The state of women’s dresses and hair represent their desirability as well as their agency in the novel. When Tia
fall out early on in the novel, Tia humiliates Antoinette by stealing her dress. Annette’s
effort to lift the family out of destitution begins with the making of new dresses for herself and Antoinette. When Antoinette wakes from her fever, she knows that she has been ill and a great change has occurred because she sees that her hair has been cut. Louise de Plana
, the ultimate ideal female in the novel, is constantly dressed in white, and has hair that Antoinette tries and fails to emulate. The husband’s
physical attraction to both Antoinette and Amélie
is at various points directed towards their dresses, and in the case of Antoinette even her dress on its own, without her in it, is enough to arouse the husband. Christophine’s
intimidating presence is often connected with the bold colors of her dress.