Jan 072013

Baron and his Wife

Baroness Dacre and her son

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 women

If you would like to find out about the sumputuary laws for men they are here

Position or Status Material Color What it can be worn on
 Commoner  Silk, taffeta and velvet trimmings    Buttons and the facing of coats, cloaks, hats and caps
 Wool, linen and sheepskin  Brown, beige, yellow, orange, russet, green, grey and blue (dyed with woad only)  
Wives of Knights  Damask, taffeta, or other silk    Petticoats, safeguard and cloaks
 Wives of barons, knights of the order, or councilors’ ladies, and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bed chamber, and the maids of honor  Velvet, tufted taffeta, satin     Petticoat, cloak or safeguard
  Gold or Silver
 Knights daughter  Damask, taffeta, or other silk    Petticoat, but not on the guard
Wives of the sons/heirs of knights, Daughters of Knights, Wives of those whose household upkeep is £40 or greater, Wives and daughters of a man who has 300 Marks in trade Silk grosgrain, doubled sarcenet, camlet, or taffeta    Gowns
 Satin or damask    Kirtles
 Wives of those whose household upkeep is £100 or greater or gentlewomen in the service of duchesses, marquises, and countesses in the liveries that were issued to them  Satin, damask, or tufted taffeta    Kirtles & gowns
 Velvet    Kirtles
 Furs from outside the realm (except foins, grey genets, bodge, and wolf)    
Baroness  Enameled chains, buttons, aglets, and border    
Trimmed with spangles or pearls of gold, silver, or pearl    Cowls, sleeves, partlets, and linings
   Gold or silver  Cowl
 Silk mixed with gold or silver  
Wives of Baron or knights  Velvet    Gown
 Furs of leopard or embroidery of silk    
 Wives of knights of the Garter and of the Privy Council, the ladies and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bedchamber, and maids of honor  Velvet (crimson, carnation); furs (black genets, lucerns); embroidery or passment lace of gold or silver    
 Baronesses and Viscountess   Tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with gold or silver or pear    Kirtles and sleeves
   Gold or Silver
 Silk mixed with gold or silver     Lining of cowls, partlets, and sleeves
 Duchesses, Marquises, and Countesses  Gold Tissue and furs of the sable    Gowns, kirtles, partlets, and sleeves
 Queen and her close family  Silk    Purple

A safeguard appears to be a canvas (or fancier) skirt that was worn on the dress skirt to prevent damage to the dress skirt from brambles and such

The term “Mark” means “money of account.” There was no physical coin issued but a mark was roughly work  13 shillings 4 pence. Marks where generally used in high level transactions such as land purchases, dowries, and fines. The amount of 300 marks is roughly equal to 195 pounds and 5 Pence


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