Clothing the Naked in Late Medieval East Kent
Like the other papers in this section, my essay examines the relationship between clothing (appearance) and identity (behaviour), looking at what was expected in terms of legislation or prescribed texts and how individuals actually sought to use these ideas in their relationships with others. Although the other papers are concerned with the later sixteenth century, they draw on attitudes and concerns voiced in the late Middle Ages, the period under investigation here. This essay examines the role of clothing in post-mortem charitable gift-giving in late medieval east Kent, in particular how clothing was employed by donors in their pursuit of salvation and the consequent relationship which developed between the benefactor and beneficiary. Clothing is seen to mark social and economic distinctions between the rich and the poor, but at the same time to function as a means of connecting them in an interdependent relationship. Furthermore, the rich used clothing as a badge of worthiness to pin on the poor, visually demarcating the 'good' poor from the idle beggar by giving clothing gifts only to the former.