Dec 242012
Courtesans carrying Queen Elizabeth. Attributed to Robert Peake the Elde

Courtesans carrying Queen Elizabeth. Attributed to Robert Peake the Elde

Sumptuary Laws tell you what you can and can not wear based upon your class or social standing. If you wore something above your station you would be fined. Why are these so important. Well back  then your clothes was how you expressed you wealth. There are stories of royalty spending every dime they had on clothing. Also with the rise of the merchant/middle class. Some people not of noble birth could actually afford the more expensive items.

Here is a list set out on June 15th 1574 by Queen Elizabeth describing the sumptuary laws for men. Too use these rules you need to know how you fit in to the peerage at the time.

The table showing the Sumptuary Laws for women can be found here

Position or Status Material Color Item
Commoner Wool, Linen, or Sheepskin Blue (dyed with woad), brown, beige, green, grey, orange, yellow, and russet
Silk, taffeta and velvet trimming Buttons and the facing of coats, cloaks, hats and caps
Justices , Barons of the Exchequer, Master of the Rolls, sergeants at law, Masters of the Chancery, of the Queen’s council, apprentices of law, physicians of the King, mayors and other head officers of any towns corporate Cottons and taffeta.All Except silk, velvet, damask or satin Except crimson, violet, purple, deep blue
Lord Chancellor, Treasurer, President of the council, Privy Seal  Fur Black, with exception of black genets
Velvet All colors except purple.
Gentlemen whose household expense is £40 per year, or the son (or heir apparent of a man who has 300 marks in trade.  Gilt  Spurs, swords, rapiers, daggers, skeans, woodknives, or hangers, buckles or girdles
Silk (other than satin, damask, taffeta, camlet) Doublets
Sarcanet, camlet, or taffeta Facing of gowns and cloaks
Coats, jackets, jerkins, and  coifs
Being not of color scarlet, crimson, blue Purses
Furs of foin, grey genets, or like from outside the Queen’s realm
Son or heir apparent of a Knight  Velvet  Shoes and pantofles
 Hat, bonnet, girdle, and scabbards of swords, daggers, etc
Gentlemen whose household expense is £100 per year. Fur from outside the Queen’s realm, except foins, genets, and budge  Grey Fur  Gown, coat, uppermost garments
Satin, damask, silk, camlet, or taffeta Gown, coat, hose or outermost garments
 The gentlemen  of the Queen’s Privy Chamber, cup bearers, carvers, servers, Esquire for the body, Gentlemen Ushers, or Esquires of the stable Clothing trimmed with gold or silver or pearl; silk netherstocks; enameled chains, buttons, aglets Gold or Silver trimmings Caps, hats, hatbands, cap bands, garters, or boot hose
Barons’ sons, Knights, gentlemen in ordinary office, Queen’s personal attendants, workers for Embassies to foreign princes. Velvet, fur from leopards, and embroidery with any silk
 Knights of the Garter, members of the Privy Council, and children of Earls, Dukes, and Marquises Velvet Crimson, or Scarlet
Embroidery or tailor’s work having gold or silver or pearl therein Gold or Silver Embroidery
Genets or Lucernces (Furs) Black Fur
Woolen cloth made out of the realm Caps
Any persons of nobility. (Baron or higher) Cloth of gold, silver, tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any gold or silver Doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose.
Knights of the Garter (only) Silk Purple Mantle
 Dukes, Marquises, and Earls Silk Purple Doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose
Sable Fur, and cloth of gold tissue
 King, King’s mother, children, brethren, and uncles Silk Purple Any
Sable Fur, and cloth of gold tissue

A Mark is equivalent to 13 shilling and 6 pence

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