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Meaningful Appearance

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Could you look at her ice-themed dress and white fur wrap, and immediately guess she's either An Ice Person or an Ice Queen?note 
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The appearance of people used as a way to convey information about them.

As humans are very visual creatures, the easiest way to gain insight into a person's being is to simply take in their appearance. A person's physical features as well as their clothing can give the audience cues to their personality, morality, and their social status among other things. Attributes like color or what type of traits/clothing the character has can also add additional symbolism. The meaning of the particular features the person has or the clothes they wear can be something that has cultural significance in the real world or something that has importance in the work's universe.

Even when characters are wearing costumes or disguises, we can still visibly ascertain things about their fake identities.

Foreshadowing can also be done this way.

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Of course these tropes aren't always revealing, and some writers will use these just to bait and switch the audience.

Compare Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance, Exposition (when information is given through dialog), Meaningful Name.

See also Notice This.

Contrast Fan Wank, Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory (when there is no in-story or Word of God statement that the appearance is indeed meaningful).


Things the audience can tell, whether it's certain or likely, from looking at hair, clothing, eyes, hands, etc.

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Examples

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    Comic Books 
     Film 
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, David Lo Pan, the Big Bad, has to sacrifice a woman with green eyes in order to undo a curse that keeps his true form immaterial. Un/Fortunately the love interests of both the main protagonist and his kung fu buddy have green eyes, so they have to go defeat Lo Pan's crew in a wire-fight to the death.
    Literature 
  • Septimus Heap: It's explicitly stated that wizards always develop green eyes as soon as they start practicing it. This makes it impossible for them to hide.
  • In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham's backstory and refusal to move on are conveyed through the aged wedding dress she refuses to take off. She wears it in all of her scenes, which motivates Pippin to discover the circumstances behind her abandonment at the altar.
  • The protagonist of the children's novel The Girl With The Silver Eyes is telekinetic, and she and other children who received strange powers because of a medical experiment performed on their mothers all have this eye color.

    Radio 
  • In the world of Marus, as depicted in Adventures in Odyssey's Passages tie-in episode, different-colored eyes are recognized as a sign of prophecy. Interworldly interloper Alice physically goes from having brown eyes to blue and green, then loses them again when her time as The Unseen One's messenger is up.

    Video Games 
  • Team Fortress 2: The Administrator, who is Running Both Sides of the RED and BLU teams, wears purple.
  • Yuna from Final Fantasy X has heterochromia to indicate that she's half Al-Bhed. She has a green eye and a blue one.
  • Handsome Jack, the primary antagonist from Borderlands 2 appears to have heterochromia. His left eye is green and right eye blue. This serves as foreshadowing that Jack's face isn't real. The blue eye is his actual eye while the green is part of the mask. His actual left eye is scarred and appears to have no pupil.

    Web Video 
  • Jeremy Jahns wears a Star Wars curtain he had as a kid like a cape whenever he does a Star Wars video to convey how much he loves the movies.

    Theatre 
  • As detailed in this interview, King George of Hamilton is weighed down upon by his massive jewel-encrusted outfit, showing the unadaptable and outdated nature of the British Empire.


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