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Stock Costume Traits

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Tertiary Sexual Characteristics occurs when stereotypical female elements are added to a character to demonstrate she is a woman. If you have a yellow circle, and you stick a bow on it, you instantly recognize the circle is a girl.

Stock Costume Traits is that concept, except as related to characteristics or professions rather than gender. You add some costume element onto a character, and that is the visual signal they have adopted that characteristic. For example, if the circle has a pipe and deerstalker hat, we know the circle is a detective; if it wears a monocle and top hat, we understand that yellow circle belongs to high society.

Most of these are Dead Horse Tropes by now. Closely related to Hollywood Dress Code, but approached from a different perspective. See Clothes Make the Legend for a similar idea, but related to one specific character.


Compare Expository Hairstyles, when a character's hair is used to indicate personality, background, or other traits. See also Hat Shop, which analyzes the connotations of headgear.

Tropes with their own pages:

Other examples:

  • Amateur Sleuth: A pipe and a deerstalker hat; thank Sherlock Holmes, who wore it very few times so this fits the 'amateur' part.
  • Astronaut: Puffy white moon-landing style spacesuit. (Particularly goofy portrayals may have them slowly floating and bouncing, even in Earth-normal gravity.) Possibly blue shuttle-style jumpsuit with patches in a more realistic work.
  • Beatnik: Black turtleneck, Cool Shades, beret, goatee.
  • Bodyguard, CIA, or government agent: Sunglasses, a black suit and tie, possibly an earpiece.
  • Biker: Spiky helmet, leather jacket, leather or denim pants, spiky combat boots, tattoos, sunglasses and facial hair.
  • Butler: Men's formal daywear, generally a morning suit.
  • Carny: Vertical-striped shirt, bow tie, straw boater hat, often a cane. Also works for snake-oil salesmen, barbershop quartets, various vaudeville performers.
  • Candy Striper: Red-and-white striped pinafore over a white blouse, nurse's cap, and sensible shoes for walking up and down hospital corridors.
  • Court Jester: Multicolored outfit, with a multi-pointed jester hat with bells on the ends.
  • Clown: Puffy one-piece jumpsuit with pompom buttons, oversized shoes, cone-shaped hat, and a big red nose.
  • Cult Leader/Member: Traditionally, the dark or earth-toned robes of a monk or necromancer, with or without a hood, especially for "evil" cults. More modern cults will often feature some kind of New Age/Oriental style (saffron robe with Hare Krishna topknot, Nehru jacket) or just a white "Jesus" robe. Scientologists will usually appear in plain suits or "customer service" uniforms.
  • Director: Jodhpurs, sunglasses, and an Artsy Beret.
  • Disco Dan: Dapper suit, usually mostly in white. (This was being parodied as early as 1980, in Airplane!)
  • Disc Jockey (DJ): A pair of headphones and the optional Cool Shades.
  • Fairy Tale Princess: Large poofy gown of pink, blue, or purple and a sparkly tiara.
  • Firefighter: Black or brown heavy coat and pants, called turnouts,with yellow stripes on the arms and back of the coat and ankles of the pants, heavy black boots and helmet. The helmet is leather in older works, fire-resistant synthetics in newer ones. It has a number on the front to identify the fire station, and a overhang from the back, meant to keep water from going down the firefighter's back. For some reason, they often have the helmet on in some works even when they don't need it.
  • Gangster: (old style) Fedora and zoot suits; (new style) Hoodies and baggy jeans. In many cases, a chromatically inverted suit (white coat, black shirt, white tie) will suffice.
  • Hardboiled Detective: A fedora and Badass Longcoat; in Film Noir, they're usually wearing a tie, a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and suspenders.
  • Heavy Metal Rocker: Hair almost always long, and usually feathered. Sometimes garish face-paint, as well as jungle animal prints on T-shirts or spandex. "Goth" or "barbarian" look (all-black, Spikes of Villainy) for extreme metal.
  • Hippie: Tie-dyed clothing and headband (though actual hippie clothing was usually less garish than this). Long hair. Beard on the men.
  • Hipster: Thick-rimmed glasses, plaid flannel shirts.
  • Janitor: A jumpsuit or boilersuit.
    • In Germany, it's always a dark-coloured, knee-length coat.
  • Judge: Black robe and gavel. Powdered wig optional.
  • Knight: Suit of full plate armor, visored helmet with or without tassel on top.
  • Leprechaun: Bright green clothing, usually appearing to be from the late 18th or early 19th centuries.
  • Mad Scientist: White lab coat; goggles and Einstein Hair optional.
  • Magician: White tie and tails or tuxedo, often with a cape, white gloves, a slick handlebar mustache or an imperial beard, a white-tipped baton, and a black top hat with a bunny in it. Often there will be star and/or moon designs incorporated.
  • Mayor: Often a beauty pageant sash with "MAYOR" printed on it. In pre-1970s depictions, also often a top hat for some reason. In the UK, a gold chain and possibly a tricorn hat, even in the present day. (More realistic depictions only have the hat on ceremonial occasions.)
  • Medieval Executioner: Dons a black hood that covers the head partially or whole. Wields either an axe, sword or a noose.
  • Mime: Striped shirt, white face with heavy rouge, beret.
  • Ninja: Black kabuki stagehand outfit (which they never wore) with face-concealing mask and/or headband. Or regular stuff. They're not meant to know you are a ninja.
  • Nurse: White dress and nurse hat with a red cross on it.
  • Phantom Thief: Top hat, domino mask, a long cape (usually with a high collar or fancy brooch to fasten it in place), and a well tailored suit or tuxedo underneath.
  • Pilot: Goggles over a leather cap, generally with a scarf and a leather bomber jacket.
  • Policeman (the Theme Park Version): Laughably outdated "bobby"-style uniform, complete with cylindrical blue hat. Often will have a "Prussian"-style mustache, too.
  • Prisoner: Varies by era. For the mid-19th century through the 1920s, it's a black-and-white, horizontally striped jumpsuit and often a matching flat cap (sometimes also on modern prisoners, either for humiliation purposes or for comedy). For the 1930s through the 1960s, a light blue corduroy shirt, white undershirt, dark blue or black slacks, and a baseball-style cap. For any time from the 1970s to today, a loose-fitting jumpsuit in bright orange. Political prisoners will either still be in (usually ragged) military uniform or will be dressed as peasants.
  • Professional Wrestling: Lucha libre-style mask, colorful cape and tights, and Underwear of Power. (Never mind that, except for the underwear, most American wrestlers don't dress like this.)
  • Punk / Emo: Dyed (usually black) messy hair, black printed t-shirts, body piercings, tattoos.
  • Redneck/Southerner: Varies by time period and social status. The basic "poor farmer" look (at its extreme without a shirt and only one strap on the overalls) works well for any period prior to the mid-20th century. The Corrupt Hick version will usually be in a white or light-colored suit with the shirtsleeves rolled up, white Panama or straw hat, and a cigar. For examples from the 1970s and later, a baseball cap, jeans, and a hunting jacket will do; handlebar mustache and sideburns optional. A more mysterious or savage example can be established with a simple sack or bag over the head.
  • Reporter: A button-down with sleeves rolled up, tie at half-mast, and fedora with a card stuck in the band that says "media" or "press"; cigar optional.
  • Samurai: Samurai armor with kabuto helmet, katanas. Hair worn in topknot or ponytail.
  • Spy: Fedora, Badass Longcoat, and sunglasses, although that's a Dead Horse Trope by now. Spy Catsuit is more modern. James Bond-esque spies prefer a Tuxedo and Martini.
  • Soldier: Woodland camouflage patterned BDUs, black or brown combat boots, metal WWII style combat helmet. May have a bandolier with grenades or cartridges draped across their chest or shoulder.
  • Superhero: The stereotype is a cape note , spandex, and underwear on the outside. May have a good physique. On the other hand, the cape may be eschewed as a liability, as Edna Mode can tell you.
  • Surfer: Long blond hair, tanned skin, Cool Shades, lotioned nose, cowrie-shell necklace, and baggy shorts.
  • Teacher (male): Tweedy jacket with patches on elbows, glasses. Mortar board and gown optional.
  • Teacher/Librarian (female): Severe long dark dress, hair in tight bun, glasses.
  • Televangelist: Ice-cream suit.
  • Transvestite: Fishnets, high heels, corset (Optional), a noticeable amount of make up, jewelry of some sort (usually a necklace or earrings) and often (but not always), a dress.
  • Valley Girl: Garishly colorful clothing, often vaguely "punk" in appearance. "Authentic" 1980s examples will also have "poodle" hair, leg warmers, maybe one bra strap visible.
  • Venetian gondola drivers: A flat straw hat and striped shirt.
  • Witch: Pointy black hat, black dress, warts. Green skin optional.

Alternative Title(s): Standard Costumes


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