Clothing Distributions and Social Relations c.1350-1500
Later medieval England, particularly from the middle of the fourteenth century onwards, was witness to an explosion of regulatory activities which attempted to structure and control the production, distribution and display of clothing. Moreover, and this is less frequently noted, the more intimate and idiosyncratic sources of medieval social history also suggest that this period witnessed a profound increase in the complexity of clothing practices, especially in terms of the political life of secular society. The contours and significance of this newly emerged 'problem of clothing' in fourteenth-and fifteenth-century England, and its impact on social groups below the nobility is the subject of my PhD thesis 'Clothing Connections: Dress and Social Life in Late Medieval England'. The discussion in this essay is derived in part from my broader argument about how the antithetical outcome of regulating clothing customs and of promoting versions of hierarchical order meant that those same structures were capable of being consciously and obviously subverted.