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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:

Contents:

(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

The Aesthetics:

 

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1. Symbolic Pieces

How to Analyze and Recreate a Character Based Outfit 1 Symbolic Pieces Colored
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 if you want to wear clothes that tell a story. Look at your character’s journey (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:

Examples of Symbolic Pieces
  • Dorthy Gale’s Ruby SlippersThe Wizard of Oz.
  • Dorthys Iconic Ruby Slippers 1Dorthys Iconic Ruby Slippers 2 1

    The start and finish of her enlightening adventure to Oz.

  • Snow White and the Poisoned Apple, Walt Disney’s: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
  •  Snow White Wishing on the Iconic Poisioned AppleSnow White and the Iconic Poisioned Apple 2

    Causing the turn of events that is core to the story, and showing her dreamy, innocent, naivety.

  • Mikasa Ackerman’s red scarf given to her by Eren Jaeger, Attack on Titan anime.
  • Mikasas Iconic Red Scarf Gifted from Eren Mikasas Iconic Red Scarf Gifted from Eren

    A constant reminder of why she keeps fighting for life and where that courage began.

  • Frodo Baggins and The Ring, The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • Frodo and the Iconic Ring 1 1 Frodo and the Iconic Ring 2 Frodo and the Iconic Ring 3

    The item that was central to the whole adventure and evoked a power struggle that tested his character.

  • Ariel’s “Dinglehopper“, as explained by Scuttle, Disney’s: The Little Mermaid.
  • Scuttle Introducing Ariel to the Iconic Dinglehopper Fork Ariel Brushing Her Hair with the Iconic Dinglehopper Fork
    Showcasing her excited curiosity over the human world.

  • Katniss Everdeen, “The Girl on Fire“, The Hunger Games trilogy.
  • Iconic Katniss The Girl on Fire 1 Iconic Katniss The Girl on Fire 2

    Symbolizing the coal mining District 12 she came from, who she became in the eyes of the ostentatious District 13, and the struggles overcome throughout the story.

    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 

    How to Analyze and Recreate a Character Based Outfit 2 Color Schemes Colored
    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:

    Examples of Color Schemes
  • Aurora’s 16th Birthday Gown, Walt Disney’s: Sleeping Beauty.
  • Make it pink make it blue. Dancing in the clouds.

    Make it pink, or make it blue? For her iconic birthday dress, either color works, though pink is the most recognized.
    (Despite her wearing blue for half of the movie… Smsh, marketing!)

    Aurora Mostly Wearing Blue not Pink

    But who says using both colors couldn’t be an additional option? 🙂

    Make it pink make it blue

  • Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, “The Three Good Fairies”, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
  • Flora Fauna Merryweather. Wearing Red Green Blue.

    In this instance, color is the only thing that really differentiates the costumes (Besides the small details of the shapes that enclose their cloaks at the neck), so it’s the most important part to get right. Flora = Red, Fauna = Green, Merryweather = Blue.
    Would Merryweather still be recognizable wearing pink?–Nope!
    (Except by those who remember this scene!…)

    Merryweather Hates Pink

    …But Merryweather hates pink… So i think she’d beg you to not vicariously dress her in it. 😉

  • Hogwarts Houses, Harry Potter series.
    Harry Potter House Crests Colors
  • Ever wish you could attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? You can express this fairly easily through sporting the colors of your favorite house or the house of your favorite character.
    Gryffindor = Scarlet-red and Gold, Hufflepuff = Yellow and Black, Slytherin = Emerald-green and Silver, Ravenclaw = Blue and Bronze.

  • Sadness, Joy, Anger, Disgust, and Fear, Disney Pixar’s: Inside Out.
    Inside Out Sadness Joy Anger Disgust Fear. Color Psychology Blue Yellow Red Green Purple.
  • This is another one that uses color as the most defining aspect of the costume designs, this time using basic color psychology symbology to define each character. Sadness = Blue, Joy = Yellow, Anger = Red, Disgust = Green, Fear = Purple. Though, choosing purple to signify Fear was a surprise to me. What do you think?

  • Good vs. Bad – Light vs. Dark, Star Wars series.
  • Star Wars Luke Skywalker Light Neutral Earthy Colors Star Wars Darth Vader Dark Black Red Colors

    Color was a big part of the costuming decisions in Star Wars. A lot of thought was put into it. George Lucas wanted to make a visual statement that well contrasted good from evil. Evil = Harsh, Dark and Technological. Good = Humble, Light and Earthy.

    Star Wars Luke and Yoda Green Brown Earthy Tones

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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:

    Examples of Textiles and Patterns
  • Cher Horowitz, Clueless.
  • Clueless Cher Plaids Red Black Clueless Cher Plaids Iconic Yellow Skirt Suit Clueless Cher Plaids and Faux Furs Yellow Red Black

    Pretty certain that at least like 60% of her outfits contained plaids (and/or faux furs!)–starting with that iconic, yellow blazer-miniskirt suit set. Pure 90’s prep.

    Clueless Cher Plaids Red Clueless Cher Plaids Red Black Clueless Cher Plaids and Faux Furs P

  • Sally, Disney and Tim Burton’s: The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • Sally Nightmare Before Christmas 2Sally Nightmare Before Christmas StitchingSally Nightmare Before Christmas

    What’s a ragdoll without rags? Sally is a sweet, curious, hopeless-romantic. Her patchwork dress both is adorable, with its mismatched colors and prints, and a little bit spooky, with its dulled, grey-toned colors, rough stitching, and ripped fabric, to go with her setting in Halloween Town.

    Sally Nightmare Before christmas Patchwork Outfit

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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:

    Examples of Shapes, Forms, and Silhouettes
  • Wendy Darling’s Nightgown, Walt Disney’s: Peter Pan.
  • Wendys Nightgown and the Mermaids Splashing

    I think it’s safe to say that Wendy probably doesn’t usually wear her nightgown everywhere. So it’s worth it to consider what she might wear instead. Maybe you’re visiting the Disney Parks and would like to Disney Bound as her, but would rather not run around in sleepwear. Adding elements of the shapes present in her nightgown could help you get as close to her costume as possible, whether you’re replicating or just hinting at her look.

    Wendy Flying 2 Wendy and Michael

    Innocent, nurturing Wendy is both playfully imaginative as she holds tight to the childhood she loves and responsible as she looks towards the adulthood that lies closely ahead. Her flowy, boatneck, puff-sleeved, empire waist nightgown is both whimsical and elegant.

    Wendy and Peter Wendy Darling

  • Sora, Kingdom Hearts video game series.
  • Sora Kingdom Hearts 1 Baggy OutfitSora Kingdom Hearts 2 Baggy Outfit

    Sora Kingdom Hearts 2 Baggy OutfitSora Kingdom Hearts 1 Baggy Outfit

    Boldly enlargened, chunky shapes give him a cartoonish look, inspired by Mickey Mouse, and emphasize his silly, innocent, child-likeness by giving him a smaller appearance in his oversized clothes.

    Kingdom Hearts Sora and Kairi Dancing Kingdom Hearts 2 Sora Silly Face

    Kingdom Hearts Sora Silly Smile

    Obviously, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to scale your whole costume to perfectly fit his silhouette (I know i’d certainly trip wearing his shoes!)–But at least grab some baggy pants. 🙂

  • Minnie Mouse, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoons.
  • Minnie Mouse Bow Ears Minnie Mouse Sketch Flouncy Skirt

    Minnie’s bows and flouncy skirts emphasize her playful, flirty, sweet and sassy attitude.

    Minnie Mouse Flirty Flouncy Skirt Minnie Mouse Kisses

    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:

    Examples of Attitudes and Personalities
  • Marie, Walt Disney’s: The Aristocats.
  • Marie The Aristocats Sassy Because im a lady thats why quote Marie The Aristocats Sassy Ladies do not start fights but they sure can finish them quote

    Marie could be difficult to come up with an inspired outfit for, since she’s an unclothed cat. You can use the white color of her coat and add her pink bows, but what next? Consider her personality.

    Marie The Aristocats Sassy Sweet Girlish Sugar Marie The Aristocats Sassy Chic Spice

    Her sugar and spice attitude calls for something classy but sassy. Chic and put together, but playful and girlish.

  • Piglet, Walt Disney’s: Winnie the Pooh.
  • Piglet Winnie The Pooh Bashful Cute Piglet Winnie The Pooh Blowing Away in Cold Wind

    I don’t know about you, but i can totally see sweet, bashful little Piglet cuddled up in a big, soft, fluffy, pink sweater, hiding away from the cold and trying to smother away his fears.

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    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:

    Examples of Comfort Zones and Ambitions
    • Merida, Disney Pixar’s: Brave.

    Merida Brave Quote Fate Destiny Within

    She is boldly adventurous and doesn’t possess the qualities that are traditionally “feminine”.  Being that Merida longs to take control of her own destiny, i wager that her fashion sense wouldn’t be one that aims to follow trends.

    Merida Brave Mountain Climbing Merida Brave Horseback Riding Merida Brave Archery Bow and Arrow

    She leans towards comfort and practicality in what she wears: particularly fancy clothes are not practical for horseback riding, archery, and climbing mountains, so they’re far out of her comfort zones (especially considering the dress her mom wanted her to wear).

    Merida Brave Curse This Dress I Cant Move Merida Brave Curse This Dress I Cant Breathe Merida Brave Curse This Dress Merida Brave Curse This Dress Rip

    • Peter Pan, Walt Disney’s: Peter Pan.

    Peter Pan Playfully Flying AroundPeter Pan Lazing Around on Hammock Without Responsibility

    Can you imagine Peter Pan in a suit and tie? He certainly couldn’t!

    Peter Pan Playful Laughing

    Peter, if he were to try to imagine himself wearing a TIE!


    Not his style. If you know Peter Pan, then you know that his #1 rule and only longstanding ambition is to never grow up. EVER! And a suit and tie scream “GROWN UP MAN!” like no other article of clothing in the western world.

    Peter Pan Never Grow Up 1

    • Diana, Princess of the Amazons, Wonder Woman.

    On Themyscira, an island populated by female warriors, it makes sense to wear clothing that looks powerful, is easy to move in and is semi protectant: strong colors, lots of metallics, short and/or flowy hemlines, metal and leather.

    Wonder Woman Amazons Warriors Themyscira Wonder Woman Outfit Bold Metal and Leather

    Furthermore, Diana’s dreamed of being a hero since she was a little girl,

    Wonder Woman Hero Little Girl

    So, similarly to Merida, it’s not surprising that Wonder Woman is drawn away from clothing that is impractical for battle.

    Wonder Woman Trying on Impractical Clothes

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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:

    Examples of Genders and Ethnicities
  • Tiana, Disney’s: The Princess and the Frog.
  • Tiana Hard Worker Passionate Determined Tiana and Naveen Hard Working African American Woman

    Tiana is a very inspiring, hardworking, and determined individual. It would be easy to say that she’s that way in part because she’s an African-American woman set in the 1920s, a time still rife with racism as new freedoms began to bloom in both black rights, and women’s rights.

    Tiana Hard Worker Dont Have Time For Dancing

    Of course, all people are capable of having determination and a good work ethic (Cinderella is a pretty fair example)…

    Tiana and Cinderella Hard Working Determined Women

    They’d probably be besties. Or at least really great work friends.

    But Tiana has extra to prove, and more effort needed to exert. So her story and character have extra strength because of both her ethnicity or “Race” and her gender.

    Tiana Hard Worker Determined Tiana Hard Work No Sleep Tired Determined

    But please, please, be wary of going so far as painting your face black. That can be, and usually is, disrespectful.

  • Fa Mulan, Disney’s: Mulan.
  • Mulan Challenging Female Gender Roles Being Herself Mulan Challenging Female Gender Roles Being Herself Smart

    Mulan didn’t feel capable of fitting into her role as a woman in ancient China, where she was expected to “bring her family great honor in one way: by striking up a match”, and being the most beautiful bride and perfect mother one day–and in very specific ways.

    Mulan Female Gender Roles Pouring Tea Fail Mulan Female Gender Roles Tiny Waist

    Mulan Female Gender Roles When Will My Reflection Show Who I Am Inside

    In a desperate attempt for a new chance to bring honor to her family, and save her father (who wouldn’t have survived in another war), she chopped her hair, threw on her dad’s armor and escaped on his horse in the middle of the night to join the war, courageously, though illegally, pretending to be a man.

    Mulan Male Gender Roles Cutting Hair Mulan Male Gender Roles Ill hold him and you punch

    Mulan Prove I Could Do Things Right

    So her ethnicity and culture, and especially her gender (and challenging the roles and stereotypes she didn’t fit into), are a huge part of her identity. You can easily be costumed in her female-roles version, or her “male” soldier version.

    Mulan Challenging Male and Female Gender Roles Fighting Mulan Challenging Female Gender Roles Sword

    What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man? Mulan challenged the traditional roles and blurred the lines between what a man or a woman is expected to be capable of.

    Mulan Challenging Female Gender RolesMulan The Greatest Gift and Honor is Having Your As a Daughter

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    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:

    Examples of Life Stories, Locations and Eras
  • Aurora, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
  • Aurora Humble Beginnings as Sweet Briar Rose Cute Bird Kiss

    With 16 years as “Briar Rose”, the peasant girl in a cottage in the middle of the woods, she had very humble beginnings, not knowing she’s a princess. She was even disappointed–devastated–when she found out.

    Aurora Humble Beginnings Briar Rose Devastated Crying Aurora Briar Rose Devastated Crying Princess

    With this in mind, it may be a good idea to think again about what her comfort zones might be, since it may not have been clear without looking at the whole picture of her story. Certainly, the disappointment had more to do with realizing her life was made up for her, and she felt she lost all choice in any matter–But this still may be something to consider, particularly when thinking of how much or little to glam up her look in light of what would be appropriate with her story. How much is too much change for Briar Rose?

  • Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories book series.
  • Nancy Drew The Secret in the Old Attic 1960s Nancy Drew The Mystery of the Fire Dragon 1960s

    The first Nancy Drew book was written in 1930, the original classic series ended in 1979 (Though new books are still being written), and the illustrations that are most well known were drawn (or re-drawn) starting in the 1960s.

    Nancy Drew Secret Of The Old Clock 1930s Nancy Drew Secret Of The Old Clock 1960s Nancy Drew The Hidden Staircase 1930s Nancy Drew The Hidden Staircase 1960s

    Using trends and styles from these time periods could help you get some ideas if the information given in the books wasn’t enough.

    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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