We girls love to dress up, right? At least I do every now and then!
For many of us, I think it’s fair to say that it’s exciting when we get the chance to dress up for a special occasion.
For me, I think there’s a little escapism involved. I love the fact that if I’m dressing up for something out of the ordinary, I can ditch the work attire or the going shopping attire or the whatever-I’m-normally-wearing attire.
Essentially, for a little while, I can ditch part of the person or lifestyle that usually embodies me.
And I’d wager that for many, the chance to dress up supersedes the actual occasion of dressing up.
For example, in my last year of high school, one of the hot topics for discussion amongst my friends – actually for most of the female student population – was what we were going to wear to the Formal (or the Prom for my American readers!).
And call me crazy, but looking back, I really think my school formal was seriously overrated. My memories of the occasion aren’t exactly vivid.
And I’m not like, old or anything.
But the memories that are vivid are the discussions with my friends preceding the formal. Of being huddled around a table in the library, pretending to be working on an assignment, when really what we were focused on was whomever of us had finally ‘found’ our dress.
Why were we so excited about it what we were going to wear? Was it the chance to pretend that for one night, we weren’t high school students, but something more? Like something almost akin to a celebrity or princess?
These questions have been forming in my mind as I’ve been researching for my story that’s set in the Medieval period.
And I’ve discovered that for some people (namely the peasants), they never had the opportunity to dress up.
Well, duh, you may be thinking. They were peasants!
Except that after the Black Death, when roughly a third of Europe’s population was wiped out, peasant workers raised their prices as demand for their work increased.
Which meant that some peasants – whom in the past had nothing – were now finding themselves to be a little cashed up.
And what do you do when you find yourself with a pay increase or a bonus?
If you’re really sensible and all that, you probably put it into savings or something financially…sensible.
Or you splurge and buy a new outfit!
Except English peasants in the late Middle Ages who splurged their newfound cash on a new outfit ran the risk of running into trouble with the law.
Now, that’s not if they bought an outfit that was just a new and improved version of their everyday work clothes. But if they decided to buy something that was a bit say, nicer, a bit not-so-peasant-like, they were headed for trouble.
That’s because the nobility decided that they didn’t want the peasants dressed as anything but peasants. So Sumptuary laws were passed that meant no one could dress in clothes that didn’t pertain to their class.
So if you were a labourer, you were only allowed to wear cat or rabbit fur. No matter how good business was.
So while I still hold the view that my school formal was a little overrated, I’m sure glad that every now and then, I have the opportunity to dress up. And for a few moments or hours, I get to forget about the demands and drudgeries of life, and pretend that my life is a little glamorous and sophisticated.
What does dressing up mean for you?
And if you were denied the chance to ever dress up, would that be a big deal for you?