Ready to start creating your character costume?

Creating Outfits Based off Characters You Love

 

Whether it’s for Halloween, Disney-bounding on vacation, or just for the fun of putting together an outfit that’s inspired by a favorite movie, TV, video game, or book character–I think we all enjoy getting into somebody else’s shoes every once in a while.

This post will be looking not only at how to get the aesthetics right, but also at how to use character traits and storyline for inspiration, so we can get to the heart of the character we are portraying.

So, here are 8 aspects of costume and character design to consider before creating your character-based outfit:

 

(Feel free to click on any of the aspects below to go directly to the sections you’re most interested in:)

  1. Symbolic Pieces

  2. Color Schemes

  3. Textile and Patterns

  4. Shapes, Forms, Silhouettes

  5. Attitudes and Personalities

  6. Comfort Zones and Ambitions

  7. Genders and Ethnicities

  8. Settings: Life stories, Locations, Eras

Let’s take a closer look:

The Aesthetics

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1. Symbolic Pieces

This one is really a mix of the aesthetics of the costume and the heart of the character–symbolic pieces may or may not actually be worn by the character, but may instead be a materialization of something that is key to who they are on the inside. I am listing it first, though, because i think it is the most crucial part of costuming–since it is the clearest clue to who you’re portraying.

Unless you’re wearing a head-to-toe replica of the character’s costume, it may be difficult at first glance to know who you’re dressing as. This is why symbolic pieces are crucial. Look at your character’s story (and maybe to accessories that they wear) for any items that visually give a clue to who they are or what their story entails.

I’ve provided some examples below from The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Attack on Titan, The Lord of The Rings, The Little Mermaid, and The Hunger Games:

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Usually, you can come up with more than one symbolic piece (or idea or sidekick-character that can be used as an item in your outfit) per character… Adding to the above examples: Dorthy’s blue-farmgirl-ginghamcurly pigtails and her furry-best-friend Toto; Ariel’s purple shell bra, fin (in a shade of green that Disney actually created uniquely for her), and supportive bestie Flounder; plus Katniss’ casual side braid and mad skills with a bow and arrow–all of these are additional things that readily symbolize those characters and their stories.

Feel free to use as many symbolic pieces as you can think of, or pick just one or a few that you feel are most important in expressing the heart of the character or story.

Once you’ve pinpointed the symbols, you can then either find pieces that are just like them, or use the idea of the images in a different form: such as jewelry, accessories, or even in the prints of the clothes you wear.

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2. Color Schemes

There’s no denying that color stands out and tends to be the first thing we notice about anything we see. We also have a tendency to find meaning in colors or to use them to symbolically convey a message. So color is an important thing to remember, and a very good place to start when putting together a costume. What color does the character mostly wear? Do we know their favorite color? What colors would they never be caught dead in?  –-Just a few questions we could ask ourselves in regards to color.

I’ve provided some examples below from Sleeping Beauty, Harry Potter, Inside Out, and Star Wars:

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3. Textile and Patterns

Textiles, especially ones with patterns, embody a lot of character and personality. Sometimes they become iconic of a particular character, making you think of them anytime you see the fabric. In some cases, their costumes may not even be recognizable without the fabrics or prints that they wear so much. Does your character have a definitive print they wear? What do you see them in most commonly?

I’ve provided some examples below from Clueless, and The Nightmare Before Christmas:

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4. Shapes, Forms, Silhouettes

Pay attention to shapes. What elements are important? If you can’t recreate the exact silhouette, what is similar enough to at least hint at the style?

I’ve provided some examples below from Peter Pan, Kingdom Hearts, and the Mickey Mouse cartoons:

 

The Heart of the Character

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5. Attitudes and Personalities

If nothing else, you must stay true to the character’s personality. Try thinking about the above aesthetic aspects and if you were to change or enhance any one of them, how can you do so in a way that still represents their attitude?

Do they tend to act like they’ve got it all together?–try opting for sharp silhouettes and strong fabrics. Likewise, a shy and gentle character is well suited for flowy or cozy materials, and often soft colors. 

I’ve provided some examples below from The Aristocats, and Winnie the Pooh:

Shhhh…this is a secret jumplink code because it didn’t work putting it anywhere else.

6. Comfort Zones and Ambitions

Similarly to observing your favorite character’s personality, what can you see regarding their comforts and discomforts, likes and dislikes, hopes, dreams, and fears? These are core things to what makes a person who they are, so it’s another thing you can use to decide what they would or would not wear.

I’ve provided some examples below from BravePeter Pan, and Wonder Woman:

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7. Genders and Ethnicities

Gender and ethnicity are strongly intertwined. Both can be a huge part of a person’s identity, and therefore a fairly simple way to define a character through fashion. Gender is a cultural construct (just like many other ethnic traditions and ideals), in place to define what is and is not proper for a male or female within that community (Including rules for how they dress), and whether there is any in-between or other variance of ways the sexes can express themselves. It differs from culture to culture and changes time to time.

How big of a part of the character’s identity is their gender or ethnicity? In their culture, what does it mean to be a woman, man, or other? If they were of a different ethnicity or culture, would they still be who they are? What if your favorite male character was a girl, or vice-versa?

These questions can help you decide whether using culturally significant pieces will help people identify who you’re costumed as, and/or whether it works to do a gender- or race-bent version of their look.

I’ve provided some examples below from The Princess and the Frog, and Mulan:

Shhhh…this is a secret jumplink code because it didn’t work putting it anywhere else.

8. Settings: Life stories, Locations, Eras

This last aspect is the final thought, which is in place to make sure the whole outfit makes sense in light of the character’s whole story and authentically represents who they are. Ultimately, a life story can be displayed when all of the aspects are considered in creating a look. Each detail that visually speaks about who a person is can tell their story. But this final aspect is one that double checks whether the details really do tell that story.

Furthermore, if you’re creating a costume that is time-period-specific, and want to be accurate, this is also a point in which you can consider any extra historical fact-checking that needs to be done.

Does it benefit you to draw inspiration from the country or region your character lives in? How about the era or decade? What if you changed the time and/or place they came from?

I’ve provided some examples below from Sleeping Beauty, and Nancy Drew:

 

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, i would so appreciate it (I’ll do a happy dance!) if you helped my little blog by sharing it with your friends 🙂

Let me know in the comments: Who is your favorite character to dress as? Or what is your dream costume?

Would you like to read “How to Dress Like __” posts that use these methods to analyze specific characters and show you different ways you can dress like them?
Which characters would you like to see? –So far, votes have been cast for Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Mulan, and Sinon (Sword Art Online).

 

 

 

 

 

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