Type: Contribution to book
The material regulation of fashion : sumptuary laws in the early modern world
Christopher BREWARD, Beverly LEMIRE and Giorgio RIELLO (eds), The Cambridge global history of fashion : from antiquity to the nineteenth century, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2023, Vol. 1, pp. 148-190
RIELLO, Giorgio, The material regulation of fashion : sumptuary laws in the early modern world, in Christopher BREWARD, Beverly LEMIRE and Giorgio RIELLO (eds), The Cambridge global history of fashion : from antiquity to the nineteenth century, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2023, Vol. 1, pp. 148-190 - https://hdl.handle.net/1814/75869
Retrieved from Cadmus, EUI Research Repository
This chapter begins by providing a broad and global panorama of sumptuary laws. Far from being a prerogative of Europe, they were present in areas as different as Japan, China, and the Americas. The main part of the chapter deals with two issues: first the ways in which sumptuary laws reflected on the material world that they aimed to shape and govern: body and dress form here a material entity that needs to be considered together to explain innovation (fashion) and excess (luxury). Second, it investigates the ways in which the ‘material regulation’ of sumptuary laws related to the political economy of medieval and early modern states. The remit considered is much wider than simple economic control and includes consideration of the ‘commonwealth’ – the harmonious working of a society. States most commonly used sumptuary laws as cautionary measures though infrequently they actually enacted the letter of the law. This was especially the case in times of perceived crisis when the balance between the power of the state and the action of its subjects was considered unstable. The chapter concludes by arguing that over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and most especially in Europe, this ‘material regulation’ gave way to a new kind of ‘immaterial’ system. States were no longer interested in governing materiality - or perhaps were unable to - and developed instead a new language of governance that was abstract: material goods became typologies, and instead of controlling the social behaviour of citizens, legislators focused on the application of abstract principles.
Published online: 04 August 2023
Cadmus permanent link: https://hdl.handle.net/1814/75869
Full-text via DOI: 10.1017/9781108850353.008
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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