“Shaming a company for selling cheaper versions and knock offs of thousand-dollar designer items reminds me of medieval sumptuary laws. The audacity of the masses for wearing something reserved to the ruling class!” New York Times

Sumptuary laws were regulating what people could consume, often focused on what people could and could not wear limiting the use of exquisite fabrics, adornments, or even the kinds of necklines that could be worn, with a particular focus on extravagance.   Whatever their stated intent, these laws made it easier to identify which individuals had power in a society and thus helped to maintain the social order. They often prohibited disadvantaged people from wearing finery that might confuse an observer about their status in life. In England, which in this respect was typical of Europe, from the reign of Edward III in the Middle Ages until well into the 17th century, sumptuary laws dictated what color and type of clothing, furs, fabrics, and trims were allowed to persons of various ranks or incomes. In the case of clothing, this was intended, amongst other reasons, to reduce spending on foreign textiles and to ensure that people did not dress “above their station.”