams of buying a pair of diamond earrings one day. See how you can visualize these characters by adding some small yet effective costume details?
A costume can be helpful in identifying your characters early on. Using costumes to show a character can help readers understand, identify, and find sympathy for them if they are woven into the story itself. Consider using quirks in costumes that make it possible to instantly identify one of your characters. in a The Lost Girl of BerlinRick Shearer wears a fedora. Everywhere. And he loves to flip her snap teeth.
Sometimes it can be helpful to create a mood board for your main characters. I think of their age, position, background, and social status, and then come up with color and clothing schemes that might suit them, including styles and accessories. kit in The Lost Girl of BerlinHer wardrobe must be professional, as she was trying to make her a political reporter in New York after World War II. She wore many costumes, navy blue, shoes, and reasonable suits. She hated the fact that she had to dye her hair blonde when she started working on TV. In the opening scenes she was reporting on the fallout from the war in Berlin, so she wore military boots and the uniform of American war correspondents. Kate’s fashion made her feel comfortable about the character she wanted to keep. But when I wanted to take her out of her comfort zone and challenge her to become the fully formed woman I wanted her to be by the end of the story, I changed her costumes as well so that I could zip around with her as her character grew. It was helpful to have a mood board to do this, as I could see right before my eyes what a dramatic change an outfit could bring.
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