History (NTSE/Olympiad)  

5. Clothing : A Social History

Sumptuary Law's & Social Hierarchy

(i) From about 1294 to the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the people of France were expected to strictly follow 'sumptuary laws' which tried to control the behaviour of those considered social inferiors, preventing them from wearing certain clothes, consuming certain foods and beverages and hunting game in certain areas. According to the 'sumptuary laws', 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.
(ii) The French Revolution ended these distinctions. 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 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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