1st Edition

Rich Apparel
Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England

ISBN 9780754640967
Published July 23, 2009 by Routledge
448 Pages

USD $180.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

English dress in the second half of the sixteenth century has been studied in depth, yet remarkably little has been written on the earlier years, or indeed on male clothing for the whole century. The few studies that do cover these neglected areas have tended to be quite general, focusing upon garments rather than the wearers. As such this present volume fills an important gap by providing a detailed analysis of not only what people wore in Henry's reign, but why. The book describes and analyses dress in England through a variety of documents, including warrants and accounts from Henry's Great Wardrobe and the royal household, contemporary narrative sources, legislation enacted by Parliament, guild regulations, inventories and wills, supported with evidence and observations derived from visual sources and surviving garments. Whilst all these sources are utilised, the main focus of the study is built around the sumptuary legislation, or the four 'Acts of Apparel' passed by Henry between 1509 and 1547. English sumptuary legislation was concerned primarily with male dress, and starting at the top of society with the king and his immediate family, it worked its way down through the social hierarchy, but stopped short of the poor who did not have sufficient disposable income to afford the items under consideration. Certain groups - such as women and the clergy - who were specifically excluded from the legislation, are examined in the second half of the book. Combining the consideration of such primary sources with modern scholarly analysis, this book is invaluable for anyone with an interest in the history of fashion, clothing, and consumption in Tudor society.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction: signs of self definition: textiles in Henry VIII's England; Part I Sumptuary Legislation and the Tudor Social Structure: Costly array: the Henrician sumptuary laws; The body politic: the Tudor social structure. Part II Cloth and Clothing: Production: the English textile and clothing trades; Consumption: material choices; Rich apparel: clothing and accessories; Livery: symbol of royal, noble and military service. Part III Living Within the Law: the Landed Hierarchy: Defining the House of Tudor: the king and his family; The nobility: dukes, earls, marquesses and lords; The gentry; knights, esquires and gentlemen; The middling and lower sort: yeomen, husbandmen and labourers. Part IV Living Beyond the Law: the Exceptions: Women: wives and spinsters, vowesses and widows; The ecclesiastical elite: cardinals, archbishops and bishops; The parish clergy: priests, parsons, curates and chantry priests; Living by the rule: the regular clergy; Entertainers: players of interludes and minstrels; The secular professions; academics, lawyers and doctors; The urban elite: civic livery and the mercantile community; Conclusion: the Acts of Apparel: clothing choices and social definition; Documents; Glossary; Bibliography; Index.

View More



Dr Maria Hayward is a reader in History at the University of Southampton and she is a specialist in material culture at the court of Henry VIII. Her books include The 1542 Inventory of Whitehall (2004) and Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII (2007).


'Ultimately, this book is an important read for both students and scholars who are interested in the culture of clothing in early Tudor England.' Journal of British Studies 'There can be no doubt as to the significance of this work. It is a valuable contribution to the field of material culture covering a surprisingly neglected, but demonstrably distinctive, period.' Renaissance Quarterly ’Maria Hayward has made a significant contribution to our understanding of early modern England’s commodity culture. Her meticulously researched book contains a wealth of information that scholars will find fascinating, useful and enlightening.’ Sixteenth Century Journal