Tag Archives: sumptuary laws

I Speak Through My Clothes

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Wolfgang Krodel – Adam and Eve

Everyone uses clothing to tell a story about themselves. We dress to communicate our identity, religion, gender, marital status, tribe or clan, sub-culture, profession, and/or social status. Some people dress to blend in and others dress to stand out. We expect that everyone will understand the meaning of our choices. Conversely, we expect to read others accurately.

Humans first started to wear clothing 170,000 years ago (warning: tied to the evolution of body lice). They made garments to protect themselves from the cold, the sun, rain, thorns, insects, and poison plants. The first evidence of ornamental clothing or jewelry is from 75,000 years ago. As humans developed better skills at farming, tanning, weaving, sewing, and metal working, they created more durable, comfortable, and decorative clothing. Clothing laws were not far behind.

The Bible has many rules about clothing. It prohibits women from wearing men’s clothing and men from wearing women’s clothing. There is a prohibition on wearing cloth woven from a mix of linen and wool. There are prohibitions on flaunting your wealth. There are modesty codes to prove piety and restrict sexuality. These rules are the Judeo-Christian origins of contemporary gender policing. Continue reading