Q. 25.0( 2 Votes )

What were sumptuary laws?

Answer :

In medieval Europe, dress codes were sometimes imposed upon members of different layers of society through actual laws which were spelt out in some detail. From about 1294 to the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the people of France were expected to strictly follow what were known as 'sumptuary laws.' The laws tried to control the behaviour of those considered social inferiors, preventing them from wearing certain clothes, consuming certain foods and beverages (usually this referred to alcohol) and hunting game in certain areas. In medieval France, the items of clothing a person could purchase per year was regulated, not only by income but also by social rank. The material to be used for clothing was also legally prescribed. Only royalty could wear expensive materials like ermine and fur, or silk, velvet and brocade. Other classes were debarred from clothing themselves with materials that were associated with the aristocracy. The French Revolution ended these distinctions.
The members of the Jacobin clubs even called themselves the 'sans culottes' to distinguish themselves from the aristocracy who wore the fashionable 'knee breeches'. Sans culottes literally meant those 'without knee breeches'. From now on, both men and women began wearing clothing that was loose and comfortable. The colours
of France – blue, white and red – became popular as they were a sign of the patriotic citizen. Other political symbols too became a part of dress: the red cap of liberty, long trousers and the revolutionary cockade pinned on to a hat. The simplicity of clothing was meant to express the idea of equality.

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