Sumptuary laws, designed to regulate a wide range of expenditure and ritual practices, became a characteristic feature of European societies in the late Middle Ages. These laws reflect the impact of a burgeoning consuming class whose ability to consume beyond the necessities of life was a relatively new phenomenon. These new consumers were seen to pose a variety of social, economic, political and moral dilemmas to the ruling classes. Though most laws targeted clothing, and that of women in particular, any analysis of sumptuary law needs to attend to the differing roles of clothing in the lives of women and men. Sumptuary laws were often finely calibrated to individual social situations and are a rich source of information about the consuming habits of late medieval Europe.