What Are You Wearing...?

And by you, I mean your characters. (I'm not a creeper. I don't care what you're wearing. Unless you got a stealer deal on it. I love awesome deals.)

Are you a fan of outfit descriptions in YA? You know, the ones where every peep-toe slingback, every matchstick jean [side note: what's the difference between matchstick jeans and skinny jeans? Anyone know?], every cute top is described in detail.

I'm okay with it when used sparingly, but every outfit of every character is a bit much in my opinion. In my own writing, I rarely give clothing descriptions, unless the clothing is important to the scene, and even then, the descriptions are pretty loose to interpretation. "He was wearing jeans. Not a dress. Nope, no dress for him today." Stuff like that.*

There's two reasons for this: A) I'm really fashion-challenged. I don't even know how to think up a cute outfit in my head. Good heavens, I don't even know the difference between skinnies and matchstick jeans. B) I think adding too much detail to clothing can date your book. Think Babysitter's Club. Think Claudia and Stacy, who were so ultra-cool and trendy in their acid-washed jeans and high side ponytails. I have a hard time not being distracted by stuff like that. I was a kid of the 90's. Those white leggings with lace that I wore with a bold, geometric print sweater and jelly shoes haunts me. Please don't make me go back.

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Don't-care-either-way it? Let's discuss.

*my descriptions are a little better than that. Just automatically assume in my books that my guys are wearing pants, unless stated otherwise.


Chantele Sedgwick said...

Ha! I'm totally fashion-challenged. I don't usually care if the clothing is described or not. If it's something I have no idea what it is, it sort of bugs for a second, but I forget about it a few pages later. :)

Julie Maughon said...

Sometimes it's helpful, but usually it drags the pacing. That's my vote.

Darcy said...

Fashion is less important to me in any story where the setting is familiar enough that readers can be expected to mentally fill in the blanks. Shirt and jeans? No problem.

Historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy are where I like to read more descriptive clothing. Maybe not every time for every character, but their clothes are part of how the setting/world itself can be made better known, and it's conversely disappointing when things just end with "dress," "tunic," or "uniform."

(Once fashion-- and first impressions-- have been established, of course, I don't mind things being left to the imagination).

What about makeup? Does it add or subtract to a scene for you? Do you prefer not to hear about it on characters unless it's important-- do you like books where details like that are important?

Angelina C. Hansen said...

I agree. I leave clothing pretty vague. Except when writing my historical. Don't need to worry about it being dated. ^_^

Gwen said...

I usually leave out clothes, unless they're important like uniforms or something out of the ordinary. Though I'm reading a book right now where clothes are always described, and I find I don't mind it. It's become part of the character and her image, listing the clothes. So if your character is really focused on that, I think it's a good thing to include.

Red Boot Pearl said...

I guiltily indulged in planning all my characters outfits etc. the first time around and I loved it, I wanted to show exactly what I saw in my head.

And then I read a book where I hated everything the character wore and it had nothing to do with the plot and it was just silly--so I decided to cut the description to as minimal as I could go. I still throw a color or two in there... I just can't help it.

Sarah Pearson said...

What on earth are matchstick jeans?

I rarely mention clothing, unless it's relevant, like when her clothes are wet so he gives her his bathrobe, a t-shirt and a new pair of boxers.

Ruth Josse said...

If it's important to the story, go for it. If not, what's the point? But just to contradict myself (which I often do because I don't have many hard and fast opinions), I'm a visual person so I enjoy a nice outfit description.

Oh! And I typed in the question, what is the difference between matchstick jeans and skinny jeans and the second entry in the google search came back to your blog!

Apparently matchstick jeans have no shape and skinny jeans do. ???

Jessica Therrien said...

Yeah...I'm with you. The less detail about that stuff the better. I want to get to the story.


Luanne Hardy said...

When I'm reading I usually am already thinking of clothing because clothes just come with the person. When a writer starts explaining non-important clothing in detail I'm usually distracted. I now have to spend time trying to picture the character in their "new" clothes.

Girl With The Pink Gun said...

I agree, Jeigh.

S.P. Bowers said...

I don't mind some description because it can set the scene/time period/personality of characters. But it does need to be put in carefully. I've seen many, many books where they stop the plot progression to describe an outfit and that's kind of irritating.

Basically anything that is in the book NEEDS to be progressing the plot/character arcs.