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Sumptuary Laws

From the Latin sumptuariae leges, these laws were designed to restrict excessive personal spending and enforce a strictly hierarchical society by legislating the possessions a person might own and the clothing and jewelry they might wear based on their rank in society. Attempts at maintaining social order in this manner were common throughout history and in almost every civilization. Remnants of these attempts at social discrimination can still be observed today, for example, in the vestments worn by clergy dictated by their rank in the church or military organizations “decorating” their members according to rank. But attempts throughout history to differentiate the ranks of society through laws governing possessions, clothing, and jewelry were inevitably ignored by those with the means to purchase the forbidden items.