Since 2007 Tajikistan has enforced a “frugality law” restraining lavish weddings, ceremonies and other celebrations; in order to deter the formation of exceptional debts, the law specifies the maximum number of guests as well as the size of meals. The measure (that perhaps appears odd to Western sensibilities) refers to the centuries-old tradition – observed from the Middle Ages to the modern era – of establishing rules, via special sumptuary laws, restricting the display of luxury. In a strictly hierarchical society, it was necessary to ensure that people conveyed appearances consistent with their social condition. Such norms typically targeted women and their clothes, jewellery, lacework, headwear, and footwear, but also involved banquets and feasts. The author narrates a number of tales featuring the “luxury police” at work, describes customs, fashions and passions and explores an increasingly timely principle: “enough is enough!”.
Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli teaches Medieval History, History of Cities and Fashion History and Cultural Heritage at the University of Bologna.