Friday, October 09, 2009

Clothing and Apparel, for the GODS

How do you dress a god, in the modern day, while keeping the richness of his or her heritage intact, and without making them look completely ludicrous?

Does a god wear jeans and t-shirts? Or, does a god stick to what he knows, and continue wearing the clothing of his glory days long past their expiration date? How do you dress a god in such a way that a reader (or viewer) will recognize them as more than mortal, or not quite human, but it won't tip off the rest of the characters?

As a writer, I don't usually get into the nitty-gritty of description. I'm not the kind of author who describes in detail the contents of my character's closet. If writing in third person limited, I take the position that my character isn't going to be surveying and appreciating in fine detail the furniture in their living room when they come home. Think about it, for a moment. When you come home and walk in the door, do you appreciate the patterning of your curtains? Do you measure the distance between yourself and the door to your bedroom? Do you observe critically the finish of your dresser? For me, when I walk in the door, I toss the stuff in my pockets on my desk, and don't pay attention to much else in the apartment outside of changing into something more comfortable to lounge in for the evening. I'm not noting my couch with any particular attention, and certainly not cataloging the other furniture in my living room. I expect that my characters are similar in this respect. Maybe if they happen to walk past the mirror, they get a glimpse of their outfit, but are they really going to be thinking about it in detail?

All that being said, if one of my gods brings my MC home with him, SHE might be paying attention to the furnishings, and the contents of his closet, as well as what he's wearing. So I had to ask myself the question, and I had to address the issue.

First impression: does he look like a god, or a man?
When my Leading Lady first meets the erstwhile god of her acquaintance, is he dressed for the times? Or does he looks like he fell out of a renaissance festival? Since my god is kind of savvy, I went with modern dress. Nothing startling. That is to say, the thing that startles her most is not his choice of clothing, rather his immense size. This is one of his key traits-- he's huge. Tall, rippling muscle man. It's one of the ways he's marked as not being entirely normal. His other key trait is his hair color. Real red hair doesn't often go unremarked. So maybe I cheated a little bit by glossing over his modern day-wear with his other overwhelming characteristics, but I don't think a woman who is approached by a man who a) is saying things to her that no one else should know, and b) is like a WALL OF FLESH standing in her way, is going to be taking careful notes about his apparel.

Second impression: How old is that cloak in his closet?
After getting to know the god, however, or man, if that's how he's trying to sell himself, and a comfort level is reached, at some point she's going to see his digs. Where he lives. Whether this is a city apartment for show (maybe he's washed up, or got kicked out of his heavenly home), or some incredible mountain top retreat, you have to imagine that there's some detritus from the past. How old is his stuff? Whether he's wearing modern clothing now, or not, what's hanging in his closet? Does he have a couple of old cloaks that he just couldn't part with? A mishmash of styles and clothing from years of intermittently walking the earth and trying to pretend he's a mortal? khakis and polos next to leggings and tunics? What's the cross section?

Third impression: They don't make boots like that anymore.
Again, as the comfort level increases, our leading lady is probably going to be noticing his clothing more. What's a good way to keep him reflective of his times, but not ludicrous? Give him a style element or two that he just couldn't let go of. Hand-crafted, finely made, leather boots maybe, the like no longer available in stores. Or a belt, similarly old fashioned. Something that people on the street wouldn't generally notice first thing, but can clue in the audience. Like I said before, this character already has immense size going for him. He'll stand out in a crowd already. But surely he can't be expected to adapt TOTALLY to the modern age, without hanging on to a few of his preferred glory-days-styles.

When it comes to details and clothing, I obviously still have to do research when I'm in history, but in the modern day, the same character can't abandon everything we know about them. While I have more freedom to go with what I know of everyday clothing in this day and age, I still need to know what he might have been wearing when.

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