37 pages 1 hour read

Daniel Defoe

Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1724

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Symbols & Motifs

The Turkish Princess Costume

The “Habit of a Turkish Princess” (173) that Roxana obtains alongside her Turkish slave on her travels through Italy is a symbol of her exotic appeal and her departure from British Christian values, which prescribe female modesty. The habit is opulent and multifaceted, with 

the Robe […] a fine Persian, or India Damask; the Ground white, and the Flowers blue and gold […] the Train held five Yards; the Dress under it, was a Vest of the same, embroider’d with Gold, and set with some Pearl in the Work, and some Turquois Stones; to the Vest, was a Girdle five or six Inches wide […] and on both Ends where it join’d, or hook’d, was set with Diamonds for eight Inches either way; only they were not true Diamonds; but no-body knew that but myself (174).

The habit also has an elaborate “Turban” embellished with a jewel. The description of this habit, profuse in expensive materials, is almost too vast for the reader to process. The habit thus becomes a cipher for what Western readers came to associate with the passionate, excessive Orient— the opposite of their rational, moderate selves. Roxana’s addition of the fake diamonds is a further embellishment that deceives spectators into believing that the expensive garment is even more luxurious.