♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
How do you decide how to dress your characters?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. We appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
Authenticity. But you then ask, how do you decide how to dress your characters authentically when they’re fantasy characters? It’s totally the same bag. This is why genre actually matters in writing. Costume design is part of meeting a reader’s expectation, at least part way, so they will go on that journey with you. If you defy the reader too much, you risk losing them. Authenticity in costume design is one easy way to reassure a reader and keep the contract.
So what does that mean? The simple answer for historical fiction is period appropriate clothing that suits your character. For instance, not all women dressed conventionally, because what they did and who they were would dictate how they dressed. Dress/costume is an extension of personality and is steeped in culture (including subculture). So when you costume design in historical fiction, you take into account the subject matter, time period, culture, and personality of the character. Costume communicates a great deal in quick manner (a picture worth a thousand words).
What does that mean for fantasy work then? I’m dealing with some very otherworldly characters, but they’re based in theological and cultural ideas that are strongly held. This is not to say that the angelic race of duta look like a catholic church rendering or late 19th century painted idea of angels. When you look deeper at the texts and the writings of philosophers and believers, they talk about how the messengers were youths (male teenagers, in the shakespearean tradition). From what I know of humanity, I know that this was an idealized generalization of a race of beings that may or may not be real, but of which only a very few humans have interaction with. Cross-channel them with alien lore, and human cultural history, you get the duta.
All that means is that whoever they met was possibly androgynous. But I started asking, where do all those baby cherubs come from? Why wouldn’t duta have relationships? Love and sex are not inherently evil things. I refuse to believe that, especially in the face of love and sex being abused by those who are pretty bad people. Bad people like to distort good things in their efforts to rage against them.
So, I figure, there are female and male duta, and they have families just like you and I, even if reproduction isn’t exactly undertaken the same way. I also figure, sex is so beautiful, it must be a good thing we bring with us to this world. Believe it or not, these things influence costume, because it leans into the idea of dressing to attract mates or at least look good. Looking good isn’t always about sex, either though. Looking good can be about having a comfortable self image that keeps one’s self-esteem up. It can be about fitting a group and a role, and impressing an idea of self onto others.
Yes. This all matters!
How would they dress though? That’s simple and not so simple, as I mentioned above. Clearly duta inspire us according to the text I penned. Therefore, their culture would be a richer version of what humans and other Samsaran races exhibit–the premise being that we come from the same world to run life simulations for educational and training purposes. Their costume design, therefore would have to take this inspirational level into account, too.
The duta are the original inhabitants of Zion, who watch over and assist the soul races who are not as spiritually evolved, but on track to being so. Their presence is all encompassing and quite impressive. The fact that they are divided into factions called orders, has further influence on the minds of souls. Think of them as refined influencers. Essentially, souls use wide-scale culture appropriation to establish customs and traditions in their own worlds, taking with them indelible impressions. The veil can’t hold back strong memories.
It’s true that souls only remember a pin-prick volume of the homeworld. These snippets create some pretty funky renditions of what the inspiration actually is back home. For instance, the Order of Horus inspired a god in Egypt on Earth. Naides, another species of soul, inspired the sprites of Greek mythology, and so on. And, it has inspired some interesting costume choices along the way, too. Although they appropriate, souls elaborate on those memories.
Costume is inspired by broken memories, to a degree, but is also form and function influenced. For instance, there may be art depicting bikini armor clad warriors, but the reality of that would be a dead warrior (or at least severely wounded). Armor is to protect the body. A bikini doesn’t protect shit. It’s titillation. Therefore, it has no place in my books. The duta in the legions and as well as the souls who work with them wear gear that serves their function. I can’t imagine a demon would take pity on a half-naked duta and nut mess her up. A duta wouldn’t embarrass herself by showing up to a fight that way either. She would appear incompetent and dangerous, attributes they do not respect.
You will read about Maiel wearing a toga like dress when she is not in her armor. That pays a bit of homage to the traditional idea of angels, but it is also nodding to the goddess Diana and her ladies. Maiel’s dearest friend, Zaajah, is a member of the order of Horus. She wears light armor that resembles what you’d have seen in Egypt–a full breastplate and helm, the layered white skirt, braces, shins, etc. Zaajah does not spend much time outside of her uniform as she is deeply military and takes her position quite seriously. You do see her braids, which reflect something of her culture. Yes, she’s black, with black wings–that’s another thing!
The duta wings are important in the matter of costuming the characters. Duta do not all have white wings. White wings indicate the cusp of a rising, like an elder. If they have dark hair, they will have dark wings. The only cases in which this is strayed from is Gediel and Mikhael. Gediel has silver wings and a wolf-coat head of hair. He would appear as if in his 30s to a human, not an elder except for the grayness.
Additionally, Gediel is a svarg (archangel), which tends to be a lengthy incarnation for most, and one they often recall in their form even when they have risen beyond that point of evolution. So why is he gray? Gediel is heavily experienced and skilled, but refuses to move beyond the incarnation he is at. There are multiple levels to this, and you’ll have to read the book to hear more about it. Wisdom, in other words, destroys and declines the sattva–hence the aging. Think of it as a chrysalis that must age and shed as we grow.
General Mikhael has wings that resemble the feathers of a peacock. Those feathers can serve as his eyes, when bestowed upon a soul or duta he wishes to protect. His bronze coloring is much like the bronze of the feathers, though. Unlike Gediel, these feathers may hold some muse like alteration that allows their spy abilities. Body parts, after all, are extensions of the atman.
Depending on what faction and position a soul or duta serves, their clothing is a form of representation. Alder garments resemble priestly raiment. Legion members wear armor or other militaristic garb. Muses–they wear whatever they damn well please, because they’re muses.
Just like we humans dress for the job we want, to express ourselves, or adhere to a norm we’ve incorporated in our lives, so do the characters in my books. Authenticity in Costume Design is supplying the right costume to the character that backs up who and what they are. Maiel wouldn’t make sense in jeans and a T-shirt, but Holly sure does.
Click on the links below to see how the other authors have answered this question. You might find a new book to read!