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In a land where the majority of people have multiple personalities, how do the personalities distinguish themselves?

Whenever they change personalities, they have an immediate need to disassociate themselves from their alternate personalities, and it is not practical to change clothes.

Not only that, but it is not enough to demonstrate through their actions that they are different, or to have a numerical or nominal identifier, they feel a pressing and impulsive need to demonstrate their individuality, and the fact that they are not merely another iteration of the same person. Unfortunately, most of them cannot shapeshift, so what sort of clothing items would they trend towards, that the style can immediately be altered easily, with enough of a visual distinction to satisfy them?

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  • $\begingroup$ The trope begetter for this is Wyman Guin's "Beyond Bedlam" first published GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, August 1951, where it was the cover story. Guin ( a pseudonym) had worked as an pharmocology and advertising executive. $\endgroup$ – a4android Apr 29 '17 at 12:30

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While it is not practical to change clothes, there is a simple solution. and it is one that has been implemented already. Reversible garments. Garments of this type are usually soft and flexible. Shirts, T-shirts, jackets, trousers, even caps, and, of course, the ladies will have reversible blouses, tops and skirts.

With each change of personality the person will turn inside out the appropriate part or whole of their clothing. Let's take a simplified version of clothing changes to match changes in personality. For example, if the citizen changes from personality A to personality B they might turn inside out their white jacket into a black jacket while leaving the rest of their clothing unchanged. Let's assume personality A wears all white and subsequent changes will be reversing garments from white to black. Further changes of personality, then the trousers might be reversed, next the shirt, the cap can be changed too.

This reversible clothing model allows for a reasonable number of combinations of different coloured clothing to designate different personalities. Alternating between black and white is very simplistic. Multiple personality citizens in this society might use colour coding as a way to signal what personality they are currently expressing. If the personalities have different psychological dimensions expressed to a greater or lesser extent, then it may well be that people wear specific colours to designate, say, how extraverted they are compared to their introversion.

You might want to develop a colour scheme to represent the different psychological dimensions. Then changes of clothing, using reversible garments, if the colour scheme is incorporated, then this can be a way of sending a message of which personality is being expressed by the citizen. This would be a dual method for emphasizing the individuality of that specific personality.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of multiple reversable items and color coding. “Doctor Detroit” did that to effect a quick change at the ball, with the red lining of his formal jacket. (I don’t like using “they” to refer to “a citizen”.) $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 30 '17 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Thou doesn't like using a third person plural for a gender neutral pronoun. Understandable, to me it's the less of several evils. Better than "he or she" or Eganesque "ve" r committing to using "he" or "she" as gender neutral. English already uses a plural pronoun for both the singular and plural cases. Which I expect thou should know, it is, of course, "you". "You" is second person plural and "thou" is second person singular. Language is as much about fashion as making sense. English needs a new third person singular until then "they" will have to do, for me. Sorry. $\endgroup$ – a4android Apr 30 '17 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ When you say “they is” I'll beleive you are using it as a singular pronoun. For now people make a royal mess with “local” agreement of how “they” is normally used, and in a complex sentence this shows patchwork. BTW it took 100 years for “you” to shift to singular second person, and here we say “y'all” anyway. So, you’ve read Distress $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 30 '17 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ To say "they is" feels barbaric. Language is always a patchwork especially when it's a creole like English. Only a century for the shift, that's not bad. of course, I've read Distress. I'm a big fan of Greg Egan. The recent works lack the zing of his earlier writing. Though I'm still catching up of them. $\endgroup$ – a4android Apr 30 '17 at 12:35
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Scarfs or bandannas.

Easy to carry several different ones for signaling a change. Other jewelry or decorative trinkets can also be horded in pockets to be displayed only as needed. Color, pattern or position can all be cues about the personality.

Simple wraps.

A piece of fabric can be draped around the person in a distinctive fashion. I'm sure I've seen dozens of toga patterns from a bed sheet, neck tie knots have an unbelievable number of variations, and turbans also seem to offer similar variability. With clothing designed with this in mind options could be pretty diverse.

On a change you get dressed all over again, it just uses the same piece of clothing. This can even be fairly subtle, since if it's a common thing people would get adept at identifying it. Some arrangements might be difficult to make or even maintain for someone who hasn't practiced limiting the ability to be copied by other personalities.

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    $\begingroup$ Did you mean bananas or bandannas? I'm torn, because bandannas makes more sense, but I have read and re-read this answer 3 times trying to figure out how fruit works into this scenario and had to laugh when I realized how silly I was being. Sincerely, thanks for the chuckle :) $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Apr 28 '17 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ I do recall a personality clearly marked by wearing fruit.. And carrying a snack in a pocket is generally good advice. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Apr 28 '17 at 21:09
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In the land that your describing, this is a commonality among most or all of its inhabitants, so perhaps the answer can be found in your land's social structure. Perhaps there isn't a need to carry or have certain clothing with them because in this world there are areas, as common as bathrooms in our world, that anyone can go into and change their wardrobe as needed. Since it's a need felt by nearly everyone, it's not a stretch to think that society would have come up with a way to accommodate that need by providing changing areas that give an assortment of clothes, and some way to easily use them (maybe even some paid, some free but with limited selection. Could tie into status.). I'm not sure of the technological advancement in this land, but that could determine how elaborate these areas are, how they are shared and used.

In fact, taking this premise one step further, maybe ownership of clothing in this land is a little more fluid since people have a need to change clothing with their personality, when they go to these changing areas it's easy for them to give up their current clothing in exchange for something that suits them because clothing isn't something that one permanently owns. There are many ways this concept could be used and modified if it suits your needs.

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In Nobody's Perfekt, “whoever gets up first gets dressed”. However, nobody had any problem telling which alter was present, and having one alter dressed as another was a running joke. Point is, they (and the audience) easily distinguished who was in the light, and then ascessed how that character was dressed. Not the other way around.

So clothing may be more generic, even across different cliques: everyone dresses alike, not personal style. A specific accessory might be unique to each personality, like a colored pocket square or scarf. That is compactly stored and easily switched.

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  • $\begingroup$ That may work for that universe, however in this instance, the personalities REALLY don't want to be mistaken for any other, almost without exception, to the point where someone has to force themselves to pretend to be another, even for high personal gain. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Apr 28 '17 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, they are different and you don’t rely on clothing to tell who it is. They walk different,move with different manerisms, speak differently. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 29 '17 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't merely different people living in the same body, this is quite a few warring, completely incompatible personalities who feel an overpowering and immediate need to differentiate themselves, by changing their appearance. Many psychological conditions come with this kind of compulsion, even the 'normal' ones have this in many specific fields, it's just directed at something different here. It's not enough that people in general wear very generic clothes, if anything that would make it worse, because they then have to distinguish themselves from all other people. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Apr 29 '17 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ Why not differentiate themselves by the way they act, talk, and move? That's what my example is showing. The very action that someone asks “A, why are you dressed like B?” shows that they are differenciated innately and cloths come after that. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 29 '17 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ It's not something rational, they have an irrational desire to look differently to everyone else, especially their other selves. Merely showing themselves to be different is unsatisfactory, for all but a few. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Apr 29 '17 at 11:51
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This answer proposes the simplest possible change to a person's apparel and to distinguish their different personality (different from their other personalities), Namely, the name tag.

This does, however, assume the different personalities have different names, but under the circumstances of such a multiple personality society that does make a certain amount of sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ Then they'd need to carry around all their nametags at all times, and this wouldn't quite fix the problem of needing to appear different. What I mean is, clothing that can be worn in a different style is more important than having something to display the 'instance' of the person. $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Apr 29 '17 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Piomicron This was a minimalist approach. Indeed clothing could be effectively identical with everybody dressing the same. This would make reading nametags important. This makes focusing on the person & their personality and not the physical trappings of clothing the key feature of this society. $\endgroup$ – a4android Apr 30 '17 at 5:10
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In a society where multiple personalities are accepted and understood it absolutely makes sense to have a code to identify who is currently occupying the conscious thought of that body for other people, so it seems there are a number of solutions. How many personalities do we need to cover?

-- reversible clothing, generally- either flip to expose a new material, or rearrange into something specific to your personality (draped robes, cravats, scarves, belts...)

-- distinguish between colors or patterns, where personalities have signature looks- this could mean Bob always wears a red shirt, or Bob wears bright solids with dark pants, or Bob always uses the plaid handkerchief as a pocket square or armband.

-- if your society is technologically advanced you could use smart textiles that change color based on an electrical stimulus, or use fiber optic fabric with light sources along the seams-- this could be fantastic camouflage, too!

-- have a customary device, such as an LED lapel pin with a certain display color, or even a programmable nametag, or a mechanical pin/necklace where most colors are hidden in a sleeve, but holes show a specific color until the colored inner part is adjusted to expose a different color, or having pieces that flip up or could be configured differently. These could get quite decorative or gaudy, like large jewelry pectorals with a counterweight flap on the back, identifiable from all sides.

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Wraps around the torso area

The wraps should be distinctly different colors and also have a number to signify the current personality. If every person only had one name, this would be even more significant, but if every personality was given a different name the number could signify the amount of personalities the host held. This would make it significantly easier to know what people were getting into when making friends and relations. It would also be very useful if the wraps where also always pulled taut, making it easier see the color from long distances, so that shadows would not mess with color recognition.

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Slightly silly, but hats and cheap sunglasses or other eye-wear.

When you look at someone your eyes will seek out the eyes of the other person. When you look in a mirror, you will likely find yourself looking into your own eyes first until you shift focus to whatever you are looking at yourself in a mirror for. Right above your eyes is the top of your head, and you take that in as well.

Each personality has 1 hat and 1 pair of glasses. Swap them out when the personality changes and you will dis-associate yourself from the previous personality just as soon as you look in a mirror.

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I was thinking face-masks.

People usually focus in on the face when identifying somebody definitively, which means a face mask will be front-and-center when it comes to identifying people. Additionally, if people are very against being mistaken for other people, than focusing in on the little identifiers (clothes) is probably less effective than addressing big identifiers like having the same face.

How would it work? I would guess cloth face masks, since they will be more comfortable to wear long term and light to carry. It would also be pretty easy to personalize, too, between cloth choices, embroidery, and other decorations. They don't have to be full face masks, either, choices among partial masks can be an additional layer of identification, with one person preferring a full face mask, another just an eye mask, and a third a mask over one side of their face. And one pocket or pouch full could carry a lot of masks, for a person to change into.

Culturally, the mask would then be your "face" in a way skin-and-bone would find problematic, when bodies may be shared among so many people. It would be no more abnormal to them than us wearing other kinds of clothing (or identifying things about people from such). There could be a set meaning to going bare-faced, like signalling changing personas, or it could be a privacy taboo, where people do not bare their faces without a very good reason and perhaps people would keep a blank mask to have something to cover their face with if something happened to their personalized one.

If, for whatever reason, it is important to identify people form behind or without seeing their face - it may be useful to pair with scarves or shawls. I mean the light, thin ones large enough to drape (easier to carry multiple, then), possibly reversible to maximize the number of variations for less cloth carried. Color plus pattern plus wearing habit (tied shoulder-to-hip, draped around neck, wrapped around shoulders, as a belt) can again individualize a person pretty distinctly without seeing the face and without having to make elaborate changes. I think it would still be best paired with masks, since it's easier to notice differences like sash or scarf when not using the same face for identification.

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In a society were everyone has this need everyone would be looking for the standard societal signals as to who someone is. If this is true then wearing pins on your cuffs would be enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ why did i get a down vote! $\endgroup$ – menolo homobavonez Apr 30 '17 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ I was not the one who downvoted your answer, but it might be because your answer is pretty short compared with the other existing answers. People on WorldBuilding tend to favor longer answers with an in-depth explanation of the idea presented. A very short answer like yours might come across as more of a comment. You can comment once you reach 50 reputation. Furthermore your idea is similar to the already existing ones. You might get upvotes if you write a bit about the advantages of your approach compared to the existing ones. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Apr 30 '17 at 22:40

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