Paraphernalia (Gr. , besides, and , dowry), in law, all the personal apparel and ornaments of the wife, which she possesses, and which are suitable to her condition in life. The word was borrowed from the Roman law. The dos or dowry of a Roman wife was that portion which was contributed by her, or in her behalf, toward bearing the expense of the household (ad sustinenda matrimonii oner a). That part of her property, over and above her dos, which she withheld, constituted her bona paraphernalia (bona quae prazter dotem uxor habet). This property generally remained in the hands of her father or tutor (guardian), and the husband had no rights over it, except those which were expressly given him by the wife. The wife might dispose of it, or bring an action in respect of it, without his authority or consent. These, and the other rules of the Roman code upon the topic, remain without material modification in the modern civil law of Europe. - In the English law paraphernalia has acquired a meaning which limits it to the personal apparel and ornaments possessed by the wife, and which are suitable to her rank and condition in life.
It is essential that these things came to her from the husband, for articles given to the wife by any other, as by her father or other relative, or even by a stranger, are absolute gifts to her, and are secured to her separate use; but the paraphernalia are gifts sub modo. During his lifetime the husband may dispose of all of them but her necessary apparel, and, with the same exception, they are subject after the husband's death to the claims of his creditors. Nothing however but insolvency, or complete alienation or sale by the husband, will defeat the wife's right of ownership. Pledge of the goods will not suffice. Her right cannot be defeated by the husband's will bequeathing the paraphernalia. If they were in her possession at the time of her husband's death, she would hold them against his executors or personal representatives. - Paraphernalia is quite an obsolete title in American law, the common law rules on the subject being generally superseded by the provisions of state statutes; and by these the wife surviving her husband is entitled to hold her wearing apparel and personal ornaments against the claims of all other persons.