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  • Titill er á ensku The Means of Fashion. How Virginia Woolf Develops Literary Motifs by the Means of Clothing
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    This essay argues that the renowned modernist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was a leading figure concerning the application of clothing in fiction. Woolf had clothing serve its external role as a token of her character’s principles, as well as a signifier of social class. She similarly had it act as a gateway to the inner mind of her personas, evoking diverse feelings and experiences. Having been an enthusiast of clothing from an early age, Woolf developed a kind of interest that would come to affect her work greatly. This essay focuses on her two novels, To the Lighthouse (1927) and Mrs Dalloway (1925), but both works are considered to provide excellent examples of clothing as a literary motif. Woolf’s perception was that fashion was a social marker and that the act of dressing oneself was class-inflected. She believed fashion to be a sign of modernity and that clothing might well serve as a narrative element. Clothing was not just another “realistic” detail in her stories or a feature with no meaning, but an important attribute to her characters. Appointing it as a key motif in her works, she conveyed the emotions and desires of her characters, expounded perplexed human relations, demonstrated how clothing may construct one’s identity or act as a director of socially acceptable standards. In the autobiographical novel, To the Lighthouse, Woolf applied apparel in a non-objective role, using apparel to create vivid images; deterioration of clothing and lost heirlooms symbolising haunting sensation of grief and loss. In Mrs Dalloway, Woolf’s objective was to scrutinise and unveil the impassable barriers of the social system; she set out to shed light on the distinct, hopeless division between the lower and the upper class. She furthermore demonstrated how clothing acts not only as a cover, but serves to expose individuals.

  • 10.5.2019

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