Friday, 22 March 2013

Corsets, Crinolines and Codpieces Part 4

A Male Problem!

Another unique renaissance fashion that this time was born out of necessity was the codpiece.The dictionary describes it as an appendage like a small bag or flap at the front of a man’s breeches:
‘Cod’ from Middle English meaning scrotum.
The fashion for shorter jackets exposed the hip area this necessitated joining the hose together at the top.
A crude but workable version is seen in Pieter Breughel’s painting ‘The Land of Cockaigue’

The Land of Cockaigue 1567 by Pieter Bruegels

From  Bruegels painting The Wedding Dance in the Open Air

In this painting a more three dimensional codpiece is shown..perhaps to celebrate the occasion!

Antonio Navagero 1565 by Moroni

There are many versions of why the codpiece developed from a serviceable flap  into a fashion accessory. 

One is that the hose became so tight when joined around the hips that it restricted movement, another is that it was added for sanitary reasons but soon  developed into something else, a protuberance which called attention to the male anatomy. Another more serious explanation was that syphilis was endemic at that time and that the exaggerated codpiece contained medication for the relief of the symptoms.

Edward III, King of England 1327- 1377, had the codpiece of his amour enlarged to astounding proportions because he had heard that the strength and military prowess were correlated with a man’s ‘endowment’.

At this time not only was this an outward display of virility used to display an aura of strength to your enemies, but to present an image to people that providing an heir would not be a problem, certainly this could have been a reason for Henry VIII to adopt this fashion as seen in the portrait by Hans Holbein 1535

Here Henry VIII wears a knee length doublet open at the front to expose the codpiece which was padded and decorated to draw maximum attention to it.

And here are two modern versions of the codpiece. 

Oderus Urungus of GWAR

Watch out for Part  5....Crinolines

Corsets, Crinolines and Codpieces Part 3

Extremes of Fashion...Hennins and Footwear