Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sumptuary Law: The jury is still out.




It is not entirely clear what combination of events led to the making of sumptuary laws. Private extravagance, moral degeneration and political decline were certainly key factors but not always the only variables involved. During the time of plague, Hughes (1983) documents the absence of new sumptuary laws. However, the church's condemnation of the poulaine, or long toed shoe was cited as the reason for God's wrath in sending the plague. Medieval laws were too often merely an articulation of an ideal.



Nutter, (1992) considered there was little evidence to indicate sumptuary laws in England were aimed to codify class differences as a result of some general disparity between income and rank. Instead most were anti-inflationary, wage controls and protectionist in their intents. Prior to the eighteenth century there were laws to stop common people from dressing like affluent society. These were laws regulated personal behaviour on moral or religious grounds (Healy, 1977 p 10). Hurlock (1965) wrote sumptuary laws were used primarily to preserve class distinctions. When members of the nobility found their position of supremacy encroached upon by the lower classes that had attained wealth, they passed laws to restore the respect for the inequality of ranks which had previously existed. Clearly a division of opinion exists between historians.



Hurlock went on to say sumptuary laws were often used as a means of inducing people to save money. It was considered necessary to reduce senseless spending on luxuries such as clothing lest the event would result in the country going bankrupt. Sumptuary Laws helped to encourage domestic trade. One law which exemplifies this was a law concerning the wearing of woollen caps to be worn on Sunday and all holy days by all persons over the age of six (except those of high position). The caps had to be made in England.



‘Buy British’ is a modern example of the same type of protectionism but without legislation.



The sumptuary legislation of Tudor times was distinctly the most numerous statutes of apparel. Those passed in the latter part (Mary and Elizabeth) had economic motives and were less detailed than those of Henry VIII. They usually forbade the wearing of a solitary fabric or article of dress. Most of the laws were prohibitive in character though some did contain statements as to what certain classes of person might wear. Besides suppressing extravagance many of the statutes were intended to maintain and perpetuate distinctions in rank by preserving the ancient differences in dress. By the end of the Elizabethan period many writers were questioning the need to enact such acts since they felt high living was advantageous to the nation. This was of course provided the luxuries were manufactured at home since it encouraged domestic manufacture and commerce.

References
Healey T 1977 History of costume London: Macdonald Educational.
Hughes D O 1983 4: sumptuary law and social relations in Renaissance Italy In Bossy J (ed) Disputes and Settlements NY: Cambridge University Press.
Hurlock E B 1965 Sumptuary law In Roach ME Eicher JB Dress, adornment and the social order New York: John Wiley & Sons 295-301.

Reviewed 8/01/2016

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why sumptuary laws were seldom enforced.




By the Middle Ages the Church was a powerful body that exerted considerable social control. It was ideally positioned to create and enforce sumptuary laws, yet these laws were generally ignored and went practically unenforced.



In the main the laws were aimed specifically for middle and lower classes, with the nobility and royalty exempt. Laws allowed the upper classes to indulge themselves in grave excesses. This behaviour was eagerly copied by lower tiers of society, particularly the middle classes who would wear elegant fashion, and consume fancy food. These excesses were often cited as the cause of ruin in families with meagre circumstance. Only the very poorest working class strictly followed sumptuary laws, and even they were rarely prosecuted for violating them. Due to their impoverished circumstances most, by necessity, wore rudimentary garments fashioned of the coarsest cloth, and referred to as "russet" or "blanket cloth”.



Despite this, according to Hurlock (1965) the desire for self-display was strong among the lower strata of society and the author suggests this was the origins of national costume. Instead of imitating the upper classes, gratification came from out-rivalling the beauty and elaborateness of costumes of the other members of the same social class. By this means the desire to be satisfied was met without breaking the laws of the land.



Many of the sumptuary laws went ignored although fashions such as slashing were thought to be implemented as a means to overcome the law. Fancy dress was also another clever deception as was, celebration days, where the gentry changed places with other classes.




One explanation as to why so many people ignored the laws was because despite the act of defiance incurring steep financial penalties, the nouveaux rich could well afford to pay them. Alternatively at times of rising costs of gold and silver men did not want to have their money spent on women's luxuries and hence encouraged such restrictions.

References
Hurlock E B 1965 Sumptuary law In Roach ME Eicher JB Dress, adornment and the social order New York: John Wiley & Sons 295-301.

Reviewed 6/01/2016

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sumptuary Laws and Shoes: A summary




From the days of antiquity, the right to wear shoes was a privilege only afforded to the free and affluent. Whilst there were several attempts to limit excesses, the dress code for footwear was simple, rich people wore them and ordinary people went without. Colour and styling, including the height of shoes, became the discernible means of class distinction and this was reflected in many cultures. The need to preserve class distinction coupled with clerical conscience would seem to have been the two main motivations for sumptuary laws governing shoes.



Whilst the fashion for long toed shoes lasted four hundred years they were not always in vogue. The restriction in length of shoes was at first to discriminate "the haves" from "the have nots", then to quell the reappearance of the worship of the phallus.



Shoe fashion did change and by all accounts pretty rapidly at the beginning of the 15 century. Rossi believed this had nothing to do with legislation but more to do with the news of a high profile assassination. Alarm was raised when the victim could not escape his attackers because he was wearing long toed shoes. Others believe it may have been due to the birth of the heir apparent to the Spanish thrown who had polydactylism (extra toes). The risks following surgical removal of the extra toe would have presented with many complications and it was much easier to change the fashion to broad toed shoes. Credible reasons perhaps but unlikely to explain the quick transition from long toed shoes to broad shoes (Bear’ Paws).



An altogether more credible explanation would be the presence of disease which would necessitate accommodating painful feet. History records a great syphilis epidemic spread throughout Europe after the return of Christopher Columbus from the New World in 1493. One of the outcomes of tertiary syphilis is Charcot feet. This is a very painful condition and feet ulcerate due to undue pressure. The presence of syphilis in the courts of Europe and sequestrate would be a more satisfactory explanation for the swift change in shoe style. Bears' Paws were fashionable with the affluent and in the spirit of zeitgeist celebrated the Cult of the Virgin Mary with reference to the female genitalia in the form of delicate slashing of the upper.



Eventually Queen Mary (1516 - 1558), keen to comply with the wishes of the Catholic Church banned broad toed shoes from England and her dominions.



The platform shoe, popular with the women from Venice and Florence were eventually legislated against because of the number of accidents reported by ladies falling over. It is thought the term ‘miscarriage’ refers to the fall from the chopines and not specifically pelvic complications.



During the Victorian era high heels became closely associated with sado-masochistic eroticism. This was promulgated in no short measure by the introduction of still photography, then cinematography. The high heeled shoe became the symbol of the Jezebel. During the last century attempts were made at times of national emergency to control heel height through rationing. Rather than reduce interest in heeled shoes this is likely to have been the reason for their continued popularity.



Despite the absence of official sumptuary law to curtail the heights of the shoe, subsequent to the introduction of the stiletto heel, free access to privately owned public spaces has become evermore restricted by dress codes. Just to keep a balance the same dress codes apply to thong wearers and barefoot persons.

Reviewed 6/01/2016

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sumptuary Laws of the Seventeenth Century




The upwardly mobile middle class became more influential during the 17th century and began to replace impoverished gentry. James I (1566-1625) fearing the mood of the people repealed many sumptuary laws.



In early Colonial America the The Puritans were concerned with the incompatibility of European fashionable clothing and the wilderness. Many sumptuary laws were introduced and it was prohibited to wear silver, gold, silk, laces, slashed sleeves, ruffs, and beavered hats. The following is a quote from Colonial Sumptuary Laws issued in Massachusetts, 1651.

"Although several declarations and orders have been made by this Court, against excess in apparel, both of men and women, which have not taken that effect as were to be desired, but on the contrary, we cannot but to our grief take notice that intolerable excess and bravery have crept in upon us, and especially among people of mean condition, to the dishonour of God, the scandal of our profession, the consumption of estates, and altogether unsuitable to our poverty. And although we acknowledge it to be a matter of much difficulty, in regard of the blindness of men's minds and the stubborness of their wills, to set down exact rules to confine all sorts of persons, yet you cannot but account it our duty to commend unto all sorts of persons the sober and moderate use of these blessings which, beyond expectation, the Lord has been pleased to afford unto us in this wilderness. And also to declare our utter detestation and dislike that men and women of mean condition should take upon them the garb of gentlemen by wearing gold or silver lace, or buttons, or points at their knees, or to walk in great boots; or women of the same ran to wear silk or tiffany hoods, or scarves which, though allowable to persons of greater estates or more liberal education, we cannot but judge it intolerable...

It is therefore ordered by this Court, and authority thereof, that no person within the jurisdiction , nor any of their relations depending upon them, whose visible estates, real and personal, shall not exceed the true and indifferent value of 200 pounds, shall wear any gold or silver lace, or gold or silver buttons, or any bone lace above 2 shillings per yard, or silk hoods , or scarves, upon the penalty of 10s for every such offense and every such delinquent to be presented to the grand jury .For as much as distinct and particular rules in this case suitable to the estate of quality of each person cannot easily be given: It is further ordered by the authority aforesaid, that the selection of every town, or the major part of them are hereby enabled and required , from time to time to have regard and take notice of the apparel of the inhabitants of their several towns respectively: and whosoever shall judge to exceed their ranks and abilities in the costliness or fashion of their apparel in any respect, especially in wearing ribbons, or great boots (leather being a scarce commodity in this country) lace, points, etc., silk hoods or scarves, the select men aforesaid shall have power to assess such persons, so offending in any of the particulars above mentioned, in the country rates, at 200 pounds; according to that portion that such men use to pay to whom such apparel is suitable and allowed; provided this law shall not extend to the restraint of any magistrate or public officer of this jurisdiction, their wives and children, who are left to their discretion in wearing of apparel, or any settled militia officer or soldier in the time of the military service, or any other whose education and employment have been above the ordinary degree, or whose estate have been considerable, though now decayed."



New Jersey was still a British Colony (1670) when a law was passed which stated

" Be it resolved that all women, of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree; whether virgin maids or widows; that shall after the passing of this Act, impose upon and betray into matrimony any of His Majesty's male subjects, by scents, paints, cosmetics, washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the laws now in force against witchcraft, sorcery, and such like misdemeanours, and that the marriage, upon conviction, shall stand null and void."



In England from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century burial in woollen shrouds was prescribed by law. This was at attempt to lessen the importance of linen and promote the home wool industry. In 1692, the Elector of Saxony decreed no noblility, professors and doctors of universities, their wives, or those who worked in courts of law could wear clothing incorporating gold, silver or pearls. Very soon after the death of Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603) parliament passed an act which undid all the work of the previous acts. The reason for the decline in interest in sumptuary legislation is difficult to surmise but it is thought by many experts by this time control of apparel was considered passé and distinctly medieval in spirit.



In 17th century Venice and other Italian city states fashionable women wore platform shoes called Chopines (Choppines or chioppines) (Baldwin 1926, p 252. Made from wood or cork the shoes elevated the wearer and soon the height of the shoe from the ground signified social status. The chopines were sometimes 24” off the ground which made walking very difficult. The ultimate embellishment was two servants to help madam perambulate and a sedan carriage to carry her from her rooms, through the streets, to her eventual destination. The fashion was mainly restricted to the affluent Italian City State although platforms were worn on Spain and to lesser extend in Elizabethean England.

"Upon the morrow, after the blessed new year, I came trip, trip, trip over the market Hill, holding up my petticoats.... to shew my fine coloured stockings and how trimly I could fit in a new pair of corked shoes I had bought."

Willy Beguiled, (1623) Seventeenth Century Play



The fashion is thought to have been associated with the wives of rich merchants keen to show off their family fortunes by wearing sumptuous clothing. The purpose of the platform was to increase leg length necessitating longer and more expensive drapes. Eventually concerts from males keen to curb their wives and concubines’ excesses introduced sumptuary controls.

Comments made by the Venetian ambassador in 1618 suggested all gentle women should wear men's shoes (i.e. very low slippers).

Reference
Baldwin F E 1926 Sumptuary Legislation and Personal Regulation in England Johns Hopkins Press

Reviewed 4/01/2016

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sumptuary laws: Prostitutes, Jews and Courtesans




At the end of the 12th century Pope Clement III (1187-91) ruled harlots should dress differently from honest women (Freiberg 1879, cited in Brundage, 1987). Prescriptive codes, along with sumptuary legislation prohibiting prostitutes from wearing certain luxury materials followed. This action was thought to demonstrate a degree of tolerance i.e. as long as prostitutes remained clearly labelled they could remain within society. Laws relating to prostitution mainly applied to professionals but other sexually active women, were often included. The focus of this legislation was to shame and stigmatize these women.



In twelfth-century Arles (South of France), prostitutes were prohibited from wearing a veil, the sign of a respectable woman, and anyone who saw an "immoral" woman wearing one had the right and the responsibility to take it from her. Similarly, in fifteenth-century Dijon , although it was not established in the law, removing a woman's headgear was an accusation of sexual immorality.



In England prostitutes were required to wear a striped hood in some towns and used as punishment for prostitution in others. Sumptuary legislation required prostitutes to dress according to their station and distinguished them from "respectable" women. Although such laws often were ignored (as indicated by their frequent reiteration) they were nonetheless an important part of the discourse that constructed the prostitute.



In 1243, Avignon law prohibited Jews and prostitutes from touching food at the market and requiring them to purchase whatever they touched.



Similarly, clothing regulations labelled the Jewish people. In late medieval German towns, "both Jews and prostitutes were believed to perform essential services for the community, yet both groups were excluded from full membership of the city," and both were buried in unconsecrated ground. Medieval societies not only treated Jews, heretics, and lepers in ways comparable to prostitutes or sodomites, but also sexualized them, basing at least part of their otherness, on their sexuality. The idea of Jewish men having sex with Christian women was an important undercurrent in the development of hostility toward the Jews; the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council cited this as the reason why Jews had to wear distinguishing clothing.



Courtesans were a prominent feature of Venice in the seventeenth century. According to Rosentham (cited in Tucker, 1999) courtesans were sexualized versions of aristocratic women, kept in court and often used by upper crust men for the purposes of sex. In Occidental society courtesans were similar to Chinese concubines. Some were kept by nobles and had extravagant homes and clothing fit for royalty. Others had a different client every night and were reported to amass fabulous fortunes (often more than most of the town's merchants).



Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) was attribute to say "Publish and be damned." when the courtesan Harriette Wilson threatened to publish her memoirs and his letters.



Throughout history courtesans have dressed as ornately as aristocratic women (Masson, 1975). The habit had little to do with imitating their superiors but instead a deliberate display of their wealth and prestige. Courtesans often set the fashions and by doing so made statements of beauty and identity. Whilst governments saw the women's costumes as a symbol of their city's wealth and stature, the male dominated republic, also cracked down on the courtesan’s dress through sumptuary laws. These regulations were intended to protect the honour of female patricians from the courtesans, who mimicked their noble bearing and costumes. Courtesans became so established and wealthy in their own right it was difficult to separate them from true noblewomen. The action of subsequent governments was to restrict the wearing of some clothes to the nobility, according to Rosenthan (cited in Tucker, 1999). These laws were often flaunted by the courtesans but did influence women of the lower class. Karras (1999) described how, in most Medieval towns, prostitution was illegal or in some cases regulated, clothing regulations required prostitutes to wear distinguishing marks (Weaver, 1999).

References
Brundage JA 1987 Sumptuary laws and prostitution in late Medieval Italy Journal of Medieval History 13:4 343-355.
Karras RM 1999 Prostitution and the question of sexual identity in medievel europe Journal of Women's History 11:2 159-177.
Masson G 1975 Courtesans of the italian renaissance London: Cox and Wymann Ltd.
Tucker C 1999 Dressed (or undressed) for success University of Southern California Chronicle.

Reviewed on 3/01/2016

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sumptuary Laws: Jews, Christians and Muslims




From about the 8th century in Muslim countries, Christians and Jews were sometimes forced to wear special emblems on their clothes. This was an attempt to prevent inter-breeding. A ninth century Caliph in Bagdad was thought to have introduced the yellow star (Bareta) which was worn by both Jewish and Christian people. Further sumptuary controls were issued in Bagda inthe 12th century.

'Two yellow badges [are to be displayed], one on the headgear and one on the neck. Furthermore, each Jew must hang round his neck a piece of lead with the word Dhimmi on it. He also has to wear a belt round his waist. The women have to wear one red and one black shoe and have a small bell on their necks or shoes.'



By the 13th century sumptuary laws based on religious conviction was introduced into Europe. Pope Innocent III convoked the Fourth Council of the Lateran and in 1215 it ruled that Jews and Muslims must be distinguishable by their dress. The most common form of badge was the "rota" or "wheel", which looked like a ring, of white or yellow. Other European countries folloed with similar sumptuary legislation.



In England Edward I issued the Statute of Jewry which prescribed jews wear two yellow round-topped rectangles (like tablets); in Portugal Jews wore a red star of David; and in France, French Jews were ordered to wear an oval rouelle (a yellow rota). In Venice, sumptuary laws were most strictly regulated and directed towards Jews, prostitutes, and women.



The Venetians were considered a tolerant people but still discriminated against Jewish people. The first ghetto officially came into existence in Venice on March 29, 1516. Sumptuary laws forced Jews to wear a star-shaped yellow badge called a bareta. There were few exceptions made albeit doctors of medicine were exempt. Eventually the Council of Ten revoked the medical doctor’s privilege of being excluded from the wearing of the yellow bareta and they were forced to don the hats as well. Generally, the Jewish community strictly regulated themselves, prohibiting fur or bright colours so as not to draw attention on themselves. Prostitutes and courtesans were also outcasts in Early Modern Venetian society. Prostitutes were required to wear a yellow veil, reminiscent of the yellow bareta.



The Jewish hat (Jewish cap) was a cone-shaped pointed hat, often white or yellow, worn by Jews in Medieval Europe and some of the Islamic world. Initially worn by choice, its wearing was enforced in some places in Europe after 1215 for adult male Jews to wear while outside a ghetto in order to distinguish Jews from others. Like the phrygian cap it often resembles, the hat may have originated in pre-Islamic Persia and resembles a hat worn by Babylonian Jews.

Reviewed 4/01/2016

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sumptuary Laws in France (13th -18th century)




Under the rule of Philippe IV (le Bel) (1268 – 1314), only members of the royal household were permitted to wear miniver grey fur or ermine.



Later the sumptuary laws in France governed the length of shoes. Princes could wear long toed shoes 24" longer than their feet whereas poor people were limited to six inches beyond the foot.



Long toed shoes were thought to be used as sex toys when filled with moss and grass to stiffen them. Small hawk bells were sewn onto the end of the shoes to give an auditory signal the person wearing them was interested in sexual fun.



Charles IX (1550 - 74), was the King of France. and succeeded his brother Francis II. Charles was under the regency of his mother, Catherine de' Medici (1519 – 1589).



She retained her influence throughout his reign and is acknowledged as the first woman to wear fashionable heeled shoes. In vogue throughout her life time the popularity of heeled shoes passed from fashion with her demise.



Charles IX was responsible for more sumptuary laws than any other French monarch. Whilst regent only princesses and duchesses could wear garments of silk. Ladies of high rank were permitted to wear hand muffs made from fur or fine material. Amount and kind of ornamentation on clothes was dependent on the social rank of the persons' wearing the garments. These laws continued to effect until the fall of the Bastille (1789), when one of the first acts of the National Assembly was to abolish by solemn decree all laws relating to distinction in dress.



The feeling in France against sumptuary laws was so bitter that after the revolution it was unsafe to appear in clothing which might proclaim the wearer as belonging to the nobility. Many men tore their buckles from their shoes and donated them to the new government.

Reviewed 3/1/2016

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sumptuary Laws of the Sixteenth Century




For a time, England prospered under the reign of Henry VIII (b.149,1 1509-1547) and it became more and more difficult to tell the wealthy merchants and middle class from the nobility. The upwardly mobile middle classes became more influential and began to replace the impoverished gentry. The king however was keen to identify his subjects by their apparel and was responsible for enacting several sumptuary laws. Henry VIII decreed that a countess must wear a train before and behind, fastened to her girdle, while a baroness and all below her in rank might not have this distinction. Men were compelled to wear their hair short, though their beards may be worn in any fashion. These laws and taxes were specific to keep the classes, separate and violation of these laws carried penalties such as loss of property (confiscation of the offending garment) and a fine, in rare cases title may be lost and or in case of the lower classes, life itself.



In 1510, Parliament passed an extensive and detailed law regulating the wearing of all sorts of fabrics and of trim from fur to gold and silver. This law was amended and added to in 1514 and again in 1515 and 1553. The details of the laws changed little, as they were mostly reiterations and reaffirmations of previous admonitions.



In 1530, John Longland, Bishop of Lincoln wrote a letter to the Abbess at the convent of Vinestoww (Elstow, Elnstow, or Helenstow), in which he ordered the sister not to wear crested or slashed shoes. The last sumptuary law to be passed in the reign of Henry VIII came in 1532/33.



Several regulations governing the dress of the people of Ireland were also issued during this period. After the Reformation (1517 - 1648) the daily habits and life of people began to be more and more affected by moral laws and precepts. Reformation invoked the aid of law to keep citizens in a healthy moral condition with the result old regulations were renewed and amplified and new ones enacted.



All men wore tight hose, sometimes puffed at the knees and slashed. Silk stockings become available after the middle of the sixteenth century and Henry the VIII had several pairs in his wardrobe. Shoes were very broad, and sometimes stuffed into a mound at the toes. They were frequently sewn with precious stones (especially seed pearls or cut and puffed with silk).



During the reign of Edward VI (b. 1538 1547-1553) no more sumptuary laws were enacted despite the continued excesses at this time.



When Mary I (b. 1516, 1553-1558) took the thrown a law was passed in 1554 concerning the wearing of silk on shoes and hose. Only the sons and heirs apparent of knights or such person could wear silk. The penalty was 3 months’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 pounds sterling for every day the shoes had been worn. Persons above the rank of knight could wear whatever they wanted. Popularity of the broad toed shoes also became a concern as the shoes got broader across the forefoot. Like puffed sleeves the uppers of the bloated shoes were slashed revealing banned materials below. According to Baldwin (1926 p.189) no record of a law has been found to control this excess but it was thought to have be in existence.



Shoes of the time fitted the shape of the foot and were worn with square toes. High boots strapped over the knee and half boots with their tops turned over were used for travelling and sport. Often hoes were turned down at the point where they met the trunks.



Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was an ardent follower of fashion. However, as a ruler she was very autocratic regarding her subjects and their dress. Her reign was marked with much social changes with marked improvement in domestic comforts for all but the poor. Her Royal Majesty and her Parliament felt it necessary to proclaim the importance of the sumptuary laws passed during Henry and Mary's reigns.



Silk stockings were very popular during her reign and could cost as much as 20s a pair. These were often interwoven with gold and silver threads. Corked shoes and slippers, or pantoffles, had an inch-high sole (fingerbreadth) They were hard to keep on the feet, uncomfortable and caused the wearer to flop up and down. The shoes also gathered clay. (Baldwin, 1926, p 206). In 1563, a new act was passed and several more followed during her reign. Some were a deliberate attempt to help ailing manufacturers but all the statutes of apparel originating from the House of Lords were rejected by the Commons. Baldwin (1926) considered the reaction from the Commons was a reaction to the Lords attempt to bolster aristocratic privileges. Many local sumptuary regulations and ordinances were promulgated during the Elizabethan period.



In 1582 the Lord Mayor and Common Council of London enacted a by-law where apprentices had to wear pumps or shoes made in England and pinked, edged or stitched with untrimmed crewel wool, thread or leather. To violate this rule meant the apprentice could be punished at the discretion of his master. Second offences would result in a whipping at the hall of his company. A third offence meant the apprenticeship would be extended some six months. Only men serving at the bench could be seen outside in the street, wearing great ruffs, gowns with velvet facing, or white doublets or stockings. Gentlemen were not allowed to wear cloaks and had to wear gowns instead. Hair was not to be curled or worn long and ladies’ gowns had to be made in a sad colour, if worn outside. According to Hurlock (1965) Elizabeth I attempted to regulate the shape and length of men's beards and stop Oxford students from wearing ruffs around their neck and wrists of a width greater than that of one finger.



As the century progressed more and more body skin was exposed until the point where bare breasts were the fashion for courtesans (Rosenthal S., cited in Tucker, 1999).



Elizabethan women did not wear underwear but did have stockings. Venetian courtesans often wore male style undergarments such as linen knickers embroidered with phrases such as "I want the heart." These too were eventually banned.



According to Hamilton (1998) elaborate sumptuary laws in Venice were promulgated by the church and state for the regulating of "luxury items" such as bed-hangings and food. These laws related particularly to clothing and accessories. In 1530 the decree entitled the "Diet of Augsburg permitted the wife of a noble to own four silk dresses but they were not allowed to wear pearls. The citizens of Genoa (the Genoses) required the Tailor's Guild to register new designs for approval by the censors or Uffico delle Virtu. Most city states turned their sporadic medieval legislation into formal Renaissance codes which were endlessly amended in response to criticism and fashion. In 1512 as the enemies of Venice were preparing to attack the Senate debated dress materials, the size and design of sleeves, fringes and ornaments, belts and head dresses, shoes and slippers, home furnishings and bed linens. (Hughes, 1983).

References
Baldwin F E 1926 Sumptuary Legislation and Personal Regulation in England Johns Hopkins Press.
Hamilton W 2000 A tangled weaving: The social status of clothing in early modern Venice.
Hughes D O 1983 4: sumptuary law and social relations in Renaissance Italy In Bossy J (ed) Disputes and Settlements NY: Cambridge University Press.
Hurlock E B 1965 Sumptuary law In Roach ME Eicher JB Dress, adornment and the social order New York: John Wiley & Sons 295-301.
Tucker C 1999 Dressed (or undressed) for success University of Southern California Chronicle

Reviewed 3/1/2016