I read a very good novel some months back in which the hero and the heroine meet by looking at one another across a river. The first part of their relationship develops in a pantomime style of sign language. This novelist's creative development of relationship without language calls to mind one of my own personal quirks; I am almost obsessive about watching body language and facial expressions.
When I meet people, I watch only their faces and bodies. If you ask me after the meeting what Nancy was wearing, nine times out of ten I will have no clue at all. Maybe a general impression of color, but that's about it.
I contrast my focus on the language of faces and bodies with some other women I have met who are hyper-aware of clothing and shoes. What does it mean that I watch the way people behave, and they watch trappings that adorn people?
Both systems of reading people can tell the witness a great deal. That's why in my novels, I consciously strive to use clothing as an indicator of status or emotional condition. By contrast, I don't have to make any effort to write about facial expressions or body movements. Those descriptions, I have to pare down!
Although for the sake of variety I try to balance my description in my novels, in reality, I won't ever be a woman who remembers clothing. I'm too firmly convinced that what I see in people's faces and in how they move is really important information. I'm always looking for character, in the Victorian sense. Who is this person inside? Is she someone who will be loyal, or fickle? Does she watch me while I talk to her, or do her eyes flick around the room to see if someone more important is present? Is her gait light and free, or does she walk with a slow step and stooped shoulders?
There's a huge quantity of internal stuff constantly revealing itself through the language of the body. My full-time pursuit of reading that language means that I just don't have the time or the inclination to focus on what economic bracket a person occupies (shoes and jewelry) or where she shops. The only interesting character trait revealed by dress is how much a person cares about the way others perceive her.