Another reason for sumptuary laws
was to protect a nation's manufacturing sector. Laws in England,
for example, that initially prohibited the wearing of any silk were
amended to prohibit the wearing of Italian silk. "What is distinctive
is that the shift from the discourses of luxury to protectionism
moved imperceptibly: it is only at the end of the process that it
is apparent that the sumptuary context has entirely disappeared
from the legal norm to be replaced by discourses of economic and
national interest" (Hunt, 418). As Hurlock (297) points out, "during
the 16th century [...] velvet caps, made from material coming from
Italy and France, were the stylish headgear for men. To encourage
home production, England passed a law compelling all persons over
six years of age, except those of high position, to wear woolen
caps, made in England, on Sundays and all holy days. This law remained
in effect for twenty-six years and was very powerful in building
up the English woolen industry."
Protectionism accounts for many of
the world's more recent dress sumptuary laws. In the U.S. it is
illegal, for example, to purchase goods, such as clothing, from
Cuba. In fact, the election of many political officials in the U.S.
(particularly those living in major textile states such as South
Carolina) has been secured by the romantic credo "Buy American."
In other recent cases, restrictions on dress have served to express
political belief systems. Only forty years ago, Mao Tse-tung prescribed
clothing (the famous "Mao jacket") for his "cultural revolutionaries,"
erasing all visible signs of class, and with it individuality, and
personal expression. Who knows what our political climate will be
tomorrow, so make the most of your freedom while you have it, and
-Baldwin, Frances E. Sumptuary
Legislation and Personal Regulation in England. Johns Hopkins
University Studies in Historical and Political Science, vol. 44.
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1926.
-Currie, Elizabeth. Prescribing Fashion: Dress, Politics and Gender
in Sixteenth-Century Italian Conduct Literature." Fashion Theory
4 (2000): 157-178.
-El Guindi, Fadwa. Veil: Privacy, Modesty, Resistance. New
York: Berg, 1999.
-Hunt, Alan. "The Governance of Consumption: Sumptuary Laws and
Shifting Forms of Regulation." Economy and Society 25 (1996):
-Hurlock, Elizabeth B. "Sumptuary Law." In Dress, Adornment and
the Social Order, edited by Mary Ellen Roach and Joanne Bubolz
Eicher. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1965. -Joseph, Nathan.
Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communication Through Clothing.
New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.
-Phillips, Joana W. and Helen K. Staley. "Sumptuary Legislation
in Four Centuries." In Dimensions of Dress and Adornment: A Book
of Readings, edited by Lois M. Gurel and Marianne S. Beeson.
Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1975.
-Rhead, G. Woolliscroft. Chats on Costume. London: T. Fisher
Unwin, Ltd., 1919.
-Ross, Edward A. Social Psychology: An outline and source book.
New York: Macmillan Co., 1919. The Mead Project. 20 December