Process Post - How I Style My Characters
Ideally, a character just pops into my brain and I'm able to translate it perfectly on paper. It'll have a clear silhouette, costume fully-realized, and appealing features.
A girl can dream.
That being said, this hardly ever happens for me - but I always love a challenge.
So, let's break down my typical process using the "fashion design tiger" I've been playing around with for a couple months...
First, I sketch character ideas. They're usually very loose (and I never post them). I sketch in basic shapes, trying to figure out character proportions. Once I figure out which one works best (via a gut reaction), I start to flesh the design out and add more detail. (This stage can go on forever, but I'll usually move on and keep editing the character as a whole as I move into the costume stage.)
Now I have a character!
But, she's naked.
She needs clothes that will fit her personality and the story. If I don't know her story yet, figuring out her costume/personality will definitely lead in the right direction.
When styling my characters, I treat it the same as when I get dressed in the morning. I figure out what would be in my character's closet - would he/she be comfortable in what they were wearing? Would they feel restricted? What are they doing in the story? What is the weather like? Are they prepared for that day's weather? Are they dressed correctly for whatever adventure they will be having? Do they have a favorite color/pattern they love to wear a lot? And so on.
Then I brainstorm clothing staples or classic articles of clothing that fit all those questions. I say classic, because I try to keep my contemporary characters more or less timeless. Unless I'm working on a nonfiction book, I try not to date the story. I tend to choose costumes that are simple and streamlined - preferring to have fun with patterns and colors. I don't want the clothes to be too tedious to draw over and over again. But then again, I can't resist a ruffle.
While brainstorming, I usually start looking up and gathering reference images. I'm trying to fill the character's closet, so I find more images than I really need. I use Google search and Pinterest like the rest of the world. It doesn't have to be anything special. Pinterest is great if you want super chic and put-together characters. For kids clothing, I tend to look at J.Crew Crew Cuts because they have great color palettes.
So, I now have a character and a file full of reference images of clothing I think would exist in the character's closet.
Let's make some outfits!
The best way I find to make styling quick and painless is the "paper doll way". I copy/paste a bunch of the character and just draw different variations of outfits. Some work, some don't. This whole process involves lots of mixing and matching (thank you, Photoshop!).
Once I figure out an outfit I like that also fits my character, I may futz with it a little more - tweaking the colors or the print or proportions. Sometimes I'll come up with outfits for different situations - a day at the pool, pajamas, etc. But I usually try to take my choices from everything within the character's closet I already defined through reference images and brainstorming. I think it helps keep the character consistent.
Then it's time for figuring out the story! Yay!
Anyway, hope you enjoyed a little glance into how I think of costumes for my characters. Don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!