Sumptuary Laws

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Sumptuary Laws

Rules made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance.

Sumptuary laws are designed to regulate habits, especially on moral or religious grounds. They are particularly directed against inordinate expenditures on apparel, drink, food, and luxury items.

These laws existed in Rome and were enacted in a variety of forms in England during the Middle Ages to regulate the ornateness of dress and to impose dietary restrictions. Sumptuary laws varied according to classes, with peasants being subjected to a different set of rules than the gentry. The primary purpose of the laws was to distinguish the different classes of people, and often, a person's social class could be determined by something as simple as the style or length of his or her coat.

Today sumptuary laws are ecclesiastical in nature and not part of the U.S. legal system.

SUMPTUARY LAWS. Those relating to expenses, and made to restrain excess in apparel.
     2. In the United States the expenses of every man are left to his own good judgment, and not regulated by Arbitrary laws.

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As Barbara Tuchman explains, the sumptuary laws of the time imposed detailed regulations on allowable dress, including "exact gradations of fabric, color, fur trimming, ornaments, and jewels," for people of "every rank and income level" (1987, 19).
Brundage treats sumptuary laws in relation to prostitution throughout his work Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe.
13) A minute fraction of sumptuary laws regulated men's clothing.
As in the case of the sumptuary laws, the imitation of the upper classes by the lower is in itself a source of anxiety, as a usurpation of the upper classes' symbolic capital.
With growing concern for morality in post-Tridentine Venice, new legislation was enacted and strictly enforced against prostitution, and sumptuary laws were ordered to be vigorously enforced.
The "statute" to which he refers belongs to England's infamous sumptuary legislation, a series of sumptuary laws dating from medieval times and culminating in Henry VIII's "An Act for the Reformacyon of Excesse in Apparayle" in 1533 and Mary's "Act for Reformation of Excess in Apparel" in 1553.
Importantly, from a historians point of view, however, one has to test Kadare's hypotheses on the possible massed, forced conversion of Christians and on sumptuary laws.
Adams, after all, favored sumptuary laws that would restrict conspicuous consumption in order to promote a virtuous frugality.
Fripperies such as frills, wide sleeves and any form of trim were considered in bad taste - under the 1942 Civilian Clothing Order the government introduced sumptuary laws making it illegal to spend time embellishing clothes for sale.
The Kehillahs in Metz and Alsace governed relations with the surrounding Christian community, imposing sumptuary laws on Jews in an effort to maintain social hierarchies, insisted on parental control of marriages, and blocked the adaptation of Christian practices such as dancing or the village charivari.
Already the Sumptuary Laws against ostentatious display are being enforced with vigor, the poor eager to see the rich stripped of their fur collars and pearl-entrusted combs.
We no longer have sumptuary laws, nor do we usually think of female cross-dressing as polluting.