Monday, 12 August 2013

Fashion is Status

Fashion has always been a mean to show off your status and the Tudor times were no different. The rules were many, complicated and oh yeah, enforced by law. Remember the Earl of Surrey who got beheaded for wearing his ancestors badge because Henry VIII thought it was provocative?
The Sumptuary Laws divides people into categories according to who could wear what. Remember that the King and Queen (as well as their children) could wear everything so they are not listed among the remaining titles. Those who are not listed were simply not allowed to wear whatever garment or fabric it might concern.
Take a look at these rules and step into the "Versailles"-ish Tudor fashion rules.


  • Cloth of gold and silver including gold/silver silk, satin and sables:

Exception: viscounts and barons are permitted to use these fabrics on their doublets and their coats - as long as the coat is sleeveless!

Dukes, Marquesses, Earls and their children as well as Barons and knights

  • Wool made in a foreign country
  • Crimson, scarlet and blue velvet

This one actually has a logical reason to it. In order to make sure that the English farmers would not loose money (causing inflation) it was forbidden to buy wool that was not English - or at least except if you are noble or royal. So actually this can be seen more as a strange way to keep employment in England than a restriction.

Sons of Barons, knights and men of a certain income

  • Velvet for a gown, coat or entire ensemble
  • Leopard's fur
  • Embroidery
  • "Pricking" of gold and silver - and never in silk
  • Taffeta, satin, damask and silk on the outer outfit 
Any man who makes a profit of at least a 100 pounds a year:
  • Furs from outside any of the crowns' lands
  • Velvet
The son (as long as it is an heir) or daughter of a knight, that son's wife and a man worth more than 200 pounds in goods
  • Silk in hoses, hats, girdle, bonnet, nightcaps, scabbards and shoes
And these were just the rules for the upper part of society! But since the other part is also the greatest there is no need to leave them out:

It was prohibited for any serving man (except those of noble birth) to wear fur. Nor were they allowed to use more than 2½ yards of fabric for their coats. The serving females were not allowed to use more than 3 yards of fabric on a long gown.

Finally servants, common labourers, shepherds and farmers worth less than 10 pounds a year are not allowed to wear cloth worth more than 2 shilling. And if you did so anyway? Three days in the stocks! 

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