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‘Her Infinite Variety’: Representations of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra in fashion, film and theatre

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The ‘Cleopatra look’ has recurred regularly in fashion marketing, advertising, masquerade balls, fashion trends and in the salons and catwalk shows of haute couture since the beginning of the twentieth century. The ‘look’ embraces the kitsch spectacle of excessive opulence associated with the stereotypical Orientalist image of Ancient Egypt: that of palm trees, pyramids and odalisques. It also reflects the various cultural attitudes to female power and the seductive exotic ‘Other’ that have consistently pervaded western societies in the last two centuries. This article extends on the contribution which feminist scholarship has made to the way in which the female body generates meaning in film, literature and fashion. It focuses on theatrical performance, as well as on representations of Cleopatra in film and fashion. It presents an analysis of some of the most influential representations of Cleopatra, which viewed together begin to form a ‘collective mythology’ in which the shifting relationships between fashion, costume and feminine ideals are apparent.

Keywords: Cleopatra; Orientalism; Shakespeare; costume; fashion; film; theatre

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Technology Sydney

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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