Fashion and Irony in «Dom Casmurro»

by Geanneti Tavares Salomon (Author)
©2021 Prompt XIV, 176 Pages


This study brings us closer to understanding the relationship between fashion and literature. The book focuses on how the irony present in Machado de Assis’ Dom Casmurro is also evident in the fashion portrayed in the novel. It reveals that fashion can be seen from Machado’s perspective as a literary strategy while also participating in the construction of the characters in the plot of the narrative.
In the first appearance of the protagonist of Dom Casmurro, Capitu has simple ‘cloth shoes’ sewn by herself. In this little description by Machado, a whole world is hidden, in the same way that in each garment, costumes and props of the characters hide literary games – the games of light, shadow and irony that can be seen in the novel.
Through the descriptions of the garments, it is possible to perceive the first steps towards global capitalist expansion at the end of the nineteenth century, when consumer society was still forming. This book gives insight into Brazilian society in transition at the end of the nineteenth century, as observed by Machado de Assis.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Fashion and Literature
  • Chapter 2 Society and Fashion in the Nineteenth Century: The Ironic Game in Dom Casmurro
  • Chapter 3 Machado de Assis and Dom Casmurro
  • Final Considerations
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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Figure 1Carlo Ferrario’s watercolour depicting the scenery of the opera ballo Il Guarany – Camera di Cecilia. Act II – Scene IV – by conductor Antonio Carlos Gomes. 1870. Reproduced with permission from Casa Geyer – Museu Imperial/Ibram/MinC/nº 07/2020. Imperial Museum. Carlos Gomes Collection. Historical Archive – Iconography (DIG). Subcategory: Drawing. 48 × 56,2 cm. Notation: MIII-84

Figure 2‘Bird’s eye view’ of Rio de Janeiro taken from Santo Antonio. Sepia lithograph. Romantic style. Author: LEMERCIER, Joseph-Rose, 1803–1887. Reproduced with permission from Casa Geyer – Museu Imperial/Ibram/MinC/nº 07/2020. Imperial museum. Geyer House Museum Collection. Casa Geyer – Museology. Item ID: CG 03608

Figure 3Man wearing his frock coat. Theophilo Benedicto Ottoni. Brazilian politician, senator of the Empire of Brazil from 1864 to 1869. (1807–1869). In the public domain. Wikimedia. Lithograph of Sebastien Auguste Sisson (1824–1898). Rio de Janeiro, 1861

Figure 4Printout depicting d. Pedro II, emperor of Brazil, and his entourage in Pompeii, on 16 April 1888. Reproduced with permission from Casa Geyer – Museu Imperial/Ibram/MinC/nº 07/2020. Imperial museum. Petrópolis Historical Museum ←xi | xii→Collection. Historical Archive – Iconography (MHP). Anonym. Notation: MII-145

Figure 5Text entitled ‘Fashions’ of Jornal das Senhoras. 23 December 1855 Edition. Brazilian Digital Library. Jornal das Senhoras (RJ) – 1852 to 1855. In the public domain

Figure 6‘Outfits for the rainfall season’. Jornal das Senhoras. Edition of 4 November 1955. Brazilian Digital Library. Jornal das Senhoras (RJ) – 1852 to 1855. Year 1855\Edition 00044 (2), p. 3. In the public domain

Figure 7On the left, ‘Clothing to stay at home’, with hairstyle in flattened bandós. On the right, ‘Clothes to go out’, with straw hat decorated with velvet ribbons. Jornal das Senhoras. 30 September 1955 edition. Brazilian Digital Library. Jornal das Senhoras (RJ) – 1852 to 1855. Year 1855\Edition 00039, p. 3. In the public domain

Figure 8Advertisement of shoes. Jornal das Senhoras. 1 January 1852. Brazilian Digital Library. Jornal das Senhoras (RJ) – 1852 to 1855, p. 8. In the public domain.

Figure 9‘Ball Costumes’. Jornal das Senhoras. 18 March 1855 Edition. Brazilian Digital Library. Jornal das Senhoras (RJ) – 1852 to 1855. Year 1855\Edition 00011, p. 5. In the public domain

←xii | xiii→

Figure 10English-influenced men’s clothing. Brazilian Digital Library. Novo Correio das Modas. Year 1852\Edition 00002, p. 18. In the public domain

Figure 11Photograph of a man in a male costume from the mid-nineteenth century. Dr Victoriano de Sá e Albuquerque. Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. In the public domain. (Col. Francisco Rodrigues; FR-10774). Photographer: A. Ken Photographe

Figure 12‘Costumes with mantellettas and hats’. Jornal das Senhoras. 19 August 1855 edition. Brazilian Digital Library. Jornal das Senhoras (RJ) – 1852 to 1855. Year 1855\Edition 00031, p. 7. In the public domain

Figure 13Dom Pedro II, Empress Thereza Christina Maria, Princess Isabel and Count d’Eu, by Henschel & Benque, c. 1875. Wikimedia Commons. Rio de Janeiro. Albúmen, carte cabinet, 10 × 13,9 cm. Collection Waldyr da Fontoura Cordovil Pires in VASQUEZ, Pedro Karp. Fotógrafos Alemães no Brasil do Século XIX. São Paulo: Metalivros, 2000. p. 115. In the public domain

Figure 14Photograph of a Brazilian businessman, Mr Augusto Frederico de Oliveira. Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. In the public domain. (Col. Francisco Rodrigues; FR-4011). Photographer: A. Ken Photographe

←xiv | 1→


Fashion is a phenomenon that can be understood as a form of individual expression in society. As a social phenomenon, it is able to expose the profound, everyday changes of individuals, of social groups in which individuals are inserted, and of the various societies. The thorough observation of the cultural objects created by individuals, including fashion, allows us to perceive social changes, be they surface or deep.

Powerful fashion images are interchanged throughout the timeline of human history. Objects from the past jump into the present, and here they can remain for a few weeks, months, or years. Someone who lived their youth in the 1980s and now experiences the period’s fashion being revived in the first decades of the twenty-first century will feel the effects of this merger between the old and the new.

The young Millennial experiences the 1980s through the period’s revival in the fashion of his youth, and what he perceives as new and innovative will not have the same meaning for generation X, who wore it in their own youth. This ‘new’ is new to the young Millennial, and he believes he is wearing something innovative. This process of revival – rereading, inspiration, or whatever else you might call it – has a burden of resignification that imposes different perspectives, different sensations, and different conjunctures which modify any individual experience. This illusory autonomy of fashion is commanded by numerous factors: political, social, economic, and cultural, affecting, at different levels, all individuals who need to dress themselves daily.

What power is this? Fashion has the power to make the individual feel renewed, and to enable his remembrance of the past through its movement. Fashion can make someone feel sensual, intelligent, modern, dynamic, professional, traditionalist, outdated (old-fashioned), cult, engaged, strong, delicate, transparent, and so many other adjectives that can emerge from a certain look, a certain fashion experience. Experiencing fashion will always ←1 | 2→instigate sensations, and wearing a new outfit always provokes changes, sometimes so subtle that the wearer is the last to notice them.

From fashion emanate two great powers that announce its state of constant instability and ambivalence: the power of expression and the power of denunciation. The first is related to fashion experiences with which the individual seeks to be/express themselves, feeding their desires, their fears, their neuroses, and their hopes, in garment compositions that reveal their true faces. The second one is related to the things this individual does not intend, but does express through fashion; to those things which are visible in his daily image, but not under his control; and to the subliminal message transmitted through his garment. These two great powers derived from fashion can be observed in various environments, real or imaginary, such as in the fictional field of literature.

For this study, the literary novel Dom Casmurro, by Machado de Assis, is analysed through the lenses of fashion. The master’s dissertation entitled ‘Realistic records of fashion as part of the ironic game in Dom Casmurro, by Machado de Assis’ was defended by me in 2007 and later published in book format in 2010, under the title Fashion and Irony in Dom Casmurro, by Editora Alameda. This version now presented has been compiled and revised by me. A few words from nineteenth- and twentieth-century excerpts have had their spelling updated for the reader’s sake. The images used in the original dissertation text and in the book’s first edition were changed with the intention of favouring images published in nineteenth-century Brazilian sources.

In the novel, those two powers of fashion work to inform the characters: not only through the suppositions their attire leads us to make, but also through that which can be manipulated by the author, aiming to gather as many elements as possible in a narrative strategy created to favour coherence in the literary work’s scenic imagery.


XIV, 176
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XIV, 176 pp., 1 fig. col., 13 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Geanneti Tavares Salomon (Author)

Geanneti Tavares Salomon teaches fashion, art and design at Una University Centre in Belo Horizonte/Brazil. She holds a PhD in Literary Studies from Federal University of Minas Gerais/Brazil and has published previously on fashion and literature: Moda e ironia em Dom Casmurro (2010), A história na moda, a moda na história (chapter, 2019), Dossier Revista d’Obras A moda na literatura e a literatura na moda (editor, 2020). She also has experience as a fashion designer, costume designer and stylist.


Title: Fashion and Irony in «Dom Casmurro»
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192 pages