My, oh, my is Kit Tyler a clothes horse. When she arrives at the Wood family house in Wethersfield she has not one, not two, but seven trunks full of clothing. Shocking!
Everyone in the house comments on her extensive wardrobe – some like her dresses and some don’t. We know, then, that these dresses matter in some way. They possibly mean something, right? What do they mean, though? Why are these dresses significant?
Kit’s many fashionable dresses are a symbol of her difference from the Puritan Wood family. They are a physical remnant of her aristocratic upbringing, a reminder of her privileged life back on Barbados. Kit sees these dresses as part of her identity. Initially, we might add, the dresses are adored by Judith – and scorned by Uncle Matthew. Everyone has something to say about them. As the narrator remarks, “How amazing that a few clothes could cause such excitement” (4.15).
By the end of the novel Kit learns that her appearance isn’t everything. She changes her dress from fancy silk to durable calico. At one point she even decides to sell her dresses in order to return to Barbados; Kit learns that her identity is based on other, more important things.