In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries clothes were even more important than they are today as markers of wealth and status. Fabric was enormously expensive and anyone below the rank of a prosperous yeoman would be unlikely ever to have a completely new outfit. Instead, clothes were made, adapted, handed down, unstitched and reworked to follow the newest fashion. Even royalty remodelled their silks and damasks, and good clothes were left as bequests.
Once a garment was worn out, it would be cut up and the unworn parts reused for smaller garments or household furnishings. Sumptuary laws dictated the quality of clothes appropriate to different strata of society – to wear purple if you were not in the immediate royal family was to court disaster.
Most clothes were made at home and spinning and sewing took up a good deal of time even for affluent women, although the wealthiest would employ a tailor to create their court attire.