Anti-luxury laws in Dubrovnik

For centuries, the Republic of Dubrovnik has been a renowned naval force, with a fleet of over 300 wooden ships. Trade, salt production and Dubrovnik’s economy provided the Republic with considerable wealth every year. Despite the fact that nobles could afford whatever they wanted, the government put an end to the unnecessary waste of money.

The Rector’s Palace

The development of luxury in the Renaissance period

Luxury flourished under the influence of the Renaissance, particularly in the 16th century. Everyone wanted to enjoy themselves, to build beautiful summer houses, to dress in fine costumes and adorn themselves with jewels, to organize grand parties. Minor Council senators looked with heavy hearts at how the money they had earned had been squandered lightly, so the Senate issued stern orders against luxury.

Life in Dubrovnik during the Renaissance was lived in a humble and simple style, in which the needs of life were harmonized with political circumstances. Wealth was hidden by those who possessed it, and the state issued directives on how to play modesty and even poverty to foreigners, especially those who were representatives of countries that posed a constant threat to Dubrovnik’s independence. The economy hit both the public and private sectors, while spending on clothes and similar luxury goods reached spectacular proportions across Europe. Spending money on luxury palaces, as Machiavelli advised rulers who wanted to win the respect of their subjects and neighbors, was not, however, in line with the Dubrovnik Republic’s policy. Unlike Machiavelli, the humanist Leon Battista Alberti advised the rich: never show your wealth, but hide it, and try to convince people by word and deed that you possess half of what you really have.


Women’s traditional summer costume

Haute couture restrictions in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik’s inhabitants were not allowed to wear velvet suits, and silk ornaments had to be used sparingly, so they were only used to make corsets, i.e. vests.

Gold necklaces were permitted only by knights and doctors, and shirts were not allowed to be embroidered with silk and gold.

The law also determined which colors and patterns were allowed to be worn, and the laws for men, women and girls differed too. For example, girls were allowed to decorate their heads with gold, pearls and jewelry, while women were not.


Traditional jewelry
Photo credits Nokaj Zlatarna

Let the world think we’re poor

In this age, the rich want to leave the impression that they are the poorest, which some do, so for some, everyone who knows them thinks they are extremely poor. This era gave rise to new social types, from those who turn to excessive luxury, even when they have no cover for it, to those who grovel in poverty, renouncing a life worthy of a man and at the same time worshipping, in a hidden place, stored gold. Literature also criticizes the construction of richly equipped palaces and luxurious summer houses, regarding it as an unreasonable whim of time. Obesity and wealth are observed in communion with fornication and greed.

The tiramoles

Some of the prohibitions were:

-men must not wear crimson, as only women wear it and must not wear silk.

– People dressed in more colors discover they’re divided inside too

– The long cape must not exceed half the length of the leg – The lower dress must not tangle under his feet, when walking, he must control his body, not the clothes with it.

– Purple, brown and black are recommended

– shoes without tassels

– the hat had to be the right size, to protect the head and not be extravagant. Merchants’ clothing had to be made of fabrics suitable for all seasons, both winter and summer.

A clean, regular dressing was recommended

Commission on sewing prices

Women no longer sewed alone at home, but ordered clothes from tailors. Dubrovnik’s wealthy citizens ordered and bought coats, silk pants and perfumed gloves from abroad, from Venice or Italian cities. In earlier times, coats were inherited from father to son and even grandson. The only change would be for a tailor to adjust it a little to the new owner’s measurements.

Traditional earrings with uncut pearl
Photo credits: Roginic

The new Renaissance fashions were readily accepted by women in the upper echelons of society, but also by village women. Travelers also point to the simplicity of Dubrovnik women’s clothing, hairstyles and hats. Unlike Italian Renaissance cities, where blondes were the ideal, dark-haired women were fashionable in Dubrovnik. They were only allowed to wear silk dresses on wedding days, and on other occasions they wore purple and black dresses with frequent and numerous pleats.

Opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival
Photo credits Slobodna Dalmacija

Fabrics and furs authorized by the Government of the Republic

But the woman’s instinctive desire to beautify has exceeded the limits set by the state government in this regard. Gold, silk and pearl ornaments, jewelry and luxurious fashionable dresses with bare breasts and shoulders, scarlet and white veils, as well as corsets (vests) and ribbons and ribbons on the clothes and hair of Dubrovnik’s chambermaids, were all new-age fashion challenges. Women couldn’t resist, even those of fairly modest origins or employed as servants. The state intervened with various ordinances and bans, which the people briefly respected despite severe punishments, subject to imitation of established models. The proposed provisions on restricting women’s adornment in Dubrovnik, which were presented to the Minor Council by representatives of the Grand Council in 1532, threatened serious offenders with severe penalties. The restrictions concerned both women and men, with the exception of girls and young brides, respectively. Women were forbidden to wear ornaments on their heads; gold, pearls or jewels, on pain of fine.

The authorities also passed regulations on the price of sewing, and tanners were forbidden to make women’s dresses from precious furs.

Restrictions and by age of women

All noblewomen, with the exception of elderly women and widows over the age of 50, were forbidden to wear hats in a new way (foggia nuova), except in rainy weather, when other women were allowed to wear them. In addition to the above-mentioned prohibitions, the use of silk handkerchiefs was not permitted.

In Dubrovnik today, it’s forbidden (with a fine) to walk around the old town scantily clad (without a t-shirt or pants, in a bathing suit, etc.).