Yesterday, Aaron Diaz (a.k.a. Dresden Codak) tweeted a few things about what a character wears:
It was a pleasure to meet Aaron this past weekend at the MoCCA Festival albeit before I discovered his insanely superb tumblelog and it was also a pleasure writing this blog post until the computer crashed and took the previous version with it, but what can you do.
Aaron is spot-on in his analysis. The clothes a character wears can say a lot about them as does the wardrobe they keep. Take for example, Marge Simpson:
Marge in normal clothes
Marge in formal clothes (yoinked from the Dead Homer Society)
Although she is wearing two different outfits, they can both readily be identified as belonging to Marge. How about another example, Sam from Danny Phantom:
Sam in normal clothes
Sam in formal attire
Both pictures are clearly Sam yet if you saw the clothes by themselves, you would still be able to associate them with her. The clothes really do maketh the man (or woman).
In animation, it is obviously desirable to have a character wear the same thing most of the time. If they didn’t, there sure would be plenty of opportunities for animators to make mistakes!
A great exception to this rule was My Life as a Teenage Robot. Although Jenny (XJ-9) doesn’t wear clothes (on account of being a robot), her colour does change quite a few times throughout each episode. While this has a far less effect than changing clothes, it does help establish the mood for a particular scene. Generally, cold colours for quiet scenes, hotter colours for action/drama scenes.
This is a complicated topic for sure. I personally think that some character designers in animation deserve just as much credit as their live-action counterparts when it comes to clothes, especially in feature films.
So take note and don’t just slap a T-shirt and jeans on your character, they (and your audience) deserve much more.