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The Right to Dress
Sumptuary Laws in a Global Perspective, c.1200–1800


Ulinka Rublack, Giorgio Riello, Isis Sturtewagen, Bruno Blondé, Maria Hayward, André Holenstein, Eva I. Andersson, Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Catherine Kovesi, Luca Molà, Amanda Wunder, Francisco Bethencourt, Adam Clulow, Rebecca Earle, Robert DuPlessis, Matthew P. Romaniello, Madeline Zilfi, BuYun Chen, Katsuya Hirano, Toby Green
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  • Date Published: February 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108469272

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About the Authors
  • This is the first global history of dress regulation and its place in broader debates around how human life and societies should be visualised and materialised. Sumptuary laws were a tool on the part of states to regulate not only manufacturing systems and moral economies via the medium of expenditure and consumption of clothing but also banquets, festivities and funerals. Leading scholars on Asian, Latin American, Ottoman and European history shed new light on how and why items of dress became key aspirational goods across society, how they were lobbied for and marketed, and whether or not sumptuary laws were implemented by cities, states and empires to restrict or channel trade and consumption. Their findings reveal the significance of sumptuary laws in medieval and early modern societies as a site of contestation between individuals and states and how dress as an expression of identity developed as a modern 'human right'.

    • Offers a new view of social change and the history of human rights by focusing on the regulation of dress in history
    • Challenges the current view that ordinary people before 1800 were uninterested in expressing identity through clothing
    • Includes more than fifty illustrations, vividly bringing to life a much neglected field of inquiry
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This brilliant and truly global collection of essays show how ingeniously and even courageously people used clothing to subvert systems of rank, from Paduan dandies arrested for the splendor of their dress to a Mohawk chieftain's self-display in a British frock coat.' Ann Rosalind Jones, Smith College, Massachusetts

    'A fascinating view of how especially townspeople of some means received the orders of their superiors, conforming, stridently negotiating the details, or quietly ignoring the rules of dress. In the end, the authors remind us people's right to dress as they please is part of a utopia of liberty that today seems more remote than ever.' Suraiya Faroqhi, Ibn Haldun University, Turkey

    'When did clothing become a crime? This collection of essays by leading experts shows how anxiety over expenditure and ownership is a long-standing global phenomena. Ranging across Europe and its colonies, and extending into the Chinese, Russian and Ottoman empires, this book brings to life the complexities of sumptuary laws and their application.' Evelyn Welch, King's College London

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108469272
    • length: 523 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 30 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    List of figures
    List of maps
    List of tables
    List of contributors
    The Right to Dress: The World of Sumptuary Laws, c.1200–1800 Ulinka Rublack and Giorgio Riello
    Part I. Sumptuary Laws in Medieval and early modern Europe:
    1. The right to dress: sartorial politics in Germany, c.1300–1750 Ulinka Rublack
    2. Playing by the rules? Dressing without sumptuary laws in the low countries from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century Isis Sturtewagen and Bruno Blondé
    3. 'Outlandish superfluities': luxury and clothing in Scottish and English sumptuary law, fourteenth to the seventeenth century Maria Hayward
    4. Regulating sumptuousness: changing configurations of morals, politics, and economics in Swiss cities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries André Holenstein
    5. Dangerous fashion in Swedish sumptuary law Eva I. Andersson
    Part II. Enacting Sumptuary Laws in Italy:
    6. Sumptuary laws in Italy financial resource and instrument of rule Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli
    7. Defending the right to dress: two sumptuary law protests in sixteenth-century Milan Catherine Kovesi
    8. Against the sumptuary regime: sumptuary prosecutions in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Padova Luca Molà and Giorgio Riello
    Part III. The European Maritime Powers and their Empires:
    9. Luxury, novelty, and nationality: sumptuary legislation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain Amanda Wunder
    10. Sumptuary laws in Portugal and its empire from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century Francisco Bethencourt
    11. 'Splendour and magnificence': diplomacy and sumptuary codes in Early Modern Batavia Adam Clulow
    12. Race, clothing and identity: sumptuary laws in colonial Spanish America Rebecca Earle
    13. Sartorial sorting in the colonial Caribbean and North America Robert DuPlessis
    Part IV. Early Modern World Empires:
    14. 'Grandeur and show': clothing, commerce, and the Capital in early modern Russia Matthew P. Romaniello
    15. Women, minorities, and the changing politics of dress in the Ottoman Empire, 1650–1830 Madeline Zilfi
    16. Wearing the hat of loyalty: imperial power and dress reform in Ming Dynasty China BuYun Chen
    17. Regulating excess: the cultural politics of consumption in Tokugawa Japan Katsuya Hirano
    18. Sumptuary laws in precolonial West Africa: the examples of Benin and Dahomey Toby Green
    Select bibliography

  • Editors

    Giorgio Riello, University of Warwick
    Giorgio Riello is Professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick and Chair of the Pasold Research Fund. He is the author of four books, including Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World (Cambridge, 2013) which won the World History Association Book Prize 2014. In 2016 he received the Iris Foundation Award for his contribution to the Decorative Arts and Material Culture.

    Ulinka Rublack, University of Cambridge
    Ulinka Rublack, FBA is Professor of early modern European history at the University of Cambridge, and is a Fellow of St John's College. Her previous books include Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Early Modern Europe (2011), which won the Bainton Prize. She is co-editor, with Maria Hayward, of The First Book of Fashion (2015).


    Ulinka Rublack, Giorgio Riello, Isis Sturtewagen, Bruno Blondé, Maria Hayward, André Holenstein, Eva I. Andersson, Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Catherine Kovesi, Luca Molà, Amanda Wunder, Francisco Bethencourt, Adam Clulow, Rebecca Earle, Robert DuPlessis, Matthew P. Romaniello, Madeline Zilfi, BuYun Chen, Katsuya Hirano, Toby Green

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