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.