The Return of the Codpiece

PeacockNicola here, wondering if there are any fashion items from centuries gone by that are so outrageous they could never make a come back. Last week I read a very interesting article about the hot new trend for feather hair extensions. Peacock feathers are especially popular and as the trend grows from simple feathers to grand pieces, I'm reminded of those extraordinary creations made with ostrich plumes that ladies wore in the 18th century. It might not be long before we see those again. 

But surely there are some things that could never come back into fashion. Take the codpiece, for Henry8codpiece example. A codpiece is defined as a pouch attached to a man's breeches or close-fitting hose to cover the genitals, worn in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here is a picture of Henry VIII wearing one of his; this is relatively modest. There are some truly frightening images out there.

Originally the codpiece was designed specifically to hide the genitals when a man was mounting his horse. It’s a pouch, richly embroidered and lavishly upholstered, its shape deliberately designed to suggest virility. The codpiece was not anatomically correct (!) but the large size was intended to intimidate other men rather than impress women. A huge codpiece suggested that here was a man who could stand up and sport a pair of well-filled hose. Not only that, but it had a practical use as well. A man could keep his keys or coins in it.

Inevitably, there are records of men childishly competing to see who could create the best codpiece shadow until this was banned after ladies complained of what a chronicler of the time called "a very long and lewd codpiece of a barbarous and very impolite shape.” The codpiece died out in the 16th century but I doubt it's ever going to be forgotten.

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