Conveying character through costume
I recently completed a research project for my other course on a topic of my choosing, and I ended up delving into the underlying meaning of character costume in games. The main takeaway was in just how important appearance is in conveying the personality, motives, background, and persona of a character; I analyzed several characters that were unnecessary sexualized or stereotyped in their dress and how it conflicted with their description/roles, ultimately lessening their impact as full-fledged people. Games simply aren’t extensive enough for players to dive into every character’s backstory through dialogue or interactions, and so players must often make snap judgements based on first impressions.
With this in mind, it’s become clear to me that I’m not including enough elements in my necromancer’s dress to truly indicate who she is as a person and her role in the world. Most viewers of my scene won’t have read her full backstory or played a tabletop game with me to understand her motivations; they’re just seeing a woman and a skeleton. I think my design is fairly successful so far on the practical side, with layers to keep her warm and avoiding anything too form-fitting or restrictive. I’m already indicating her penchant for sewing with homespun fabrics treated with complex textile techniques and clearly handmade embroidery. However, she’s missing the darker side of her profession in her dress.
The above two concept arts were early inspirations for this character. Both have many obvious necromantic elements and make it clear what the character role is. That said, the fact that they’re so obvious in iconography somewhat defeats the purpose of my kindly grandmotherly character attempting to hide her necromancy. I’ve never been a fan of too on-the-nose costume details – I’d rather not cover her in bones, for example – but I’ve been brainstorming ways to incorporate some skeletal or magic (runic?) elements into her outfit instead. Changing the design of the front of her stays coincidentally created something of a ribcage effect without being too obvious, and this is the direction I’d like to continue to push.
In looking up ‘skeletal fashion’ on Pinterest or Artstation, I was bombarded with more explicitly-skeleton pieces. I think it’s time to try and find more subtle ways to bring that idea across.
I’ve actually already sort of stumbled upon one potential element: one of the smocking tests I did previously was for a design called ‘Canadian’ smocking AKA..’bone’ smocking! It wasn’t necessarily one of my original picks, but I’d like to play around with it more to see if I can make the effect more consistent and the little bone shapes more obvious.
The other design I remembered was on one of Cersei’s dresses from Game of Thrones, where she has a spinal design done with folded fabric strips down the back. This is actually quite reminiscent of the technique I did on my live brief project, and I think it would work quite well with Marvelous’s tools, so I’ll look to ways to add something like this in – perhaps along the backs of the long gloves.
Dambach, V. (2021). Aasimar Warlock. [image] Available at: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/0nGll8 [Accessed 10 March 2022].
Kupriianov, R. (2022). What did you say? Repeat if you can.. [image] Available at:
https://www.artstation.com/artwork/2KyVa [Accessed 11 March 2022].
Making Game of Thrones Blog, 2017. To Dress a Queen: The Season 7 Costumes of Daenerys and Cersei. [image] Available at: https://www.makinggameofthrones.com/production-diary/to-dress-a-queen-the-season-7-costumes-of-daenerys-and-cersei [Accessed 19 April 2022].