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Games referenced in this article

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers about the following games:

Also, this article contains minor spoilers about the following games:

A Non-Issue

Fashion is almost completely a non-issue in most works of IF. In most games what a PC (or NPC) is wearing is completely unimportant. It is commonly assumed that, unless the game says otherwise, the player-character is appropriately dressed for the current circumstances, and their clothing is neither commented on, nor implemented as objects within the game.

SPOILER: The game +=3 exploited these player assumptions by presenting a puzzle where the PC, who is only carrying a calculator, must give three things to a troll. As normal for an IF game, clothing isn't mentioned in the inventory, but logically, the PC must be wearing something. The player must deduce that some clothing is implemented, even though it's not explicitly mentioned. Many players were stumped, thinking they had to get the number "3" to appear on the calculator and hand that over instead.

Some possible reasons why fashion is absent in IF:

  • IF is in text. Without graphics, the player has no avatar to look at when the PC's clothing changes. There's little reason to choose between outfits if one can't see what they look like.
  • IF is single-player. There are no other players to impress or be envious of in single-player IF games. Some NPCs might care what the PC is wearing, but rarely for reasons of fashion.
  • The player-character is not the interactor. Often, the PC is not meant to be you, the player, but someone else who you control. A player is less likely to care about someone else's fashion than their own.
  • Fashion neither serves the story nor the puzzles. It doesn't matter to most stories what clothes you wear, and although puzzles may depend on clothing, it's rare indeed that a puzzle is about making a fashion statement.

Looking the Part

Often, society's fashion rules are only used in IF to let the player impersonate a role. For example, you might wear a lab coat so you can enter a restricted laboratory without raising suspicion. Other impersonations include wearing a doctor's coat to prowl a hospital, or a soldier's uniform to infiltrate an enemy campground. Several games require a male PC to don a dress and a wig to impersonate a woman; Masquerade features a rare instance of female PC impersonating a man. Impersonation can have more substantial effects on a theatre stage. In the context of theatre, wearing a costume determines who you are and what you can do. This idea is explored in Within a Wreath of Dewdrops, or, A Poisoned Zenith.

Sometimes you must simply disguise yourself, without impersonating someone else. One puzzle of this type is found in Limelight, where you can choose between a wide assortment of clothing, including a big fedora.

Of course, you might dress as a doctor because you are a doctor. In the incomplete game Pirating, the player is a pirate and must dress himself appropriately with the eyepatch, hook, pegleg, parrot, and so on before he can leave his quarters and visit the rest of the Pirates Guildhouse—or he would, if the rest of the guildhouse had in fact been implemented.

Moonmist was set in Victorian England, and early in the game, the PC must wash herself and "dress for dinner", else face disapproval from the other dinner guests. Episode in the Life of an Artist is set in modern times, and the PC merely needs to get dressed to go to work. In cases like these, the choice between travel clothes and dinner clothes or dirty clothes and clean clothes is somewhat illusionary; the only proper thing to do is wash up and wear the right outfit. Some players wondered why the author bothered to include such a non-choice exercise.

In Floatpoint, clothing serves as a means of communication. The player character makes known his most important decision by wearing clothes of a certain kind and colour.


It is an extremely rare work of IF that cares about one's hair in any way. PCs also tend not to need to bathe, shave, wear deodorant, use perfume, or attend to any other issues of personal hygiene. Humbug requires the PC at one point to wash his hands and comb his hair, but this is presented as a puzzle since there's no comb available.

Punk Points is perhaps the most interesting in this regard because one of the first things the PC will do in the game is shave off most of his hair into a mohawk. Not only does this act of rebellion serve as an opening puzzle, it also establishes the tone for the rest of the game. Also, the act is somewhat ironic since in order to express his "individuality", the PC must adopt the fashions dictates of punk.

Fashion for its own sake

Delvyn, by the Santoonie Corporation, is one of the few IF games to offer the PC a range of varied clothes to choose from for no particular reason except for fun, and several of the choices are intentionally bizarre:

Walk in Closet
    You enter the closet and stare bewiddled at numerous articles of human clothing. A trunk rests on the floor below various garments hung on hangers.
    You see a bath robe, a red dress, a pair of overalls, a pair of boots, a shirt, and a fluffy blouse here. Sitting on the shelf is a pair of black pants, a Nazi helmet, a stocking cap, a straw hat, and a pair of high heels.

>open trunk
Opening the trunk reveals a pair of jeans, an Atlanta Braves cap, a Viking helm, and a pair of bath slippers.

You are completely free to mix and match as you please, or let the PC, Delvyn, go about naked; it doesn't matter to either the game's story or puzzles.

The game Escape from the SS Borgarís also provides a range of clothing which you can find by searching various cabins of the ship. Any complete set of clothing will protect you from the cold, but interestingly, the author provides the player with choices and not just one outfit.

Adult games, notably TG-TADS: Prototype I in particular, will let the player change articles of clothing, but the emphasis seems to be more about how the wearer's body parts are revealed or accentuated rather than if the ensemble as a whole is attractive or fashionable. Still, the player is given options and can choose the clothing he or she likes.

One final example is rather curious: the dashing hat that the PC, Pierre, wears in Savoir-Faire. Perhaps its unusualness endeared it to players. And perhaps the fox on the wallpaper, wearing a similar hat, reinforced the notion that the hat marked one as suave and clever. In any case, some players were loathe to treat the hat as just another game object, and prefered not to sacrifice it in order to solve one of the game's puzzles.

See also