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Preserving the fabric of the national family: Traditional clothing in The Captain’s Daughter

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Dress plays a key role within Pushkin’s historical novel, The Captain’s Daughter, and a number of studies have focussed on the significance of Peter Grinev’s gift of a hare-skin coat to the rebel Pugachev. This article departs from these previous studies by examining dress as a context-specific cultural sign, which forms a visual language understood by characters in the novel. Characters use cultural codes associated with traditional dress, including the tulup (a hare-skin coat), the dushegreika (a sleeveless, padded jacket) and the sarafan (a sleeveless pinafore dress), to gain assistance from unlikely sources. Such clothing identifies the wearer with traditional Russian values in opposition to the official code of conduct signified by uniforms and formal, westernized attire. The article aims to demonstrate the way in which ethnic dress reminds characters of their deeper kinship, which signals them to care for orphans, servants, the sick and others in need, even when those people belong to the enemy camp.
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Keywords: Catherine the Great; Pushkin; The Captain’s Daughter; dress; dushegreika; sarafan; tulup

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Colby College

Publication date: December 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • We all wear clothes. We are all therefore invested at some level in the production and consumption of clothing. This journal intends to embrace issues and themes that are both universal and personal, addressing [and dressing] us all. Increasingly, as we all become accomplished semioticians, clothing becomes the key signifier in determining social interaction and behaviour, and sartorial norms dictate socio-cultural appropriateness. Following the rise of fashion theory, on an everyday level, we all understand that our clothes 'say' something about us, about our times, nation, system of values. Yet clothing is not fashion; clothing is a term derivative from 'cloth', to cover the body, whereas fashion alludes to the glamorous, the ephemeral and the avant garde. We wear clothes, but imagine fashion-an unattainable ideal.
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