Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



Traditional sumptuary laws, especially those government efforts aimed at regulating public attire, are often considered to be largely dusty relics of pre-industrial societies. Yet cultural legal theorists have long argued that sumptuary codes are still relevant and inextricably linked to the development of our contemporary socio-legal hierarchy. A better understanding of the primary objectives embodied in earlier sumptuary codes can shed important historical light and guidance on issues being discussed in current policy-making arenas, such as the proposed Design Piracy Prohibition Act (DPPA). The proposed law has yielded lively debates amongst legal commentators and industry professionals regarding whether or not fashion designs should be protected under copyright law. Although strong arguments exist on both sides of the issue, what is typically missing from the discussion is an adequate consideration of historical context concerning earlier government efforts to regulate dress.