Individuals new to the English language and native English speakers seeking to improve their writing skills both benefit from learning how to describe clothes in an effective manner. Detailed descriptions add vividness to your writing, but using too many terms can also make your description seem cluttered in cases where a simple description will suffice.
The Importance of Describing Clothes
Whether constructing an essay, letter, blog entry, short story or virtually any other written piece, knowing how to effectively describe clothing often adds dimension and vividness to your work. Within a personal piece of writing, like a letter, explaining what you wore to a certain event or what a person of interest looked like requires the ability to accurately describe outfits and individual clothing items. A professional or public work or writing, such as a novel, news article or blog post, benefits from detailed yet succinct description of clothing because it allows the reader to better picture the scene portrayed by the writer.
Begin with Clothing Type
The most basic, essential aspect of clothing description comes in the form of clothing type. Begin your description by indicating the specific garment. In general, pieces include trousers, shirts, dresses, socks, shoes and so on. Instead of simply listing the general category of clothing, however, try to list the type as specifically as possible. For example, "a red blouse" and "a red tank top" present two different images, and both define the image more clearly than the phrase "a red shirt." Not only does describing the specific clothing type provide a base for the rest of the description, it also typically indicates the level of formality involved on the part of the wearer.
Consider Material Type
Material type, while not always indicated, provides further clarity and depth to your overall description. The difference between a "denim skirt" and a "leather skirt" changes the scene dramatically, since the former indicates a casual tone while the latter generally indicates a more sultry tone. Note that not all clothing descriptions benefit from the inclusion of the material type, however. Describing a T-shirt as an "80 per cent cotton, 20 per cent polyester blend" might seem wordy and unnecessary. The term "T-shirt" typically indicates a casual shirt, so spelling out the use of casual materials, especially in a long-winded manner, may make the description seem overly specific.
Use Appearance Adjectives and Nouns
Appearance adjectives and nouns distinguish one item of clothing apart from any other. The more appearance details you use, the more vivid the image becomes. Common appearance adjectives include colours and patterns. Common appearance nouns include features like buttons, zippers and pockets. Use these descriptive terms as called for by the piece of writing. Describing a pair of jeans as "worn-out, dark-wash jeans" works well within a personal letter when the jeans may not be the focus, but a story where the jeans present a vital clue about a character's personality would likely benefit from more detail, like "dark-wash jeans with torn knees and a hole in the pocket."