Bloomsbury Cultural History - Status
A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Medieval Age
A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Medieval Age

Sarah-Grace Heller

Sarah-Grace Heller is Associate Professor at the Ohio State University, USA, specialising in French and Occitan medieval literature. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2017



Middle Ages



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DOI: 10.5040/
Page Range: 107–124

Every form of dress carries some indication of the status of its wearer. Status, defined most simply as social difference, is a social relationship which dress effectively makes visible to others.[1] In the period from Late Antiquity through the late Middle Ages, the relationship between dress and status was renegotiated many times. During the early Middle Ages, status divisions became broader and less detailed than they had been under the Roman Empire, and dress became correspondingly simpler, as well as somewhat less important as a status indicator. In the later Middle Ages, as finer gradations developed in the spectrum of ranks and statuses, dress became more complex in ways that enabled the display of subtler distinctions.[2] In the twelfth century, the everyday dress of aristocratic men, after remaining largely unchanged for centuries, was replaced by longer, relatively unisex garments, which by the thirteenth century were being combined in robes, or ensembles.[3] In the next century, more complex forms of dress developed, often in separate pieces, requiring choice and assembly. This new complexity, together with the incessant and rapid changes in style that began in the fourth decade of the fourteenth century, indicated an increasing importance given to dress as a status marker, and, in my view, marked the transition from dress to fashion.[4] The primary focus of this essay is thus an examination of the changing relationship between dress and status in the period from the twelfth century through the fourteenth.

The evidence for medieval clothing has its limits. Much of the evidence is representational—that is, artistic or literary—which in itself is limiting (see Chapters 8 and 9). Some of the best documentary evidence for how clothing conveys status, such as sumptuary laws, livery rolls, and wardrobe accounts, most often describes clothing materials rather than actual garments. The surviving evidence also makes it difficult to see beyond the aristocracy and the wealthier bourgeoisie. When working class or peasant dress appears in art or literature it is generally stereotyped.[5]

I have focused this discussion primarily on men’s clothing, since men’s clothes changed drastically during the Middle Ages, while the changes in women’s clothes were far more incremental. This is not to suggest that women’s clothes remained entirely static, or that women were not interested in changes in dress, but male dress was the leading force in European fashion until the eighteenth century.[6]

Change in Clothing

The visual evidence of men’s clothing from the early Middle Ages can be roughly divided into long clothing, reserved for aristocrats, and short tunics, generally depicted as featureless except for a defined waistline, which were long used by artists to designate workers or peasants. The most common long style is a draped garment, with a cloak or mantle over it. Biblical figures, saints, and kings were most often depicted dressed this way: long robes, generally made of precious fabrics, have signified majesty and gravitas in many cultures, and are often used for coronations and other investment ceremonies for this reason.[7] For similar reasons, as clerical and secular clothing began to diverge in the early Middle Ages, clerical clothing generally remained long even when secular clothing had become shorter.[8] Artistic representation further amplified the significance of long robes by using them to signal not just majesty and gravitas, but holiness and heroism as well.[9]

A second type of short secular male attire appeared sometime in the early Middle Ages, and remained in use for centuries thereafter. Consisting of a knee-length belted tunic, slightly flared and often decoratively edged at the bottom, worn over colored, decorated, or cross-gartered hose, frequently with a large square mantle, or penula, over it, what I will term the “tunic ensemble” began to appear in artistic representations as early as the sixth century, and was still represented in the twelfth century.[10] Unlike the peasant tunic mentioned earlier, this ensemble was often depicted in detail, making it possible to discern variations in fabric, color, and decoration.

While the silhouette remained largely unchanged, its significance as a status indicator changed considerably over time. Until the ninth century, the tunic ensemble, in addition to being used consistently to depict military dress, was represented as ordinary dress, in contrast both to the robes worn by men of high status and clerics, and to the worker/peasant tunic. Charlemagne’s counselor Einhard, writing a few years after Charlemagne’s death in 814, describes the tunic ensemble as Charlemagne’s preferred clothing, and classifies it as similar to that worn by “the common people.”[11]

Over the course of the ninth century, the significance of the tunic ensemble changed. In an illumination created c. 850, the men flanking the enthroned Charles the Bald are dressed in it, while in a manuscript created for him in 870, Charles the Bald is shown wearing the tunic ensemble himself, in an allegory of royalty by divine right.[12]

Over the next several centuries, increasing numbers of kings, saints, and even angels were depicted in some version of the tunic ensemble, while at the same time it remained the ordinary dress of a wide range of men.[13] Figure 6.1, from an eleventh-century French manuscript, depicts, according to the accompanying text, “kings, princes, and merchants,” as well as musicians in the bottom register, and all are wearing the tunic ensemble, though the materials vary according to the status of the wearer.[14]

In the twelfth century, dress took on new importance as a status marker. The silhouette of men’s clothing shifted: the primary garment was still a tunic, but it was long, draped, and tightly fitted. In artistic representations, the clothing is so closely molded to the body that the contours of the stomach are visible, a style of painting which art historians refer to as “dampfold” because it gives the appearance of damp clothing. Actual clothing was tightly fitted, probably by lacing, but it is difficult to know how much the revealing nature of the painted clothing was simply a convention.[15] Garments often had wide sleeves, and side slits exposing men’s legs and hose, showing off a new type of shoe with exaggeratedly long toes (Figure 6.2). Like most draped clothing, the new clothing was somewhat unisex in appearance, more than the tunic ensemble had been, and, perhaps because of this, there were some corresponding changes in women’s clothes, such as tighter fit, dropped waists, and emphasized body contours.

There is visual evidence of the new clothing from roughly 1130 on, along with confirmation in the form of chronicles written by horrified clerics.[16] The moralistic hysteria had actually begun in the eleventh century, prompted largely by changes in hair and beard styling, but also inflamed by what the chroniclers perceived as the new shortness in clothing. In the twelfth century, when clothing became longer, clerical chroniclers were equally disturbed by the new long clothing, which “swept up all the filth from the ground,” and prevented men from walking properly or doing anything useful.[17] It is clear that they are talking about young men, and the visual evidence backs this up: the wearers are shown not just as young, but as engaged in noble, i.e., idle, pursuits such as hawking.[18] The new styles were also used to depict those engaged in bad or sinful behavior, as in a mid-twelfth century illustration of Psalm 1 produced in England, in which the “ungodly man” is dressed in the newest clothing, contrasting with the godly man in his robes.[19]

Figure 6.1. Kings, princes, and merchants lamenting the fall of Babylon, Beatus of St. Sever, late eleventh century. MS lat. 8878, fol. 195r. Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Figure 6.2. Hawking (calendar page, May). English, first quarter of the twelfth century (detail). Shaftesbury Psalter. Lansdowne 383, fol. 5r. © British Library.

The vehemence of these reactions suggests that dress had taken on new meaning, and literary evidence backs up this conclusion (see Chapter 9). Twelfth-century romances often dress the high-status characters in fantastical clothing, e.g., the ceremonial robe worn by Erec at the end of Chrétien de Troyes’s Érec et Énide, described as having been made by four fairies, who embroidered on it complete representations of geometry, mathematics, astronomy, and music.[20] The implication is that dress is so important that supernatural intervention is required to adequately indicate extremely high status.

In this literature, the state of being clothed or naked, the acts of dressing and undressing, and the act of clothing someone are also imbued with status significance. Giving clothing, or the materials for clothing, to someone is an act which establishes or reinforces relative status, since the gift of clothing always goes from the higher-status individual to the lower-status individual, often raising the recipient’s status. Regular princely gifts to members of their households, termed “liveries,” appear in this period (see later).

Judging from the visual evidence, both the tunic ensemble and the new clothing existed in parallel. The illuminations in the Life of St. Edmund, from mid-twelfth century England, suggest that the silhouette of the new clothing had been partially incorporated into the tunic ensemble; they also give a very clear picture of the different status categories the tunic ensemble could represent, as shown in Figure 6.3. King Edmund, enthroned, is wearing long robes, which appear to be standard royal dress rather than the new clothing. He is distributing alms to beggars, three of whom are wearing versions of the tunic ensemble, some barelegged and some with knee-length leggings; two of the beggars are wearing wraps made of hides with the fur still attached. By contrast, the courtier at the left, who is obviously of high status, wears a tunic ensemble, but it resembles the new clothing rather than the traditional tunic ensemble, except in length.

By the thirteenth century, longer clothing for men generally prevailed—exceptions included some knights’ clothing, and, as always, the lower class and peasants—and the tightly fitting silhouette of the twelfth century had evolved into looser clothing, often worn in layers. Most often, these clothes were made in an ensemble called a robe or a pair of robes, consisting of several matching garments (see Figure 6.4): a long-sleeved cotte, surcot (often sleeveless), and a mantle, fur-lined if one could afford it (as shown on the clothespole), shorter and rougher for workers (such as those driving the beasts, lower right).[21]

Although the pictured clothing of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries still gives the impression of relatively broad status groupings, other sources indicate the beginning of profound changes in the meaning of dress and in its uses as a marker of status. Increasing attempts to control who could wear what, such as sumptuary laws, and the growing importance of clothing as a literary symbol both indicate the newly prominent relation between clothing and status.

Figure 6.3. King Edmund distributing coins to beggars, Miscellany on the life of St. Edmund. Bury St. Edmunds, c. 1130. Morgan Library, MS M 736, fol. 9r. © 2016. Photo: Pierpont Morgan Library/Art Resource/Scala, Florence.

Thirteenth-century literature paid increased attention to clothing, and the clothing was often depicted more realistically. Le Roman de la Rose, for example, a popular thirteenth-century poem, is permeated by an awareness of clothing. Dress is repeatedly used in the poem as an allegorical symbol or to represent a character trait, demonstrating the expressive qualities ascribed to dress at the time.[22]

Major changes in actual clothing took some time to respond to changes in meaning. It was not until well into the fourteenth century, after subtler gradations of status had begun to appear in European societies, that men’s clothing changed in a way that made it infinitely more capable of displaying difference. Figure 6.5, from an early fourteenth-century English manuscript, shows a number of these changes: note the decorative buttons, the individual hoods, and the pleated slits in the front of the garments. It is possible to see in this illumination changing attitudes as well: with their elegant poses, their gloves, their fancy shoes, it seems clear that the artist intends these men to be seen as fashionable, possibly foolishly so.

Truly radical change in men’s clothing began in the 1330s, when the long, draped garments of the previous two centuries were replaced by garments which were short, tightly fitted, and tailored. A French manuscript of Guillaume de Machaut’s Remède de Fortune from the mid-fourteenth century makes it clear how sharply these clothes underlined sexual difference by displaying men’s legs, and later in the century their buttocks.[23] The increasingly modular nature of men’s clothing can be seen in this illumination as well. Although detachable elements of clothing had been in existence for some time, many more elements of clothing could now be mixed and matched: upper garments, lower garments, sleeves, hoods, capelets, hose, and shoes might be both separable and in separate colors and/or patterns.

Figure 6.4. The thirteenth-century “robe” ensemble. Detail from scenes from the Life of David, Absolom with the royal concubines, c. 1250. Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment. MS Ludwig I 6, recto. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,

Another fashion element newly prominent at this time may be seen in Figure 6.6, as well as in the illuminations of Machaut’s manuscripts: decorative cutting into clothing, such as slashing, fringing, and dagging (the cutting of shaped or scalloped edges into fabric). Represented in earlier centuries as a mark of low status, dagging and fringes, along with tippets, long strips of fabric dangling at the elbows, were now a mark of fashionability, condemned by moralists and often banned or controlled in clothing regulations.[24]

The suddenness with which this completely new silhouette came to dominate men’s clothing was so rapid that the English manuscript known as the “Smithfield Decretals,” illuminated over the course of the years from 1338 to 1342, illustrates the actual movements of change, both in clothing and in the ways in which it was used to denote status.[25] The shortness of the new clothing was crucial to its fashionable status, but these illuminations suggest that the changes were so rapid that for a period of time the status implications were in flux and difficult to parse. In one illumination (fol. 310v), two knights are embracing while their attendants wait with their horses; one knight’s clothing is long, though fashionably accessorized with tippets, while his counterpart’s clothing is short and tight. In another illumination from the same section (Figure 6.7), a king is being led away by two knights, and each of the three high-status men has clothing of a different length.[26]

Figure 6.5. Men fleeing the gates of Babylon (detail), Queen Mary Apocalypse. English, early fourteenth century. Royal MS 19 B XV, fol. 34v. © British Library.

Figure 6.6. Carole, Roman de la Rose. French, mid-fourteenth century. MS fr. 1567, fol. 7r. Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Figure 6.7. King being led away by two men. Decretals of Gregory IX, the “Smithfield Decretals”. Royal MS 10 E IV, fol. 308v. © British Library.

Not only was the change in clothing sudden and profound, it ushered in an era of constant, rapid change in clothing, which lent yet another layer of status expression to dress, since it now required both money and knowledge to keep up with the changes. As a result of all of these developments, the new garments could be used to express status distinctions far more finely graded than those expressed either by the tunic ensemble or by ensembles of robes. The new expressiveness of clothing, its increased importance as a marker of status, and the increased levels of status themselves, combined with a newly available range of choices in clothing, triggered what one scholar called “an explosion of regulatory activities” around clothing, such as sumptuary laws, dress codes, and changes in the practice of livery.[27]

Sumptuary Law

Sumptuary laws intended to regulate public consumption and display in accordance with social status. They are found in many societies, and, although the emphasis of the laws varies with culture and context, they typically target food consumption, banquets, and ceremonies such as births, weddings, and funerals, in addition to their primary focus on dress.[28] Since it reflects the imagined status hierarchy of a given society, sumptuary law is an ideal vehicle for examining the relationship between dress and status. The laws that appeared in both Iberian kingdoms and Italian cities in the thirteenth century were the first non-ecclesiastical sumptuary laws in roughly 750 years.[29] From then on, sumptuary laws multiplied across Europe. The rapid development of medieval European sumptuary laws is a clear indicator of the intensification of the connection between dress and status.[30]

Concern that dress should transparently reveal social status is universal in medieval sumptuary law, as is regulation of luxurious and/or expensive materials such as cloth of gold and furs. The targets and structures of the laws vary widely, however. At one end of the spectrum is the intense focus on the materials and ornamentation of dress found in the Spanish and Italian sumptuary laws.[31] In the case of those from Florence, for example, the focus might be described as obsessive.[32] Taking the comprehensive Florentine Pragmatica law collection issued in 1356 as a case study, although there are the standard prohibitions and restrictions on valuable furs and cloth of gold and silver, the real energy seems to have gone into proscriptions and regulations of ornamented clothing, belts, and headwear. Paragraphs are devoted to the size and placement of permissible fringe and a list of the garments on which it may be worn; sleeve lengths are specified; and the function, appearance, and location of buttons is regulated to the point where it has been suggested that the placement of sleeve buttons was the clearest sign of a woman’s status.[33]

Social status is not really the focus of the Italian laws, however. It is clear that dress had become newly significant in Italy during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but the increasing social categories visible in other contemporaneous sumptuary laws (see later) were not found in these. The only ranks mentioned, other than female servants and prostitutes, are those which are specifically exempt from the laws: knights, judges, and doctors.[34] More accurately, since Italian sumptuary laws were directed almost entirely at women, it is actually the wives of knights and doctors who were exempted for the most part. There were a few laws which did apply to men, but they were still included under the rubric de ornatus mulierum, “on the ornaments of women,” and enforced, when they were, by the uffiziali delle donne, the ladies’ officials. With rare exceptions, then, Italian men could dress richly and fashionably with impunity.

And, in a way, so could women: although the Italian laws are generally thought to have been strictly enforced, the records of actual prosecutions are relatively few. Creative resistance certainly played a part, but economic interests often trumped status as well. The prohibitions had a tendency to evolve into a licensing arrangement, particularly when the commune needed money. In Florence, there was a registration and fine system in place from the first law, in 1299, and by 1373 what had been described in previous laws as “forbidden ornaments” (ornamenta vetita) became simply “robes and clothing and other things subject to tax” (robe et vestimenta et res gabellate).[35] Although there are no specific references to status as it relates to taxable clothing, it is possible that owning such clothing was in itself an indicator of status, since the garments in question were extremely luxurious.[36]

The Italian laws emanated from the governing bodies of individual communes, while Spanish laws came from the king.[37] Nonetheless, the Spanish laws resemble the Italian in their focus on ornamentation and decorated cloth, in addition to the standard prohibitions and regulations of luxury materials. The Spanish laws also limit the amount of clothing acquired per year. In a Castilian sumptuary law from the mid-thirteenth century, it is specified that no noble may have more than four “pairs of robes” per year, and the ornamentation on those is strictly limited.[38]

The king is exempted from all the limitations described, and he is also the only person permitted to wear a scarlet (escarlada) rain cloak, which reflects the unique fixation on dye and color in the Spanish laws. They specify not just what colors may not be worn and by whom, but also what must be worn in certain cases. For example, while “no squire [escudero] may wear . . . scarlet stockings, or wear scarlet, green, dark brown [brunet], pale green [pres], brown [morete], orange [narange], pink [rrosada], blood-red [sanguine], or any dark-colored clothing,” it is the duty of young knights to wear bright colors, such as red, green, and purple, because they confer lightness of heart, and avoid darker colors because they bring sadness, a notion similarly expressed in some Italian laws.[39]

The specific objects and dyes in these laws are carefully regulated by rank. There is no single graded list like those described later in the English and French laws, but the hierarchy is clear. At the top is the king, and although he is granted special privileges he is also subject to certain prohibitions, particularly those pertaining to food.[40] Below the king are his brothers—not his sisters, gender is a relative afterthought in much of this legislation—plus dukes, marquesses, princes, counts, and viscounts, all grouped together as ricos omes, and below them are the nobility and the caballeria, the knightly class. Knighthood is, in fact, the preoccupation of large portions of Spanish sumptuary law, possibly stemming from the constant need for defense against Islam. The law delimits the behavior expected of knights, both prescribed and prohibited, including colors to be worn, and even the manner in which a manto caballeroso, or knight’s cloak, was to be made, worn, and fastened.[41]

By the thirteenth century, the military ranks had developed political power as well, and, as elsewhere, additional ranks were emerging. Originally the caballeria had consisted simply of knights (caballeros) and squires (escuderos), but ultimately multiple ranks developed: there were noble knights of various degrees, knights of the lesser nobility, and, as in Italy, knights from the wealthy bourgeoisie, the caballeria urbana or villana, meaning urban/city knighthood. Urban elites were increasing in power between the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries as well, leading to the development of additional urban ranks such as burgueses, ruanos, and ciudadanos.[42]

Knights are prominent once again in the English laws, though their chronology is quite different from either the Spanish or the Italian laws.[43] The earliest sumptuary law in England was not enacted until 1337, and it was a relatively minor one with a strong protectionist slant, containing, among other things, a restriction on the wearing of imported cloth by anyone other than the royal family; it also restricted the wearing of rich furs to the royal family and the upper nobility. This was followed by a comprehensive sumptuary law in 1363 (see Table 6.1 for a breakdown of the content of this law).

At the very next Parliament, however, that law was repealed, having been in effect just over a year, and, despite repeated attempts, no comprehensive sumptuary law was passed again until 1463, exactly one hundred years later.[44] As in Florence, it would seem that economic interests won out over the need to make status transparently visible, possibly because in both cases the laws were emanating not from a ruler, but from a representative body including merchants.[45]

The originating force of the English laws belongs somewhere between the Spanish laws, emanating from the king, and the Italian laws, promulgated by municipalities. The English laws originated from petitions in the Commons, the lower house of Parliament, and then required the consent of both the upper house of Parliament and the king. The laws occupy a middle ground in terms of content as well: social gradations are far more finely parsed than in the Spanish laws, and the cloth matched to those gradations is sorted by maximum allowable price rather than decoration, but they also include some detail of forbidden or regulated clothing and ornaments.

In the law of 1337, the ranks listed below the royal family are those which are exempt from the restriction on fur, presumably those considered the higher nobility: prelates, earls, barons, knights, and churchmen with at least £100 per year from their benefices. By contrast, in the law of 1363, no higher nobility is listed at all. The thirty or so levels which are listed, carefully classified by a combination of birth and/or social rank with income, begin with wealthy knights and their ladies, and go down the social scale from there all the way to oxherd, specifying the maximum amount which each level is permitted to pay per piece (a standard measurement of cloth).

Table 6.1. The English Sumptuary Law of 1363





Best Cloth Allowed

Forbidden Items

All information from “Parliament of 1363,” in Given-Wilson, Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.

1 equivalent to £133/6/8

2 equivalent to £266/13/4 – £666/13/4

3 Clergy of rank in cathedral or collegial churches or schools, as well as royal clergy of an estate which requires furs, are to be guided by their own institutional rules.


carters, ploughmen, oxherds, “all manner of people of the estate,” all those who have less than 40 shillings in goods

blanket, russet (12 pence)

by implication, everything else.


grooms, servants of lords, as of misteries and artificers

2 marks (= £1.6.2/3) per piece

cloth of higher price, accessories of gold or silver, or embroidered or enameled, or of silk; women the same, with no veils costing over 12 pence per veil.


craftsmen, artificers, yeomen (possibly including servants of rich merchants and artificers)

40 shilllings per piece

precious stones, silk, cloth of silver, girdles, clasps, buckles, rings, garters, broochs, ribbons, chains, seals, and other accessories of gold or silver, anything embroidered or enameled or of silk, etc.; for women, no silk veils, but only those made of domestic thread, no rich fur or budge; only lamb, rabbit, cat, or fox.


esquires and all sorts of gentle folk below the estate of knight with land or rents worth up to £100 per year

clergy with less than 200 marks per year1

merchants, citizens, and burgesses, artificers, craftsmen, in London and elsewhere, who clearly have goods and chattels worth £500

4 1/2 marks per piece

silk, cloth of gold or silver, embroidery and other decorations, rings, clasps, gold brooches, ribbons, girdles, other accessories of gold or silver or precious stones, no rich fur. Women and children the same, with no fur trim


esquires with land or rents of £200 per year or more


merchants, citizens, and burgesses, artificers, craftsmen who clearly have goods and chattels worth £1,000

5 marks per piece

specifically permitted: silk and cloth of silver, ribbons, girdles, and other accessories reasonably ornamented with silver; women may wear furs except ermine and lettice, and fur trim, but no jeweled accessories except on their heads.

knights with lands and rents of 200 marks per year1


clergy with more than 200 marks per year1,3


6 marks per piece

cloth of gold, clothes furred with miniver, ermine sleeves, clothes embroidered with precious stones; for women and children, fur trim is okay but no ermine nor lettice, and precious stones only for their heads. Knights and clerks in this category who may wear fur in the winter, may wear linen in the summer.

knights and ladies with land or rents from 400 – 1,0002


no limits

no limits except no ermine or lettice, and no jeweled accessories except on their heads.

As elsewhere in Europe, in England finer social distinctions were emerging at this time, both within the nobility and below it. Only two noble ranks, earl and baron, existed at the accession of Edward I in 1272; by the mid-fifteenth century there were five. The creation of new ranks began at the same 1337 Parliament which passed the sumptuary law mentioned in Table 6.1, when Edward III created the first English duke along with six new earls.[46] It is notable that none of these ranks were mentioned in the 1363 law, though it treats much lower ranks, from oxherds and carters up through craftsmen. The primary focus of this law, though, is “the upper-middle level of the social spectrum—the knights, esquires, gentlemen, and burgesses,” to a degree far greater than their share of the overall population would suggest.[47]

Since the House of Commons at that time was composed of these very groups, this is perhaps not surprising.[48] Within these middle groups, finer gradations of rank were also developing just as they were among the nobility: the rank of esquire appeared for the first time in the law of 1363, and gentleman appeared in the early fifteenth century.[49] Given the friction that was an integral part of the increasing number of divisions within social groups, particularly the specific social groups just mentioned, it is perhaps not surprising that the law sank out of sight so swiftly and for so long.

There is a similar gap in the chronology of the French sumptuary laws, though they began earlier: two comprehensive laws were implemented at the end of the thirteenth century, one in 1279 by Philip III and one in 1294 by Philip IV.[50] There was then a gap of more than one hundred years before the next comprehensive royal law was passed in 1485.[51] In terms of content, the French laws are at the other end of the spectrum from the Italian laws: the social gradations are as complex as the Italian gradations of dress, but specific items of dress are never mentioned. What matters are the number of garments permitted to each category per year, and the maximum amount each category was permitted to pay per aune (measure of cloth).

Here too, the number of social categories was increasing. The law of 1279 lists fourteen categories, from duke down through the upper nobility, the knightly levels, and the bourgeoisie, including various categories of clergy. By 1294, the number of categories had more than doubled, to thirty-two. The increase is mainly in the ranks of knights, expanding from two groups of escuiers, divided on the basis of income, to eleven knightly categories, ranging from knight and banneret down to squires. Divisions had increased among the clergy as well, from two categories to six.[52]

Although the laws span a spectrum between emphasizing material detail and emphasizing gradations of rank, the common thread is the insistence that the two should match. “Should,” because there is also a striking commonality in the lack of enforcement evidence, suggesting that sumptuary laws were not meant as a form of actual social control. They need to be studied alongside other negotiations between dress and status, such as dress codes and livery.

Dress Codes

Dress codes and sumptuary laws are often treated as a single phenomenon, since both position dress as a means of status identification, but they differ in significant ways. Whereas sumptuary laws are proscriptive, dress codes are prescriptive. Sumptuary laws are often addressed to the legislators themselves, and frequently unenforced; dress codes are imposed from above and generally enforced. Sumptuary laws had a more symbolic purpose, whereas dress codes are more instrumental: they are a form of ingroup/outgroup identification, positive or negative.

Many medieval dress codes were negative ones, intended as visual distinction identifying inferior status groups such as Jews, prostitutes, and lepers. These groups were often branded in similar ways, and there are suggestions of the fear of pollution and contamination in many of these regulations.[53] There had been dress codes for both Jews and Christians in Muslim areas since the ninth century; by the thirteenth century identification of outsiders had been increasingly associated with the fear of pollution in many Christian countries.

In the Fourth Lateran Council of 1213, Pope Innocent III imposed unspecified distinctive dress on Jews and Muslims to prevent Christians from unwittingly having sexual relations with them.[54] Following the papal edict, dress codes for Jews (and Muslims, where appropriate) multiplied across Europe, making them roughly contemporaneous with sumptuary law, although they did not fade away in the same way that sumptuary laws did.

The details of the required signs for Jews varied: it might be a specific piece of clothing, such as red tabards for men and red skirts for women, required in Rome, or a symbol which was to be worn on all clothing, such as yellow badges (made notorious by the Nazis, but medieval in origin), or a shape representing the Tables of the Law, imposed in England, or merely a specific color, which might change over time.[55] Accessories played a part as well: earrings for women and specific hats for both women and men, worn proudly at one time, became signs of shame when imposed from outside.[56]

The question of Jewish dress codes is complicated somewhat by sumptuary laws imposed by Jews on themselves. Jews were thought by envious Christians to be wealthy and to display their wealth ostentatiously on their person, and it is not uncommon to see fashionable clothing used in art as a negative signifier for Jews (note the pleating on the Jew’s tunic in Figure 6.8, for example). The self-policing laws promulgated by Jewish leaders appear to have arisen from a desire to dispel negative stereotypes. Those promulgated by the council of Jewish leaders held at the Italian city of Forli in 1418, for example, prohibited clothing trimmed with fur, unless the fur was on the inside.[57]

Prostitutes were repeatedly required to identify themselves by their dress, particularly from the fourteenth century on. In England in the 1350s, laws, applying first to the City of London and then to the realm as a whole, required prostitutes to wear hoods of striped cloth, while forbidding them to wear most furs.[58] In Pisa, prostitutes were to identify themselves by wearing a yellow band around their heads; in Florence, veils, gloves, high platform shoes, and bells were mandated. In many Italian cities, including Siena, Ferrara, and Padua, prostitutes were specifically permitted the fashionable clothing denied to “respectable” women, apparently in the hope that the latter would reject fashionable dress for fear of being taken for prostitutes. Such regulation could have effects opposite that intended: San Bernardino relates the story of a woman who had her dressmaker copy the clothing of a prostitute, in order to be more fashionably dressed.[59]

Clerical clothing conveyed another set of status distinctions via its dress code. A recent study makes the point that clerical clothing in the Middle Ages is not simply a subcategory of lay clothing, but rather a distinct culture, with different chronology and development.[60] Distinctive dress for the clergy, generally based on Roman civil clothing, began to emerge in the fourth century, and was well established by the sixth century.[61] The clothing was quite plain at the beginning, but in the ninth century clerical clothing became more elaborate and luxurious, presumably as a way of displaying the elevated status of the upper clergy. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the relationship between clerical clothing and status began to shift. Elaborate vestments could be worn only in church, setting up a distinction between luxurious clothes in liturgical settings and plain clothes in others. At the same time, greater sartorial distinctions were being introduced within the church hierarchy, leading to more variations in vestments.

Figure 6.8. The Jew of Bourges, “Miracles of the Virgin,” the Neville of Hornby Hours. English, c. 1330. Egerton MS 2781, fol. 24r. © British Library.

This precedes, but parallels, the increasingly fine gradation in clothing appearing in lay society a century or so later. In both cases, the changes arose from the same factors: more interest in status definition through dress, coupled with increases in gradations of status and rank. It took longer for the changes to become visible in society as a whole, since clerical dress is a classic example of a dress code: imposed from above, enforceable and enforced, as opposed to the non-centralized nature of dress in the larger culture, making change slower and messier.


Liveries of clothing can reveal as much about the entanglement between dress and status as sumptuary laws. In a sense, they are the complementary opposite of sumptuary law, reflective of actual practice rather than ideal conceptions. Liveries were goods, most often food and clothing or the raw materials for clothing, distributed by princes and nobles to their households and officers in lieu of or in addition to wages. They were carefully allotted to individuals in quantities and values calculated according to finely graded degrees of status.[62]

In the twelfth century, livery was primarily a manifestation of largesse, a specific kind of generosity lauded in twelfth-century literature. Largesse was expected of the upper ranks of knights: Marie de France’s Lanval, for example, describes the joy of a magically-enriched knight in being able to dispense largesse to his household in the form of beautiful clothing and luxurious gifts.[63] The virtue of largesse was on display in the real world as well, perhaps in response to the literary depictions of it, and distributing rich gifts came to be an action constitutive of nobility, and thus a privilege.[64] In the thirteenth century, an English knight, on trial for raiding, was also accused of largesse, having been issuing liveries “as if he had been a baron or an earl.”[65]

The distribution of livery was reserved for the wealthy in any case, since it was an enormously expensive undertaking requiring a large and efficient organization: in the greatest courts distributions might involve several hundred people. There were factors in addition to largesse that motivated this enterprise, primarily the need for royalty and nobility to present the correct image. Well-dressed retainers were considered so important for the image of the king that a treatise prepared for the future Edward III of England illustrates a passage on the appearance of the king not with the king in majesty, but with the king distributing livery to his knights (Figure 6.9).[66]

Livery worked to the benefit of the recipient as well as of the giver: to be seen in the lord’s robes was considered an honor by all levels of society.[67] It was a powerful tool, and was often made use of in that way, as Edward I of England did in 1304 to force attendance at a Parliament held in a remote place. In his instructions to the keeper of the Great Wardrobe on the livery which was to be issued, he added, “we want you to understand that no one will have robes or cloth except those who are with us.”[68] Edward was able to use livery as a tool because he, his retainers, and the keeper of the wardrobe all understood that liveries were due and expected for such an occasion.[69] Because livery so clearly carried reciprocal obligations, it could also be used as a technique of power from the bottom up. It was not unheard of for the noble holder of a hereditary office, should he not receive the expected liveries, to refuse to perform the necessary service propter defectum vestium, as one late twelfth-century case put it.[70]

Figure 6.9. Knights receiving livery from the king, “Secretum Secretorum.” English, c. 1326. Addl MS 47680, fol. 17r. © British Library.

The function and uses of liveries changed over time. In courts and great households, social status began to separate from function and, as in other contexts, increased stratification began to develop, so that there was a growing need to codify the visible signs of status more precisely into livery distribution.[71] In addition to the careful matching of the amount and type of cloth and fur distributed to the rank of the person receiving it, more visible distinctions could be made by color and/or pattern, primarily stripes, and increasingly by the use of mi-parti clothing, that is, clothing made of two or more types of cloth which differed in color and/or pattern.[72]

Initially the visible distinctions were internal identifiers only. There was no particular significance to the colors chosen, and the resulting clothing did not identify the wearer to an outsider as a member of a particular household. Over the course of the fourteenth century, livery began to take on an additional dimension, ultimately becoming a sign of allegiance and affiliation clearly recognizable to outsiders.

Technical developments as well as social factors led to livery becoming a more consistent means of identification. Livery had long depended on, and perhaps encouraged, a reliable supply of textiles of distinguishable and consistent values. Once dye techniques became more consistent, it was easier to buy large quantities of cloth of the same color; once techniques for weaving many variations of stripes, checks, and other patterns had developed on an industrial scale, it was possible to create different categories that were separately identifiable. The fine gradations of identification were applied particularly to the lower echelons of the household, and certain patterns and arrangements ultimately became associated with specific statuses: striped cloth, or ray, became associated with servants, while mi-parti, originally worn by those of high rank, also became identified with lower ranks.[73]


Between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries, as social divisions in western Europe became more finely graded, status also became more fluid. The increasing slipperiness of status coincided with, and was in part caused by, the increasing commercialization of western Europe, the so-called commercial revolution of the later Middle Ages.[74] The growth of trade, and the new industries which arose in the later Middle Ages, particularly the cloth industry, affected the social structure of society, increasing the social and political presence of wealthy merchants and producing new forms of social groupings such as craft guilds, while ultimately lowering the status of weavers and other workers. There was increased friction between various strata of the social system, as groups rose and fell, gained or lost political power, and became conscious of themselves as groups.

This was particularly true in the middle and upper-middle levels of the social spectrum. While the upper nobility became more formalized, the ranks of the lower nobility, knights, and wealthy merchants were constantly in flux, changing places in a kind of giant game of musical chairs. The growth of commerce and industry also made a much larger range of goods available and produced the wealth with which to buy them, so that commodities which had once been the signs of nobility could now be purchased by anyone with sufficient means, while at the same time much of the nobility was struggling to make ends meet.

As social fluidity grew and status categories proliferated, visible markers of status took on greater and greater significance. Since a correspondingly greater variety of clothing and sartorial goods was developing at the same time, dress and clothing became of primary importance as status markers, leading, ultimately, to the dynamic we call “fashion.”

[1] S.H. Rigby, “Introduction: Social Structure as Social Closure,” in English Society in the Later Middle Ages: Class, Status and Gender (London: Macmillan Press, 1995), 1–16 (status as social difference, 12).

[2] See J. Dumolyn, “Later Medieval and Early Modern Urban Elites: Social Categories and Social Dynamics,” in Urban Elites and Aristocratic Behaviour in the Spanish Kingdoms at the End of the Middle Ages, ed. M. Asenjo-González (Studies in European Urban History (1100–1800), Book 27), (Turnhout: Brépols, 2013), 3–18.

[3] J. Crawford, “Clothing Distributions and Social Relations c. 1350–1500,” in Clothing Culture, 1350–1650, ed. C. Richardson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 153, refers to “a profound increase in the complexity of clothing practices” in the later fourteenth century.

[4] The beginning of fashion in the West is a contentious subject. For summaries of debates, see S. Heller, Fashion in Medieval France (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2007); L.A. Wilson, “‘De Novo Modo’: The Birth of Fashion in the Middle Ages” (PhD diss., Fordham University, 2011), esp. 11–13.

[5] J. Friedman, Breughel’s Heavy Dancers: Transgressive Clothing, Class and Culture in the Late Middle Ages (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010), xiii–xiv.

[6] A. Hollander, Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress (New York: Kodansha International, 1995), 6; O. Blanc, “From Battlefield to Court: The Invention of Fashion in the Fourteenth Century,” in Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress: Objects, Texts, Images, eds D. Koslin and J. Snyder (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 170.

[7] See S. Gordon (ed.), Robes of Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture (New York: Palgrave, 2001), “Introduction,” 1–19 and “Robes, Kings, and Semiotic Ambiguity,” 379–86.

[8] M. Miller, Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe c. 800–1200 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014); B. Effros, “Appearance and Ideology: Creating Distinctions Between Clerics and Lay Persons in Early Medieval Gaul,” in Koslin and Snyder, Encountering Medieval Textiles, 7–24.

[9] See L. Bonfante, Etruscan Dress (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975), 283, on “heroized” clothing; also A. Hollander, Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting (London: National Gallery, 2002).

[10] For early depictions of the tunic ensemble, see the late sixth-century manuscript known as the Tours or Ashburnham Pentateuch (Bibliothèque nationale Française ms. nouv. acq. lat. 2334), for example fol. 18; the eleventh-century Bayeux Tapestry contains many examples of the tunic ensemble.

[11] Einhard, “The Life of Charlemagne,” in Two Lives of Charlemagne, ed. L. Thorpe (New York: Penguin Books, 1969), 77, §23. See also Notker’s description, written roughly fifty years later, which includes more detail of the mantle. (Notker the Stammerer, “Charlemagne,” ibid., 132–3, §34.)

[12] Paris, BnF, ms. lat. 1, fol. 423r., “Présentation du livre”; Paris, BnF, ms. lat. 1146, fol. 2v, “Allegorie: Royauté de droit divin.”

[13] Examples of the tunic ensemble as ceremonial and/or royal dress: Heinrich der Zänker, Regensburg, 985 (Bamberg, Cod. Lit. 142, Regelbuch von Niedemünster, fol. 4v); King Cnut, England, 1031 (London, British Library, MS Stowe 944, New Minster Liber Vitae, fol. 6); King David surrounded by musicians, Italy, late eleventh century (Mantua, Lib. Bibl. Commune, ms. 340, Polirone Psalter, fol. 1).

[14] Reges terrae, principes, et mercatores”: Béatus of Saint-Sever (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Française, ms. lat. 8878), fol. 195. On widespread aristocratic use of the tunic ensemble, F. Piponnier and P. Mane, Se vêtir au Moyen Âge (Paris: Adam Biro, 1995), 71–2.

[15] See J. Harris, “‘Estroit Vestu Et Menu Cosu’: Evidence for the Construction of Twelfth-Century Dress,” in Medieval Art: Recent Perspectives: A Memorial Tribute to C. R. Dodwell, eds G. Owen-Crocker and T. Graham (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 89–108; and C. Frieder Waugh, “‘Well-Cut through the Body’: Fitted Clothing in Twelfth-Century Europe,” Dress 26 (1999): 3–16.

[16] H. Platelle, “Le problème du scandale: Les nouvelles modes masculines aux XIe et XIIe siècles,” Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 53, no. 4 (1975): 1071–96.

[17] The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. and trans. M. Chibnall, Vol. 4 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), VIII, iii, 327, p. 193.

[18] E.g., Glasgow, Glasgow University Library, MS Hunter 229 (Hunterian Psalter), fol. 3r.; London, British Library, ms. Lansdowne 383, fol. 5r.

[19] Cambridge, Trinity College, R. 17.1 (Eadwine Psalter), fol. 5v.

[20] Cf. Camille’s robe in Enéas, made by three fairies, and Blonde Esmerée’s mantle in Bel Inconnu with its fairy-made clasps. M. Wright, Weaving Narrative: Clothing in Twelfth-Century French Romance (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2010).

[21] See Piponnier and Mane, Se vêtir au Moyen Âge, 83–4; S. Newton, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340–1365 (1980; repr., Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999), 3–4.

[23] This image of Machaut reading his manuscript, BnF MS français 1586 fol. 28v (Paris, c. 1350), may be viewed at

[24] J. Friedman, “The Iconography of Dagged Clothing and Its Reception by Moralist Writers,” Medieval Clothing and Textiles 9 (2013): 121–38; A. Denny-Brown, “Rips and Slits: The Torn Garment and the Medieval Self,” in Richardson, Clothing Culture, 223–37; Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland, Textiles and Clothing c. 1150–c. 1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London (London: HMSO, 1992), 194–8. See also S. Heller, “Limiting Yardage and Changes of Clothes: Sumptuary Legislation in Thirteenth-Century France, Languedoc, and Italy,” in Medieval Fabrications: Dress, Textiles, Clothwork, and Other Cultural Imaginings, ed. E.J. Burns (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 23–4.

[25] London, British Library, Decretals of Gregory IX (the “Smithfield Decretals”), Royal MS 10 E IV.

[26] Apparently the clothing is equally confusing to modern scholars, as the British Library website identifies this illumination as a king being led away by three men; the figure on the right is a woman.

[27] Crawford, “Clothing Distributions,” 153.

[28] A. Hunt, Governance of the Consuming Passions (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996); C. Lansing, Passion and Order: Restraint of Grief in the Medieval Italian Communes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008); M.-G. Muzzarelli, “Reconciling the Privilege of a Few with the Common Good: Sumptuary Laws in Medieval and Early Modern Europe,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 39, no. 3 (2009): 597–617; L.A. Wilson, “Common Threads: A Reappraisal of Medieval European Sumptuary Law,” The Medieval Globe 2.2, article 6 (2016). Available at:

[29] There is one surviving twelfth-century sumptuary law, a regulation of furs issued in Genoa in 1157, but not repeated in the next compilation of Genoese laws. It is possible that there were others, but it is also possible that this is simply an outlier. C. Killerby, Sumptuary Law in Italy, 1200–1500 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2002), 24; S. Stuard, Gilding the Market: Luxury and Fashion in Fourteenth-Century Italy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 4; Heller, “Limiting Yardage,” 123.

[30] On southern French laws, Heller, “Limiting Yardage.” On southern Italy, Killerby, Sumptuary Law in Italy, 24–5; Heller, “Angevin-Sicilian Sumptuary Statutes of the 1290s: Fashion in the Thirteenth-century Mediterranean,” Medieval Clothing and Textiles 11 (2015): 79–97. On German laws, Neithard Bulst, “Zum Problem städtischer und territorialer Luxusgesetzgebung in Deutschland (13. bis Mitte 16. Jahrhundert),” in Renaissance du pouvoir législatif et genèse de l’état, eds A. Gouron and A. Rigaudière (Publications de la Société d’Histoire du Droit et des Institutions des Anciens Pays de Droit Ecrit, Montpellier 1988), 29–57; and Bulst, “Les ordonnances somptuaires en Allemagne: expression de l’ordre urbain (XIVe–XVIe siècle), in Comptes rendus des séances de l’année (Paris: Académie des Inscriptions & Belles-Lettres, 1993), 771–84.

[31] “In Italia,” in M. Muzzarelli and A. Campanini, eds, Disciplinare il lusso: la legislazione suntuaria in Italia e in Europa tra medioevo e età moderna (Rome: Carocci, 2003), 17–108. For Florence: R. Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1985); for Venice, M. Newett, “The Sumptuary Laws of Venice in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries,” in Historical Essays by Members of the Owens College, Manchester, eds T.F. Tout and J. Tait (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1907), 245–78; for Orvieto: Lansing, Passion and Order.

[32] Killerby lists more than 250 sumptuary laws enacted in Italian cities between the late thirteenth century and 1500, Sumptuary Law in Italy, Table 2.1. Florence produced the most: sixty-one laws, 25 percent of the total, of which thirty-three, more than half, were enacted in the fourteenth century. The sumptuary laws from other northern Italian cities are similar.

[33] Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence,” 218.

[34] See Muzzarelli, “Una società nello specchio della legislazione suntuaria: Il caso dell’Emilia-Romagna,” in Muzzarelli and Campanini, Disciplinare il lusso, 17.

[35] Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation,” 206.

[36] L. Gérard-Marchant, “Compter et nommer l’étoffe à Florence au Trecento (1343),” Médiévales 29 (automne 1995): 87–104, presents a register of licensed clothing from the mid-fourteenth century.

[37] Spanish sumptuary law remains somewhat neglected. See Mercè Aventin, “Le legge suntuarie in spagna: Stato della questione,” in Muzzarelli and Campanine, Disciplinare il lusso, 109–20, for a recent summary of the historiography; J González Arce, Apariencia y poder: La legislación suntuaria castellana en los siglos XIII–XV (Jaén: Universidad de Jaén, 1998).

[38] Cortes De Valladolid, 1258, XIII.23; translation from “A Thirteenth-Century Castilian Sumptuary Law,” The Business History Review 37.1/2:99–100.

[39] On the duty of knights to wear bright colors: Las Siete Partidas, Partida 2, Title 21, Law 18. In Reggio-Emilia, a mid-thirteenth century law required nobles to wear bright colors “to increase the prestige of the Commune” (Muzzarelli, “Emilia-Romagna,” 26); there were numerous similar laws in Venice because “it is more useful to the state to remove . . . sorrow and put in its place mirth and rejoicing” (Newett, “Sumptuary Laws of Venice,” 267.)

[40] Several clauses in the sumptuary law of Jaime I of Aragon, for example, begin their prohibitions with the words “neither we, nor anyone under us shall . . .” (nos, nec aliquis subditus noster . . .) P. de Marca and É. Baluze, Marca Hispanica (Paris, 1688), Appendix 1428–30. So far as I know, regulations which restrict the king are unique to Spain, though minor restrictions on other members of the royal family do appear elsewhere.

[41] González Arce, Apariencia y poder, 135–60.

[42] See Y. Guerrero-Navarrete, “Gentlemen-Merchant in Fifteenth-Century Urban Castile: Forms of Life and Social Aspiration,” in Urban Elites, ed. Asenjo-González, 49–60.

[43] On English sumptuary law, C. Sponsler, “Narrating the Social-Order: Medieval Clothing Laws,” CLIO 21, no. 3 (1992): 265–83; Susan Crane, Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity During the Hundred Years War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002); K. Phillips, “Masculinities and the Medieval English Sumptuary Laws,” Gender and History 19, no. 1 (2007): 22–42.

[44] See Phillips, “Masculinities,” Appendix, 33–7, for summaries of all English sumptuary legislation.

[45] W.M. Ormrod said of the rapid repeal of the English sumptuary law of 1363, the legislators “would not remain insistent on the outward trappings of social hierarchy if this proved incompatible with their own economic interest.” “Introduction, Parliament of 1363,” in Edward III, 1351–1377, ed. W.M. Ormrod, Vol. 5 of The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275–1504, ed. C. Given-Wilson (Woodbridge, Boydell Press: 2005), 155–7.

[46] He was to add three more dukes in 1362, and the additional rank of marquess in 1385. A. Brown, The Governance of Late Medieval England, 1272–1461 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), 137.

[47] Phillips, “Masculinities,” 24.

[48] From 1295 on, the lower House of Parliament consisted of two knights from each shire and two citizens or burgesses from each city or borough (ibid., 180). In the Parliament of 1363, the commons included at least 112 burgesses and seventy-four knights. Ormrod, “Introduction.”

[49] P. Coss, “Knights, Esquires and the Origins of Social Gradation in England, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 5 (December 1995): 155. On social gradation among the middle ranks more generally, see also Coss, The Origins of the English Gentry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[50] There was thought to have been a royal sumptuary law in 1229, but Heller argues compellingly that it never existed, “Anxiety, Hierarchy, and Appearance in Thirteenth-century Sumptuary Laws and the Roman De La Rose,” French Historical Studies 27, no. 2 (2004): 317, n. 23.

[51] For current work on French sumptuary laws, see especially Heller, “Anxiety,” and Heller, “Limiting Yardage”; also Bulst, “La legislazione suntuaria in francia (secoli XIII-XVIII),” in Disciplinare il lusso, Muzzarelli and Campanini, 121–36.

[52] Heller, “Anxiety,” 319–20.

[53] For regulations indicating fear of contamination by Jews in Italian cities, Diane Owen Hughes, “Distinguishing Signs: Ear-Rings, Jews and Franciscan Rhetoric in the Italian Renaissance City,” Past & Present 112 (August, 1986), 34.

[54] Canon 68. See R.I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Power and Deviance in Western Europe, 950–1250, 2nd ed. (Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007).

[55] Hughes, “Distinguishing Signs,” 21, 25; see also J. Brundage, “Sumptuary Laws and Prostitution in Medieval Italy,” Journal of Medieval History 13, no. 4 (1987): 343–55.

[56] Hughes, “Distinguishing Signs”; E. Silverman, A Cultural History of Jewish Dress (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), ch. 3.

[57] A. Toaff, “La prammatica degli ebrei e per gli ebrei,” in Disciplinare il lusso, Muzzarelli and Campanini, 91–108; see also Hughes, “Distinguishing Signs.”

[58] H. Riley, ed. Memorials of London and London Life: In the 13th, 14th, and 15th Centuries (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1868), 266–9, in British History Online, [accessed 26 August 2014].

[59] Hughes, “Distinguishing Signs”; Brundage, “Sumptuary Laws and Prostitution.”

[60] Miller, Clothing the Clergy, 4.

[61] Ibid., p. 12. See also Effros, “Appearance and Ideology,” 8.

[62] F. Lachaud, “Textiles, Furs, and Liveries: A Study of the Material Culture of the Court of Edward I (1272–1307)” (PhD diss., Oxford University, 1992), and “Liveries of Robes in England, c. 1200–c. 1330,” The English Historical Review 111, no. 441 (April 1996): 279–98; R. Delort, “Notes sur les livrées en milieu de cour au XIVe” in Commerce, finances et société (XIe–XVIe siècles), eds P. Contamine, T. Dutour, and B. Schnerb (Paris: Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1995), 361–8 ; C. de Mérindol, “Signes de hiérarchie sociale à la fin du Moyen Àge d’après les vêtements: méthodes et recherches,” in Le Vêtement: Histoire, archéologie et symboliques vestimentaires au Moyen Âge. Cahiers du Léopard d’Or 1 (Paris: Léopard d’Or, 1989), ed. M. Pastoureau, 181–224; M. Vale, The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe, 1270–1380 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), especially ch. 3.3, 93–125.

[63] “Lanval,” in Lais de Marie de France, ed. K. Warnke and trans. L. Harf-Lancner (Paris: Librairie générale française, 1990), ll. 201–14.

[64] Lachaud, “Liveries of Robes,” 282.

[65] Ibid., 280.

[66] Ibid., 286–7.

[67] Delort, “Notes sur les livrées,” 363.

[68] E. 101/366/12/97, quoted in Lachaud, “Textiles, Furs, and Liveries,” 231–2; and in Lachaud, “Liveries of Robes,” 285.

[69] On William Marshal’s deathbed (c. 1219), he insisted on distributing liveries for the last time, because his knights had a right to them. Paul Meyer (ed. and trans.), L’histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal, Comte de Striguil et de Pembroke, Régent d’Angleterre de 1216 à 1219: poème Français, 3 vols., vol. 2–3 (Paris: H. Laurens for la Société de l’Histoire de France). Modern French translation: 3:263; original, 2:312–13, ll. 18, 679–716.

[70] Cited by the hereditary seneschal of Valenciennes in 1184 as his reason for refusing to perform service on two separate occasions. Vale, Princely Court, 37.

[71] Ibid., 95, 99.

[72] See Mérindol, “Signes de hiérarchie sociale” 204–6; Vale, Princely Court, 112–13; Lachaud, “Textiles, Furs, and Liveries,” 220–40.

[73] Mérindol, “Signes de hiérarchie sociale,” 204–6; Vale, Princely Court, 111–14; Lachaud, “Liveries of Robes,” 289–93; Piponnier and Mane, Se vêtir au Moyen Âge, 161.

[74] Term coined by R. de Roover in “The Commercial Revolution of the Thirteenth Century,” Bulletin of the Business Historical Society, 1942 (repr. Social and Economic Foundations of the Italian Renaissance, ed. A. Molho [New York: Wiley, 1969]) and popularized by R. Lopez, The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950–1350 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971). See Peter Spufford, Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003); and Martha C. Howell, Commerce before Capitalism in Europe, 1300–1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).