A Guide to Customising Your Character in Real Life
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As long as I can remember, I’ve absolutely loved playing video games. There are a tonne of reasons for this — the compelling storylines, the immersive visuals and, of course, perhaps the most exciting part — designing my character.
The first time I was exposed to Oblivion, my brother had just started it up, and honestly, I wasn’t all that intrigued. Not until the character building page popped up. Suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to have a go at designing my unique protagonist and setting off into the world to complete quests. I didn’t realise how close to reality this sort of sentiment could be until I began to really develop my personal style.
Why don’t we approach our day-to-day wear the same way we would deck out our digital buddies with armour and skins that make us feel a little more excited about the adventures they go on? And if we did, would it change the way we interact with the world around us?
I can’t say my tendencies to reach for interesting pieces or DIY clothing that makes me look like I’m roughing it through a zombie apocalypse has been the sole source of all my successes. But I also wouldn’t say it didn’t have any impact at all.
There’s something in experimenting and playing with styles and textures in your wardrobe outside of the influence of trends and public figures telling you what you should be wearing and how. It’s powerful, because it’s certainly brave to leave your house when you’re wearing tights that have been converted into a crop top (I know this from personal experience). It’s also freeing and sets you out of the bounds of societal expectations in a way that can extend beyond the choices you make when you’re clothing yourself.
The origin story
I’ve dipped in and out of the realm of self expression since I was young, but after a particularly difficult couple of years. Those years just so happened to overlap with my final two years of high school, it wasn’t exactly a priority. At that stage, I’d bombed my final exams pretty bad (which was the rotten cherry on a mangled fruitcake). And subsequently, my parents were in total panic mode.
See, as the daughter of immigrants, there’s a certain expectation for what your life should be. The sacrifices your parents made. Everything they went through to bring you somewhere safe with a possibility of a comfortable and secure future needed to be for a reason. So I signed up for the first course that I thought would please them — and in turn made myself miserable.
When you experience something like this — a shift in your spiritual timeline or something of the same vein, you tend to exist in a sort of autopilot mode. I knew that I was doing something, but I wasn’t sure what my purpose was. Without a purpose, I also lost all character. I found myself living a generic existence with a generic wardrobe and a generic aesthetic. You could say I was in my NPC era.
I don’t remember exactly when I woke up from my zombie-like daze. Or pinpoint the moment when I decided that the world was nothing more than an open world RPG. But I can tell you that my new mindset extended right out to my outward expression. And as I evolved and grew, so did my style.
I used my style to express myself. My main source of inspiration for doing so was, you guessed it, video game characters. I thought about how representative their wardrobes were to their personality. How each choice, from something as subtle as the part in their hair to neck tattoos and a bleached buzzcut — all made sense because of who the character was and what they represented.
I started to think about how I was representing my thoughts, passions and expression. I spent less time wondering how I could look like everyone else. Instead, I started to find joy in piecing together outfits, creating a story through my style that would represent who I was.
Nothing was off limits and anything could be added or taken away to add dimension. I began to explore the various genres of fashion that I could draw inspiration from. I soon found e-girl and subversive fashion (surprise, surprise) and discovered that accessories, and particularly interesting jackets and shoes were also an easy way to add a little extra personality to otherwise basic outfits.
It didn’t take long for me to fully switch up my wardrobe and focus on looks that properly executed my vision. And soon, instead of dressing to represent who I was, I started evolving the outfits. I was dressing like the character I wanted to be. Confident, headstrong, passionate and not afraid to go after whatever she wants. I was already all of these things — but imposter syndrome is real. Somehow dressing like what, in my opinion, is my ultimate self, I was slipping into her shoes (literally).
And everything changed. Cosplaying as the version of yourself you aspire most to be is the ultimate cheat code. I can’t tell you the way my life accelerated and developed. From my first day working at my absolute dream job — a job I would never have applied to if I hadn’t deluded, or convinced myself that I was capable. Believe it or not, it started with the outfits.
Obviously, my style has changed and come back since I started playing with it — but one thing never changes. Every time I put together an outfit, I pause in front of my reflection and ask myself, “Do I look like a video game character?”
Tips from an actual character and costume director
I think about character costumes a lot. Or a normal amount that one would spend thinking about things that inspire them. There’s been a constant curiosity and wonder about the process of it all. Lucky for me, I recently got the chance to talk to a real life Character and Costume Director. In the fashion capital — Paris, France, of all places.
Benjamin Jouffret works on Just Dance, a video game I’ve been obsessed with for absolutely ages. One of my favourite parts, especially in the most recent editions, have been the costumes. So it was a thrill to ask him for advice about how someone might incorporate the way he approached character costumes to their real-life style.
“It’s [the] small details, but it makes you stand out [from] most people, who are a bit maybe shy or aren’t interested in these kind of details. It can be an accessory like an earring, a necklace, a bag, a touch of colour… Or sometimes even on the nails — you can have a pattern.”
It was at this point that I showed him my nails — a design I rotate in different colours as part of my current style aesthetic.
“Or yes — exactly.” I took this to mean he thought my nails were magnificent — but he was very polite, so he may have just been trying to appease me.
“That’s what makes you unique — I would say.”
I then asked him if he’d had any moments when he channeled his styling skills in his own looks.
“I think I always love the bright colours and pops of colour, I always wear really colourful sneakers. Sometimes I love to wear a touch of colour [with] makeup, when I have like a party, for example. So yeah, I would say that’s how Just Dance is a bit in my wardrobe, also.”
If you want to see how a Character and Costume Director dresses, you can check out Benjamin’s Instagram here. (He’s serious style inspo, TBH).
Don’t be shy
Look, you’re probably reading this article for a reason. I encourage you to go out into the world and start expressing yourself through your style. I know we’re all not seamstresses, but I started experimenting with up-cycling clothes I didn’t want or that maybe didn’t fit me.
Thrifting for clothes is a great option when you’re a straight size person. Trust me, as someone who constantly fluctuates between plus size and straight size clothing, I know what a pain it can be. Instead, I explored all of my options — saw what I could create with what was available and ran with it. You can also raid your friend’s closets — or find and splurge on very special pieces that’ll incorporate your personality with your style.
It’s not easy to express yourself, but if you are on the delulu train, like I am, I hope you feel a geared up to “press start” on your style-venture. Experiment, explore and best of all, have fun. That’s the most important part of gaming, after all.