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On Designing Outfits

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 9, 2022

Character design needs careful planning on all levels: from the character's psyche and personality to their body type, mannerisms, hair, and of course, outfits.

Like in real life, what a character wears is a reflection of their personality and their general situation.

There's a reason why Jessica Rabbit's sparkly dress is strapless and possibly hanging on for its life from her boobs.

There's a reason Cinderella's sparkly dress is poufy rather than form-fitting and has a rather modest neckline.

Both dresses are formal and sparkly, but one is the symbolism and epitome of sex and the other is of purity and innocense.

Even color can be a stark difference in the symbolism of the outfit. Same goes for very similar but strategically more revealing elements in two versions of the same costume.

Just check out these two Princess Jasmine outfits. Which one is the sexy one and why?


In the same manner, clothes can signal someone's social class or standing, and how well they're doing.

How well off do you think this little guy is?

How about this one?

Same goes for emotional state/mood:

Who is the one most likely to be depressed and the wet blanket at parties?

Note that it's not just the all-black look in Snape that gives off the vibe, but the greasy hair (depression correlates a lot with lack of personal grooming) and lack of apparent care for a style combined with the all-black. The color on its own isn't enough most of the times.

Less likely to be depressed and more likely to be …out to excite.

All in all, in designing character outfits the tone and general vibe of the character should be gotten across. The viewer should be able to ‘tell’ in a sense what this character is all about by just a look- or, if you want to subvert it, think they know a character by how they dress/look, so that they can be surprised later.

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bravo1102 at 4:12AM, July 10, 2022

@Corruption: in my twenties I always wore a suit and tie because I worked in men's wear retail. An underpaid retail worker that is Very much akin to the guy always in a suit because he's coming from a job interview. ;) The well dressed man whose shoes are stuffed amd fingernails are dirty is a well used trope.

Corruption at 10:45PM, July 9, 2022

The old saying is "The clothes make the man" I add, "And removing them makes the woman". Sometimes the one bit of clothing can portray different things all depending on the situation, lighting and how clean they are. Those two outfits of Jasmine almost look like the same one in different lighting (one had arm straps when the other did not). One amusing thing to consider is how other characters react to your character's outfit. For example, if they always dress professional, other people might mock them for being overdressed, or being pretentious (when they really just wear it because they are always applying for jobs). If they think the guy's got a good job, they may be pissed when he doesn't give them money to help, thinking he's just being selfish.

Banes at 3:51PM, July 9, 2022

Love that top gif, haha

bravo1102 at 8:01AM, July 9, 2022

Clothes can also be comedy especially when dealing with unrealistic expectations of fashion. One thing is the magic of double sided tape and various support garments used in movies and TV to sustain an unrealistic image. The history of costume is fascinating and it is truly amazing what people have worn through the ages and the day to day struggles of maintaining that look.

PaulEberhardt at 4:45AM, July 9, 2022

It's often in a slightly disturbing way hilarious what the google algorithm seems to think of me and what ridiculous spam mails I get after looking for photo references of what I want my indecisive girlish character Sophie to wear next. Before she featured regularly in my comic I never knew that cross-dressing old farts with exceedingly strange fetishes were such a big market... :D It makes me wonder, though: why doesn't this thing consider anything more obvious, e.g. like my underage niece occasionally "borrowing" my computer (she never does, but that's beside the point)? Conclusions: 1st: these days your character will be assessed even by the clothes you just look at without ever buying any. 2nd: Drawing conclusions from clothes is best left to human beings with some remainder of common sense.

PaulEberhardt at 4:06AM, July 9, 2022

An outfit usually speaks volumes about a character. Under normal circumstances it's what they choose for themselves, so the outfit will in some way hint at either how they perceive themselves or how they want you to perceive them, which isn't much of a difference most of the time. Under other circumstances, the circumstances choose it for them, but even that tells you volumes - which item from whose clothesline will they nick? Will they discard it if they get the chance or keep wearing it? All of this is too fundamental not to play with as an artist.

hushicho at 2:15AM, July 9, 2022

It's very true. Sometimes using people's tendency to judge by superficial traits can also allow you to surprise them, as well. People do so often judge books by their covers, which makes it easy to use that against them and perhaps teach them a little lesson in the process.

Ozoneocean at 2:01AM, July 9, 2022

Hahaha, Tantz, you've handily taken over the role of Fashion critique :D Oh god that Tardigrade dress on the cover... Why hove those things blasted into such massive popularity in the last 5-10 years or so...

PostProduct at 12:17AM, July 9, 2022

Any outfit is a "mirror of personality" and can tell a lot about character.

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