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Saturday, 7 August 2010

- Part 4: The Impact of Fashion on the Law

The Impact of Fashion on the Acts of Apparel, and Vice Versa

With such importance being placed on the clothes you owned, were entitled to wear, and might wish to wear, one can understand only too readily that there might always be a race to stay ahead of legislation. The minute something became forbidden it would have a two-fold effect – for those with plenty of disposable income and the inclination to do so, one could create a new fashion which would subvert the legislation. For those that simply aspired to such items, publication in a proclamation might make them all that more desirable.
If you attended the theatre regularly, you would be able to see the latest fashions, and this could lead to greater impetuous in trying to out-do your neighbour, if you had the money to compete. On another level, it would simply add to the level of spectacle and excitement of attending the theatre. The Citizens Wife in Beaumont’s Knight of the Burning Pestle claims that she has been waiting some twelve months for her husband to take her there, clearly for some this represents an important social outing.

Looking at the earlier example of the woollen cap, one might see additionally that some items would become unfashionable very quickly. If one wanted to keep up with society, one merely had to choose the appropriate playhouse for your means, and step into the arena.
It's in this way that clothing references within the plays become most pertinent – they reflect the changing state of fashion, they satirise those who would appear fashionable, and simultaneously introduce new fashions. In the constant recycling of clothing something handed down from Court to a theatre might find its way into street fashion very quickly. It also gives the playwrights an unparalleled opportunity to mock the audience, and the social types within London, in plays such as the City or Citizen’s Comedy genre.

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