Bad Book in Good Clothing

I don’t care what I’m wearing – so why would I care about a fictional character’s clothing? Books that name-drop clothing labels indicate that their primary concern is something other than the content. There many be exceptions to that rule, but the vast majority of such novels read like a poor-man’s version of People magazine – without the drama.

Sentences which would automatically exclude a book from being recommended are ones which are interchangeable with this: “She walked in wearing Lanvin’s last-season brocade jade gown with the swooping neckline and 4-inch Ivanka Trump stilettos in a complimentary burgundy.”

Authors who write sentences like that are desperately trying to be this year’s beach read. The writing might be good, but the plot will be formulaic and anemic while the characters are stilted. That last one might be because they’re too busy developing their couture closets to devote any time to developing their characters.

This is not to say that authors shouldn’t mention clothing. Sometimes the clothing is as much a part of the plot as the setting itself. Such as; “Everyone at Joe’s funeral remarked on Fred’s sharp suit, the first thing they’d seen him in that didn’t look like it had been fished out a dumpster then worn to the all-day cock fights down in the Meatpacking District. Curiosity getting the better of him, Bill wandered over to where Joe was standing, as far from the open coffin as he could get. ‘Where’d you get the threads?’ he asked, as he handed Fred a drink. Fred nodded toward the corpse, which was unattended for what seemed to be the first time that day. ‘Figured he wouldn’t object,’ he said coolly.”

The clothing doesn’t make the man. It can’t make the book either.

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