The desire for upward mobility may be both innate and unquenchable; however, much of sumptuary legislation is concerned with defining the degrees of rank and wealth that govern the wearing of metals, textiles, colors, decorative techniques, furs, and jewels. Limitations on gold, silks, purples, lace, embroidery, sable, and precious stones are, thus, recurring elements, as are injunctions against certain fashions (including short robes, long-toed shoes or poulaines, and great hose) considered unacceptable for moral, patriotic, or economic reasons. Improving economies raised not only the earnings but also the aspirations of, especially, the merchant classes, however, and England was not unusual in its continuing reformulation of vestimentary prohibitions relative to disposable income. While the threshold most commonly cited in English law is £40, in 1337 Edward III limited the wearing of furs to those with a disposable income of at least £100, and in 1554 Queen Mary lowered the minimum for silk to £20 (although she also insisted on a net worth of £200, an amount reiterated in a Massachusetts law of 1651).

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