Clothing is a marker of class status and sophistication, but not an absolutely accurate one. Looks can be deceiving, and characters in the play who read too much into clothing can be deceived by those who see what is going on underneath the surface. Mrs. Hardcastle and Marlow are both too fixated on their clothing and the clothing of others to be able to see the truth about the characters around them. At the same time, Mr. Hardcastle’s stubborn insistence on dressing himself and his family in an old-fashioned style leads Marlow to easily mistake him for an innkeeper and his daughter for barmaid. The way the characters dress signal something about them, but far from everything. Thus, clothing comes to symbolize the often-superficial nature of first impressions and appearances.
Clothing Quotes in She Stoops to Conquer
LANDLORD. There be two gentlemen in a post-chaise at the door. They have lost their way upo' the forest; and they are talking something about Mr. Hardcastle.
TONY. As sure as can be, one of them must be the gentleman that's coming down to court my sister. Do they seem to be Londoners?
LANDLORD. I believe they may. They look woundily like Frenchmen.
TONY. Then desire them to step this way, and I'll set them right in a twinkling. (Exit Landlord.) Gentlemen, as they mayn't be good enough company for you, step down for a moment, and I'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon. [Exeunt MOB.]
MISS HARDCASTLE. Did he? Then as I live, I'm resolved to keep up the delusion. Tell me, Pimple, how do you like my present dress? Don't you think I look something like Cherry in the Beaux Stratagem?
MAID. It's the dress, madam, that every lady wears in the country, but when she visits or receives company.
MISS HARDCASTLE. And are you sure he does not remember my face or person?
MAID. Certain of it.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I vow, I thought so; for, though we spoke for some time together, yet his fears were such, that he never once looked up during the interview. Indeed, if he had, my bonnet would have kept him from seeing me.
MAID. But what do you hope from keeping him in his mistake?
MISS HARDCASTLE. In the first place I shall be seen, and that is no small advantage to a girl who brings her face to market. Then I shall perhaps make an acquaintance, and that's no small victory gained over one who never addresses any but the wildest of her sex. But my chief aim is, to take my gentleman off his guard, and, like an invisible champion of romance, examine the giant's force before I offer to combat.