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Sumptuary Laws of France

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Sumptuary Laws of France - Lesson Summary

From 1294 to the time of the French Revolution in 1789, there existed laws that were strictly followed by the French. These laws were known as the ‘sumptuary laws’. These laws put restrictions on the lower classes of society.

They prevented them from wearing certain clothes, consuming certain foods and alcohol and hunting in certain areas. The number of clothes that a person could buy in a year was also regulated. Even the fabrics that people could use for clothing was governed by law.

Only the royal class wore expensive material like ermine, fur, silk, velvet and brocade which reflected aristocracy while, the lower classes were forced to wear clothes made from cheap materials.

With the French Revolution, these existing dress codes began to vanish.

Members of the Jacobin clubs proudly called themselves ‘sans culottes’, meaning ‘without knee breeches”. They wore loose and comfortable clothes that distinguished them from the men belonging to higher classes and royal families who wore knee breeches.

The colours of the French national flag - blue, white and red - were a common favourite to express their feeling of patriotism. People now wore simple clothes to express their idea of equality.

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