Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Little Clothing Choices that Could Kill Characters


Dear Characters,

Today, we’re here to talk about clothing choices. These choices are the little ones, the ones you probably will never even notice, and that come naturally to you. It’s not your fault; in truth, it’s the fault of writers who don’t think through your wardrobe, and so call on you to pick outfits not suited to your adventure. Well, readers, the next time your author asks you to do something relating to clothing that makes no sense, tells you no one will notice the foolishness of it, and expects you to go along with it, say no and show your author this letter.

Since cloaks are considered cool, we’ll start with those.

Try to avoid sleeping with your cloak clasped. Now, I realize that sometimes you just can’t help it, but in those times you’re more unconscious  than actually sleeping, so don’t worry about it. At other times, however, especially when you’re on your grand quest and you take a break to sleep, do make sure that you unclasp it. If you don’t, you risk the danger of strangling yourself in the middle of the night or, if you expect to be set upon by your enemy in the middle of the night, you’ll regret leaving your cloak clasped. When the surprise attack comes, you’ll find that, rather than dramatically swooshing out behind you as well-behaved cloaks should, your cloak will be thoroughly tangled around you. Have fun fighting off attackers like that.

Don’t (don’t, don’t, don’t!)  pull your hood up for camouflage. I cannot stress this enough. I realize that you want to blend in with your surroundings, and your cloak is (either by the dye used to make it, or some unexplained, non-Earthly phenomenon) the perfect color to match the landscape. As soon as you do it, though, you give yourself a handicap; in effect, you’re putting blinders on yourself like you would put on a horse. If you want to blend in, use face paint. Your author will protest at this, saying that hoods look far nicer, but while painting your face green and black and grey isn’t glamorous, a hood is to keep your head dry. I’m afraid it won’t do much else for you without the cons completely outweighing the pros. Go with the face paint. After all, if you’re embarrassed, that’s one extra reason to be sure you blend in well and aren’t detected by whoever you’re avoiding or hiding from.

Avoid Long Cloaks in the Forest. I’m afraid only evil over-lords can get away with it. The moment you step into most forests in a long cloak, it will seem that every single branch, twig, thorn or tree is permanently attached to it. Unless your author wishes to thoroughly irritate you, or completely creep you out with cries of, “No! We love you, cloak! Don’t go. Stay with us!” from the forest, stick to short cloaks in the forest—or, better yet, go with a jacket. If you must wear a cloak, were one made of heavier, tightly-woven material.

This next part addresses mainly women, but you fellows who care whether or not a woman will come out of battle alive, might want to read this and insist on certain things (or, if they’re not listening, a prison cell is always an option).

Wear Armor. Women mainly have trouble with this, though occasionally men will go without vital pieces of armor. You should know that battles are not  calm affairs. In a battle, people will be everywhere, swords will be everywhere, and you will be injured. Be aware of this and make sure that your armor choices reflect that. While I’m aware that you may or may not be human, the neck, stomach, and chest contain vital organs for most of us. If you lack those, wear armor there anyway; you’re the hero of a story, and people will be watching. You wouldn’t want the rest of us to think we could get by without wearing armor into battle, would you? Our deaths would be on your heads.

Don’t Wear a Skirt or Robe into Battle. Out of curiosity, are you interested in coming out alive? If so, don’t wear a skirt. As far as I know, there are no Biblical commands against girls wearing pants. If you don’t want to wear pants, don’t enter the battlefield. The occasional Faerie Princess or century-old monk can get away with it, but most of us would die in half of a heartbeat. Don’t take the chance. Even if you can manage, your author’s credibility goes down considerably when you do, so support your author! Don’t do things most of us would consider ridiculous.

Watch Your Hair. First of all, I would like to offer a quick apology to any Elven characters who might happen to be reading this. I like your hair. I really do, but there comes a time when practicality takes over. If you’ll be navigating in a thick forest, running from people, hiding, battling armies, or shooting a bow, do something with your hair. Whether you want to cut it or put it up is completely up to you, but there are certain things that have happened to people because they did not take enough care to make sure their hair would not endanger them. It may seem small, but Absalom died because his hair got caught in a tree.

Most of you may or may not even know what your clothing is made out of, but if you do have that pleasure,  avoid cotton in cold areas. As soon as cotton is wet, you have officially lost any insulation against the cold you might have previously had. Since cold does bother most of us, when you’re planning to go into a colder area or don’t know where you’re going, choose wool over cotton. Of course, if you live in another world and your people don’t grow cotton, this probably isn’t something you need to worry about.

And, to those people on Earth: Avoid Wearing Flip-flops. You never know when you’ll end up in a medieval world and have to walk miles through wild land to get to civilization.

There are some other things that might need to go on this list, but since most of you are probably ready to head out and begin your quest, I’ll close here.


Athelas Hale

(A person very concerned about your survival)

Authors? What are some other illogical clothing choices you’ve seen characters make? Are any of these things that you’ve done? There’s a comment box just below.


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19 thoughts on “Little Clothing Choices that Could Kill Characters

  1. Hannah on said:

    HILARIOUS. And great points to remember!

  2. Oh, wow, that’s hilarious. The cold certainly bothers me… and yes, we should all learn from Absalom. 😉

    • Me, too. It’s not very often that people mention what their clothing is made out of in novels, but I thought that, just in case, cotton might be a good thing to mention here. Yes, we definitely should.

  3. XD I loved this! I’m always groaning about people going into battle in long dresses, or with their hair loose.

    • Agreed! In truth, I wrote this post in response to some irritatingly illogical things in a couple of places, but mainly from a movie I watched the day before, in which one of the main characters goes into battle wearing a skirt and with her hair loose.

  4. Good article. Capes are another thing to watch out for. Unlike cloaks, they’re really only stylish. A trench coat is probably the best option for this type of situation. It would give most of the same abilities as a cloak without hanging up on things.
    Oh, and anyone who can fly needs to make sure they’re wearing clothing that won’t get in odd places, and perhaps wear a belt over one’s shirt so it doesn’t ride up. (Either that or tuck the thing in, which may not work too well since it can come untucked.)
    It may not be a bad idea to remember armor can be dangerous in some situations, especially the heavy armor. I read about a battle being lost because the knights were wearing 50-60 pounds of armor and the ground was muddy. Some are said to have drowned in the mud due to not being able to rise. The archers, who were not wearing heavy armor, simply came in and finished off the floundering and exhausted knights. (Having 60 extra pounds on a long march would be a very bad idea if one does not have a horse.) Other armies, like the Mongols, didn’t use much armor since they preferred speed.
    For situations outside the standard battlefield, or where the enemy swords are strong enough to go through armor, I’d suggest going without armor so it’s easier to avoid getting hit in the first place. (For women, 50 pounds of armor would probably be more harm than help.)
    I think it would depend on the skirt or robe. After all, the Scots got by fine with kilts.
    Hair wouldn’t just get caught in branches. The biggest worry would be that it makes a nice handle for the enemy. Same goes for long beards.
    In modern literature, other dangerous clothing articles would be high heels or other poor footwear, lack of warm clothing, or even brightly colored clothing that could cause a character to be spotted. (I’m not counting flip flops because one can actually run in those, making them bad but not super dangerous unless the situation gets WAY out of hand.)

    • I always like it when you comment. It’s like an epilogue to the articles. xP

      And, aside from practicality, trench coats are just really neat.

      Flying is a good point. I hadn’t thought of that.

      Full-body plate armor is definitely dangerous. Chain mail, or a few strategically placed pieces of sheet armor would be helpful, or even leather, which is considerably lighter, but still can be excellent protection.

      As for skirts and robes, someone might be able to get by in them. In reference to the Scots, however, it’s important to remember that the kilts weren’t…really… sewed closed.

      I do disagree with the fact that hair wouldn’t get caught in branches, though. In the seven years that I’ve lived nearby the woods, whenever I went in, I’ve needed to be careful to keep my hair inside my shirt or tied up to avoid getting it caught in brambles and branches. In tall, stately forests with no underbrush, it would be different, though.

      I agree, especially about high heels. Though, I hear they are good for knocking people out with. (Hopefully, the situation wouldn’t get out of hand, especially since flip-flops are footwear. They probably should never be in someone’s hand in the first place.)

      • With one of my alien species, I figure they do wear leather quite a bit when they’re hunting. (They hunt dangerous things and leather is a good defense against teeth and claws.) I figure with armor, make sure it makes sense for the situation and the species.
        True about the kilts. I guess that someone who was into wearing skirts could wear a slightly more modest version.
        I think there was some confusion on the hair. I meant that it getting caught in trees wouldn’t be the only problem.
        I figure it’s better to have a weapon instead of using high heels.

        • I would imagine that leather would be exceptional for hunting, especially, come to think of it, since it would be far lighter for hiding in trees, and metal armor has the potential to be far noisier.

          As for high heels… Weapons certainly would be a better choice, but if you happen to be a private detectives secretary in the 1950’s, I’ve heard that high-heels work excellently for knocking people out.

      • I guess you could use high heels if there was some restriction on weapons. Still, I’d prefer steel toed boots or something.

  5. Bebo / Indigo Dragonfly on said:

    Love the post!
    I personally protest against high heels, on slippers, boots or any other foot covering. Contrary to popular television, running in high heels is just flat out dangerous! Snap a heel, snap your leg or your neck, whether on concrete or battlefield. Also neckties or scarves make handy grips for your foes. Same with long hair – even braids or ponytails.

    • My one steady qualification when buying footwear is that it must not have high heels. Just in case. xP
      The best way to have a character’s hair if they’re expecting trouble is braided around their head or cut off. If they have only a few seconds, they can always tuck their hair into the back of their shirt; it won’t be the best way to do it, but it could work on short notice.

  6. Great post! One of my favorite points here is probably face painting. Yep, authors aren’t going to be super glad. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Authors of high Fantasy (the ones who will be most likely to count on hoods to hide faces) usually are especially against the idea of face paint. Thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂

  7. Oh, just thought of something: high heels can sometimes be used as weapons…. *evil grin*.

  8. “While I’m aware that you may or may not be human, the neck, stomach, and chest contain vital organs for most of us. If you lack those, wear armor there anyway.” This made me laugh. 🙂

    Overall, a beautifully valuable post I will either bookmark or pin, if possible, for my WIP. I appreciate your point on the cloaks. Now I’m wondering if I should give my active-in-the-winter-city characters jackets instead. Must think on that . . .

    Regarding face paint, be proud of me that my yet-unwritten book three includes a character sneaking after dark with face paint. 🙂 It naturally came with the idea, and it also makes sneaking much easier. Imagine trying to sneak with a big, clumsy cloak. I can just imagine it catching on something, or sweeping into an object and knocking it over, or inhibiting sneaky movements . . .

    Thanks for a great post! I loved it!

    • They don’t want to be a bad example to us poor, uneducated viewers… Do they? :p

      I’m glad it was helpful! Something to remember with clothing choices is that sometimes logic and fashion do not peacefully coexist and characters might pick the fashion rather than the logic.

      Hooray! I have a personal attachment to face paint, and have ever since a supposedly stealth-trained character in a fairly well known book picked a hood when they were expecting an attack. Ah, well… I can also imagine a long cloak brushing against a lantern, fireplace, or torch and bringing slightly less than ideal results to the poor character’s mission.

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