History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

When the Clothes Make the Story

In one of the games I play, which is a sci-fi heist game, we’ve got a couple of characters who fancy themselves as fashion designers. I threw out the challenge that my character wanted a dress that mashes up Sarah’s dress from Labyrinth with rutilated quartz (as pictured here). I could envision exactly what I wanted, but because I’m not too good at drawing, I didn’t want to attempt my vision. But it involved long gold-colored rods piercing the dress throughout the skirt (and maybe the bodice) in strange, gravity-defying ways.

Only I realized … this is a sci-fi setting, so things that are probably not possible based on current materials could very well work for fashion in the setting. And while I don’t think I’d want to write an entire story revolving around this dress, it did drive home the point to me that descriptions of “impossible” fashion can go a long way toward world building. A dress like this could be a futuristic creation for sci-fi, or it could be created with magic in a fantasy setting. But simply including something like it in a story, even in the background, tells your reader a lot about your world and the character who would wear such a thing.

(To be honest, my character really wouldn’t wear a thing like this unless she had to go to a very fancy party … which she really shouldn’t do. Our crew has been described as “unsocialized,” but she’s a little closer to the “feral” end of things. Putting her in this dress and then at a party for which she does not have the appropriate manners, now that might be a story!)

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