I'm doing my character development homework for NaNoWriMo so I won't have to wing it in November. Right now, I'm going through a book about crafting characters.
I like this book. But there is an idea I've come across that doesn't quite gel with me, and I've seen this idea come up in other character development guides as well, and that is the instruction to dress our characters by their social class.
That is, a character from an affluent background is expected to wear expensive designer clothing and be well-groomed to reflect their social status while someone who is from a less privileged background should wear cheap, gaudier clothing and be less groomed. The author suggests that, with some exceptions, clothing and grooming offer clues to the readers about one's socioeconomic status.
I respectfully disagree.
Here's how I would put it: Sometimes clothing and grooming offer clues about one's socioeconomic status OR how one wants others to perceive their socioeconomic status, AND sometimes clothing and grooming don't offer clues to one's socioeconomic status at all.
My line of thinking is influenced by living in the Bay Area, where it's not unheard of for wealthy CEOs of start-up companies to go to work in casual gym attire or for young people from underpriviledged backgrounds to wear expensive designer sneakers. And if you think someone who is a "somebody" must be expertly groomed, I ask you to look no further than all those pictures out there of Albert Einstein with his wild bed head.
I still remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie Bradshaw is admiring her closet stuffed with Chanel and Manolo Blahniks while wondering how she'd come up with money for the down payment of her apartment. Though Carrie is a fictional character, her situation offers insight on some of the "best dressed." An individual who is always styled like a mannequin at Nordstrom as if to remind others "I'm all money!" could sometimes be anything but.
I've also observed some people who are exceptionally well-off financially, and their clothing choices are rather ordinary and do not hint at their wealth at all. Perhaps individuals from this group might've come from a background where thrifty spending is valued. Or they don't care about being stylish. Or they're simply comfortable with themselves and don't feel the need to prove they come from "class." It's not uncommon to come across a picture of a Hollywood A-lister totally grunged up and glammed down while they walk their dog or go grocery shopping.
Sometimes the rich and the less privileged would dress as such, respectively, and sometimes they don't. So I feel that clothing and grooming are not definitive markers of social class.
Readers, your thoughts? How do you dress your characters?