Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Clothing as a symbol of status pops up quite a bit in the play. It often tells us about a person’s station in life. Interestingly, the play’s characters change their stances on love and their reputations as easily as if they were changing clothes, like Claudio vacillating on his love for Hero, or Hero’s reputation being clean, stained, and then clean again. When Beatrice teases Don Pedro about how she won’t take him for a husband, she says she’d need a less fancy man, as Don Pedro is too fine to wear on working days. Dogberry, who is hyperconscious of his status, and tries to prove he’s a gentleman by bringing up the fact that he has two gowns, and fine things to make himself handsome.
Appearance is everything here – Benedick’s unkempt and mixed up clothing is what exposes him as a lovesick man; though he’s usually in the habit of a soldier. Finally in one of the most crucial and revealing conversations in the play – when Borachio comes clean to Conrade about the plot against Hero – there’s a conversation about fashion, which Conrade claims "wears out more apparel than the man." The idea is that fashions change too quickly, and this encourages otherwise reasonable men to get rid of perfectly good clothes. This capriciousness describes the fashion, but it also describes love in the play, as characters fall in and out of love and are rendered foolish by it. The point is love is a fashion, and people change love like they change clothes.