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Clothing Reflects Personality

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"Just because they dress a certain way, doesn't mean they are a certain way, but ladies, that is fucking confusing for us. It'd be like me, Dave Chappelle the comedian, walking down the streets in a cop uniform..."

Clothes make a man in Fictionland too. Many tropes are related to how a character's personality is shorthand coded into their wardrobe. In case of uniformed environments, Custom Uniforms often take the form of this. Especially notable are major changes in personal fashion, which are often related to major mental makeovers.




Unisex (same implications regardless of gender):

Examples (not covered in the subtropes):

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    Fan Fiction 
  • The so-called "makeover fanfics", where, typically, a canon character befriends a fan character who gives the former a total makeover. Cue the canon character realizing her "true" self somewhere during the process. The new self is, of course, everything we could have never imagined of her and likely turns her into a full-fledged Possession Sue.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • Brendan in the movie Brick has a jacket that comes off each time he loses control of his emotions, and his glasses seem to come off each time he expects to get "hit" either physically or emotionally.
  • Tom's hat in Miller's Crossing is quite possibly symbolic of his wits: keeping his wits about him or losing them in a card game to a woman, etc.
  • Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy has his primary costume go from white to gray to black as he gets less innocent. The progress is mirrored in the Prequel Trilogy where Anakin starts out as an innocent kid in light-colored Jedi robes but goes to brown and then black as he loses his innocence (the difference is that Anakin goes all the way to the dark side, while Luke doesn't.)

  • Gandalf the Gray died in The Lord of the Rings and was sent into the void for a short time. However, Gandalf was "sent back", resurrected by Eru, returning as a more imposing figure, Gandalf the White. After being found by Gwaihir, he was healed of his injuries and reclothed in white robes by Galadriel in Lórien.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffyverse:
    • Willow initially dressed like a little girl, and her mother still picked out her clothes for her. Cordelia cruelly stating, "Good to know you've seen the softer side of Sears!" After Buffy encouraged Willow to "seize the moment," her fashion sense began to reflect the growing confidence that her friendship with the Slayer granted her.
    • Tara wears brighter and more attractive clothes in later seasons as she gains in confidence.
    • Prior to her reformation, Faith's look typically involved namely leather jeans and jackets and tight tops, often in dark clothes as to clash with Buffy's more "good girl" appearance. Her makeup was often dark and had red or maroon lipstick and she would wear accessories ranging from chain necklaces and chokers to belted bracelets and studded belts. After reforming, her appearance changed: she took to wearing more color and her makeup became much less intense and dark.
    • When Wesley first appeared in Sunnydale, he most often dressed in prim suits, vests and overshirts, and had a manner of dress and attitude somewhat reminiscent of Giles. Upon joining Angel Investigations, he maintained his style and mannerisms; however, as his character progressed Wesley took on a more casual appearance, mostly wearing black or white t-shirts under a short sleeve button shirt, light colored pullovers, khaki pants and a wool pea coat. As he slowly regressed into darkness and depression his attire came to match (black t-shirts, darker ill fitting button shirts, jeans, work/cargo pants, sweaters and a stained brown leather coat); all his clothes were often stained or unwashed in appearance. He also left his hair unstyled, no longer wore glasses (despite his heavy use of firearms around that time) and even allowed himself some light stubble, which added to his air of melancholy. Even after he rejoined Angel and his friends at Wolfram & Hart, he retained his more casual clothing style, albeit with a more groomed appearance rather than his previously disheveled look and slightly more work place friendly clothing. He returned to his suit and tie when he became Angel's Liaison to the Senior Partners, but this was explicitly identified as part of their torment of him, forcing Wesley to regress back to an appearance and time that he had grown apart from.
  • In Miami Vice, Castillo's style of dress, with its severe blacks and whites, can be seen as a metaphor for the way in which he views the world, with no shades of gray.
  • The Thick of It: In season three, all of Malcolm's suits are light grey, and sometimes he'll even pair a grey suit with a grey tie. When we see him in casual clothes we discover that practically every other item of clothing he owns is also grey. This could have been a deliberate attempt to match his wardrobe to his hair colour but the grey is also very fitting for a press officer who likes to hide in the background, never becoming the story.
  • In Torchwood, Capt. Jack Harkness is usually seen wearing a belt AND suspenders, a subtle Visual Pun about how he can't keep his trousers on.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Several examples in Daughter for Dessert:
    • Heidi always wears clothing that wouldn’t be out of place at work. She is driven, punctual, and diligent, and she is perfectly capable of running a business by herself.
    • Zigzagged with Veronica. She wears fancy dresses, which leads the protagonist to believe that she is sophisticated and successful. However, when he actually has a conversation with her, he finds out that she’s not really that successful; she had a business, but it failed, and in retrospect, she found the idea ridiculous. She did, however, learn a thing or two about running a business.
    • Lily wears clothes that are typically dirty and sweaty, emphasizing her lack of self-care.
    • Saul wears a fancy suit (except when he temporarily takes a job cooking at the diner). He is extremely elitist and tends to have a patronizing attitude toward most people.
    • Cecilia wears expensive clothing and jewelry, and sure enough, she identifies strongly with her wealth.
  • Double Homework:
    • Tamara likes black clothing, in large part reflecting her outlook on the world.
    • Invoked with Lauren. She dresses just like a posh girl, but she actually comes from a poor family. She’s just trying to have the girls whom she emulates accept her.
    • Also invoked with Amy. Her hoodie is an attempt to both hide her identity as a princess and establish her identity as an individual.
    • Dennis wears fairly nice clothes in a way that (he thinks) a ladies man would wear them. He’s someone who tries hard at getting girls, but never actually does.
  • Most of the love interests in Melody:
    • Deconstructed with Melody herself. She states that she likes casual clothing, and that she dislikes wearing dresses or anything else that smacks of formality. Later on, she warms up to the idea of dressing up for certain occasions. This change tracks her character development from a rebellious and irresponsible teenager to a mature professional musician.
    • Isabella frequently wears her work uniform, underscoring her structuring of her life around her job.
    • Becca is wearing conservative clothing the first couple of times she crosses paths with the protagonist, representing her shy exterior. After she gets to know him a little bit better, she wears clothing that showcases her attractiveness, symbolizing her hidden sexuality.
    • Amy likes to wear formal dresses. She is polite, caring, and very feminine.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman: Other than dressing in outfits you’d sooner expect a teenage girl to wear rather than a 30-year-old, Sarah Lynn’s default shirt, her button-down top with contrasting sides, one side being light purple with white skulls, and the other side having a lavender and white striped pattern, can represent the different “sides” of her she has an adult, one being the still relatively sweet and caring girl, the simplistic pattern and cute colors of the stripes, and the other being her darker, unstable side she descended into, the skulls and darker color. It can also represent her implied mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder, a disorder characterized by black-and-white/all or nothing thinking. This becomes even more prevalent once she reveals that she didn’t actually choose that outfit/shirt herself, but was asked to by a company that’d pay her a $8k to wear it; the Sarah Lynn we were introduced to is shown to not be who she naturally is, but rather something Hollywood turned her into.