Cream Linen Suit

In my last post, I mentioned Alfred’s cream linen suit. Let’s take a closer look at how Kate Furnivall influenced our mental movements of the uppity Englishman by her costume choice for this character’s stage entrance. We’ll do this by examining her selections of color, fabric, and garment construction.

The Color: Cream

“Of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is the holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.” –John Ruskin

What Ruskin was saying is that color has an immediate subliminal effect upon us. The first thing we notice about our best friend’s new blouse is the color. The second thing that comes to mind is whether or not she’ll hate us if we tell her how awful she looks in that particular color.

Color can influence moods and affect behavior because our reaction to color is almost instantaneous. Ever noticed how many doctor’s office waiting rooms are painted pale shades of blue? The color was chosen to elicit a calming response from you, especially once you see the doctor’s bill. Doctors and decorators have known for years what we writers often overlook: Color can evoke a response powerful enough to impact our choices.

I don’t think Kate’s choice of cream for Alfred’s suit was an accident. She had every color in the world to choose from, including beige. So why cream? I think she chose this color with every intention of giving the reader a subliminal message, to add another layer to her character with one simple word…cream. Say it out loud and let the word roll off your tongue. Smooth and silky, right? In fact, you can almost taste it.

The color cream is a variant of white tinged with a dash of yellow pigment. While white projects purity, goodness, cleanliness, and fresh beginnings; yellow is optimistic, the color of sunshine that warms the darkest of places. Yellow carries with it the promise of a positive future. But yellow was a bit too bright for the future Kate had planned for Alfred. So with her choice of cream, Kate dulls the glare of sunshine and foreshadows the troubles this optimistic guy will face in his future—Alfred’s life in Junchow, China proves anything but sunny, but despite his trials this man of principle remains pure. Cream, a color combination of white and yellow, gives the reader the clever subliminal message that Alfred’s character is conservative yet eternally hopeful.

With one word, a costuming word, a flat Alfred rises off the page just a bit. And it is in this flutter of life that a well-drawn character begins to take shape in our mind.

When costuming your characters, take a moment to do some color homework. What stage of life is your character in? Are they lost? Then black might be appropriate. Are they in the money now? Then perhaps they should wear something green, maybe even emerald. Are they fighting depression? Drape them in gray.

Google color meanings and open the door to a fun and colorful world of literary symbolism.

Next time we’ll investigate how the fabric of Alfred’s costume added another layer to his character.

About lynnegentry

Wife. Mother. Writer. Acting Coach. Director of Dallas International Performing Arts Academy.
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16 Responses to Cream Linen Suit

  1. Ronie says:

    Hey, beautiful! Glad to see you in the blogworld. Yay! Awesome post. You’ve always been amazing with words. HUGS!

  2. Kaye Dacus says:

    Being a visually oriented person, I’ve always been deliberate in choosing the costumes for my characters—especially those in my historicals. For example, I decided in my first Regency that the heroine, who at 17 wore the typical white gowns and was disappointed by the man she loved (who didn’t propose to her when he was supposed to), now—at almost 30—chooses not to wear white (a rarity for an unmarried woman in 1814). In fact, the first time she wears white as an adult is after her engagement to the hero. This was subconscious on my part—mainly because I didn’t want to have her in white all the time (how boring would that be in the descriptions???). But now you’ve got me thinking about the actual color choices and how the colors she chose represented more of what was going on inside of her than just my need to have colors to describe. Thanks for the food for thought!

  3. Janice Olson says:

    What a wonderful analogy of color. Great job, Lynne, keep ’em coming. I may learn something yet about costuming my characters.

  4. Great information, Lynne! I so appreciate your blog. Can’t wait to read the next post. Without you my poor little characters would have been rather shabbily dressed. 🙂

  5. Julie Marx says:

    Colorful info, Lynne. Makes me think of our neighbor’s house-interior doused in red. On every floor. She says it makes people happy. I get antsy and uncomfortable.
    And thanks for the links.

  6. Kellie Gilbert says:

    Many instructors advise writers to avoid flat lifeless characters (a.k.a. cardboard characters) but you tell us HOW and provide a tool to do that!!! Thank you, Lynne.

  7. Good post Lynne,
    And I am excited to see what colors I can add to my characters to make them come alive

  8. Very interesting blog about colors.

  9. Bonnie says:

    Great post, although the picture of a man in a cream suit made me think of someone maybe a bit foppish. Most men wear dark suits – that’s sort of our traditional, conservative idea of stylish. Cream suit does create a definite image of the character.

    • lynnegentry says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie. Your post made me smile. I guess I forgot to mention that Alfred is wearing this suit in 1928. Stop in again next Monday when we talk about linen.

  10. pprmint777 says:

    Aggie Villanueva told me about your site. I couldn’t wait to subscribe! Thanks for taking the time to share and teach us!

  11. Becky Yauger says:

    I look forward to reading more of your blog posts. I can’t wait to google more about color meanings!
    Take care.

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