The term Sumputuary law has been derived from the Latin words ‘Sumptuariae leges’ meaning the laws brought into force in order to systematize the habits of people in clothing, food, trade or business, to maintain social hierarchy, etc.
The Sumptuary laws were passed in 1571 during the Elizabethan period. As per this law, every person who is above six years was to wear a woolen cap on Sundays and holidays. As per this law, there had to be a strict dressing code for men. There was also a restiction on the fabrics and materials that were used for making the clothes.
Elizabethan Era Clothing Upper Class
Along with the restriction mentioned above, the men belonging to the upper classes of the society were allowed to spend only 100 pounds a year on their clothing. The enforcement of such strict laws came in the light of the fact that most of the men, serving in the dominion of the Queen would spend unnecessarily large sums of money, either earned or got in inheritance on the clothes that were in fashion then.
The Queen, after the law was passed, urged everyone to reform themselves as per the new laws witin a period of twelve days. Amongst the first few persons who adopted the change were those who worked in the Queen’s court and the nobleman.
Also, these reforms were expected to be followed by these men and their families so as to set an example in the society. Thus, each person belonging to the different social ranking wore clothes made from a fabric that was specifically alloted to their rank.
Elizabethan Era Clothing Laws
As per the law, any silk cloth which was either purple in color, or a cloth made of gold color or even fur, was only to be wore by the King, Queen, and his family, Dukes, Marguises who could wear doublets, jerkins, gowns and hose made from purple color. Also, clothes made of gold, silver, silk, satin, mixed or embroidered with gold or silver was to be worn only by the upper class or the aristocratic class.
Caps made from woolen cloth were used only by the nobles. Again velvet, crimson, fur, lucernes, etc. in coats or gowns were specifically reserved for the rich. Hats, Caps, Hatbands that were trimmed with gold, pearl or silver; silk netherstocks, buttons, etc. were worn by men attending the Queen’s Privy chamber or even her office.
Elizabethan Era Men’s Clothing Facts
Clothes made from silk, satin, damask could be used in hats, coats or even uppermost garments worn by men who could afford to spend 100 pounds annually on clothes. No one other than Knights and Barons sons and men holding high ranking in the Qeuuen’s court or office were permitted to were spurs, swords, daggers, wood knives, gridles.
Also, persons belonging of upper class were allowed to wear studs, buckles, garniture gilt, whether silver or damask in the harness of their horse, and also velvet in the saddles or horse trappers. The men like Lord Chancellor, Treasurer, President of the Council or Privy Seal were given the liberty to wear clothes made from velvet, satin or any other silk, exception being purple and black furs other than black genets.
It is clear from the above explanations that after the passing of the Sumptuary laws, every person was bound to follow the rules laid down by the law and no exception was made as far as the social ranking of the persons was concerned.