Four Reasons To Include Unfashionable or Strange Clothing Designs In Your Art

2015 Artwork Unfashionable clothing designs article sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about fashion – but not in the way that you might expect. In fact, I’ll be talking about why you shouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to fashion when you’re coming up with clothing designs for your artwork.

Yes, if you’re trying to paint or draw a realistic scene of everyday life, then it makes sense to pay attention to current fashions and to use similar clothing designs in your art. But, I’d argue that there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to include unfashionable or strange clothing designs in your art. Here are a few of them:

1) It’s memorable: Generally speaking, mainstream fashions are all about conformity. They’re either about blending in or about standing out in a socially-approved way. Even something as cool as gothic fashion, punk fashion or heavy metal fashion (eg: some of my favourite fashion styles) is all about signifying that you belong to a group of people who like good music etc…

In other words, current fashions aren’t always particularly memorable because lots of people are wearing them. However, unfashionable or strange clothes stand out a lot more and are a lot more memorable. In real life, this is unfortunately usually for all of the wrong reasons (eg: negative attention, ridicule etc..). But, in art, it is for all of the right reasons.

It draws attention to your character and it makes your audience remember them. It gives your art a slightly “unrealistic” and “stylised” look that makes it stand out from the crowd. It makes people wonder why the people in your paintings are wearing strange clothes and it hints at the idea that people don’t have to conform to mainstream fashions if they don’t want to. It’s a world away from the slick and polished images that people see everyday in advertising and the mainstream media. It’s attention-grabbing and it’s rebellious.

2) Fashion history: Generally speaking, things that are unfashionable now used to be fashionable at one point in time. Sometimes things that were unfashionable end up coming back into fashion. Sometimes, they don’t.

But, nonetheless, you’ve probably seen at least one or two interesting old fashions – either in real life or in old movies, TV shows etc… that you wish would make a comeback in some way or another. And, well, one of the easiest, cheapest and (ugh) most socially acceptable ways to do this is to include these fashions in your art.

If it isn’t practical for you to buy lots of interesting vintage clothing or if you don’t feel confident enough to express your own historical fashion interests in real life, then you can at least show them off in your art. Yes, it’s a secondhand form of self-expression, but it’s better than no self-expression.

3) Because you can: Yes, if you’re trying to make your artwork look “modern” and “realistic” then it makes sense to pay attention to current fashions – but, let’s be honest, where’s the fun in that?

Don’t get me wrong, striving to make your artwork as technically realistic as possible (eg: using realistic lighting, drawing people realistically etc…) is a good thing, but if your paintings all look like ordinary scenes from everyday life then, well, where’s the fun in that?

One of the great things about being a traditional artist or digital artist is that you can create pretty much anything, without being limited by reality in the same way that a photographer is. Yes, photography is a type of art – but it’s an artform that is very much limited by whatever the photographer happens to be standing in front of when he or she takes a photo. On the other hand, traditional and digital artists can use their imaginations – so why not use yours?

4) Artistic considerations: In art, there are at least a few rules (about things like composition, colour schemes etc…). You can have a huge influence on how your audience sees the “unfashionable” clothing designs in your art by choosing whether or not to follow these rules.

In other words, you can make the “unfashionable” clothing designs in your art look a lot cooler and more interesting by following all of the usual artistic rules. Conversely, you can make them look obviously unfashonable by ignoring all of the usual artistic rules.

For example, take a look at this digitally-edited painting of mine from earlier this month:

"And Pixels In The Sky" By C. A. Brown

“And Pixels In The Sky” By C. A. Brown

In this painting, I ended up using two sets of complimentary colours (purple/yellow and red/green) almost unconsciously because I wanted to make the character’s outfit look cool in a quirky, nerdy retro kind of way. If I’d gone for a less complimentary colour scheme, the clothing designs would have looked more obviously strange or unusual.

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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