Cervetti, Nancy. "In the Breeches, Petticoats, and Pleasures of Orlando" Journal of Modern Literature 20 (1996): 165-75.
Leonard referred to Orlando as the most successful turning point in Virginia’s career, she did not quite agree. Woolf‘s goal for this novel to tell the truth, but also to be fantastic. Woolf wrote very specific parameters for the tone of her novel. "It has to be half laughing, half serious: with great splashes of exaggeration” (2) Mentions critics usually see book as a love letter or biography. Cervetti thinks it would be productive to stop using Woolf’s personal life in critiques of Orlando. She thinks Orlando is made to be so privileged and gifted in every way because it eliminates any struggle that might detract from gender issues. Idea that sexuality and gender as constants are played with throughout the text. There is also play involving costume, the external signifier of gender. She notes that Orlando was indifferent to her new sex until she decided to sail to England. Orlando doesn’t have any identity crises due to his/her sudden change.
But as a woman she refuses to stick to a single gender prototype and the constant flux. What she wears depends on her plan or what gender suitor she is hoping for that evening. Sometimes her gender identification can switch on a dime based on how people react to her. When she is walking with Nell, Nell clings to Orlando’s arm and acts submissive and girl-ish toward him. This instantly causes him to identify herself/ himself as a male. This is an example of how clothing defines the status/ gender/ character the person wearing them. Woolf plays with this concept constantly throughout the story. Costumes have so much power as signifiers, and change the way a character is treated by others. This emphasis on the importance of and constant play with wardrobe is not just a device used with Orlando. It is also utilized with Harry/ Harriet’s character as well as with Sasha