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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Used Clothing in the Sixteenth Century

In the United States, once an article of clothing or a toy is taken out of the store, it depreciates by about 98%.

It was not always so. Here are the findings of Andrew Gurr, who writes on Shakespeare.

A pair of silk stockings might cost £2 or £4, depending on the quality and purchaser. A woman's gown might cost anything from £7 to £20 or more. The Earl of Leicester* paid £543 for seven doublets and two cloaks, at an average cost for each item rather higher than the price Shakespeare paid for a house in Stratford.

I got this paragraph from a wonderful book by Ann Jones and Peter Stallybrass called Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory.

They detail the value of used clothing in the Renaissance marketplace. An amazing reminder of relative value and shifting value(s).


metscan said...

A part of me misses the times, when clothing, etc. for "normal" people was not so easily available. Stores had 2 main seasons. Winter and summer. Shopping in between was rare ( if I remember correctly ). The quality of clothes was better, and people took better care of their clothes. Clothes were changed amongst the family, relatives and naturally they finally ended up to those, who needed everything badly. We have lived the phase of buying more than we need. Some have noticed, that things have to change. And I agree. More of something else, less shopping.

Funny about Money said...

Interesting. If she's writing about the 16th century, then Leicester was Robert Dudley. His nephew, Robert Sidney, became Earl of Leicester after James acceded to the throne.

He racked up vast amounts of debt and died in debt. As I was doing research at the Kent Archives Office for his biography, I came across receipts and account books the phenomenal amounts of money that he paid for clothing, some of which was very elegant, indeed.

But what really put the man in debt was house renovation. He and Lady Barbara poured tons of money into improving Penshurst and building its gardens, making their clothing bill for the junkets to court appear as nothing.

Plus ca change, eh?

Frugal Scholar said...

@metscan--This is so true. I used to work in a shop that sold clothing from the 1930's to 60s (vintage shop). Some items still had the tags on--clothing was very expensive! So we honored it more.

@Funny--OOOHHHH yes Robert Dudley! I wonder if he was as adorable as the men who've played him--Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes.