Faculty Advisor

Smith, Katherine

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2011


The advent of true fashion in Italy during the 1350s introduced a new system of values to a society whose members were becoming increasingly concerned with self-presentation. The new social and economic changes that arose during the Renaissance began challenging existing social hierarchies and forced groups to display their status through their apparel and be able to recognize other groups through theirs as well. As a result, during the Renaissance the regulation of clothing became a way for city officials to define different social, religious and gender groups as well as maintain the boundaries between them. This paper analyzes sources produced between 1350 and 1600, ranging from sumptuary legislation to popular literature, in order to examine the social, moral and economic motivations of clothing regulation during this period. Specifically, elite men, elite women, prostitutes and Jews are examined in this paper in order to see how each group was affected by, and responded to, such regulation. The conclusions drawn by this analysis demonstrate that an attempt was being made by the governing bodies of Italy to separate groups based on their social and moral status. This research adds to our understanding of the interactions between social, gender and religious groups of the Italian Renaissance and helps to situate the history of clothing within a social and ideological context.


University of Puget Sound