Did anyone record opinions on codpieces?
June 19, 2016 7:47 AM   Subscribe

So codpieces were... a thing. Are there any records of what people who couldn't flaunt them, particularly court ladies, thought about dudes walking around with them?
posted by colin_l to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't know much about them, but they were mentioned briefly in Tudor Monastery Farm, a BBC special. The presenters live as though it's circa 1500, and one of the male presenters said they are for modesty. Men wore hose beneath them, and they were two separate legs, so the codpiece tied to each of the hose as a junk-covering. This gives a lot of information, especially when you get about halfway down, and mentions a 2015 dissertation by Victoria Bartels that gives information on them.
posted by serenity_now at 8:31 AM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ulinka Rublack, in her excellent history of Renaissance clothing, Dressing Up, describes the codpiece as 'the Renaissance man's Wonderbra'. Michel de Montaigne disapproved of them because, as he pointed out, they allowed men to exaggerate their natural assets with the help of a little artificial padding:
To what end do we make a show of our implements in figure under our breeches, and often, which is worse, above their natural size, by falsehood and imposture? I have half a mind to believe that this sort of vestment was invented in the better and more conscientious ages, that the world might not be deceived, and that everyone should give a public account of his proportions. The simpler nations wear them yet, and near about the real size. In those days the tailor took measure of it, as the shoemaker does now of a man's foot.
Oversized codpieces, Montaigne went on, were like the obscene graffiti that rude boys drew on the staircases and galleries of great houses: 'they give the ladies a cruel contempt of our natural furniture'. This seems to be confirmed by the fifteenth-century joke quoted by Victoria Bartels in her essay What goes up must come down: a brief history of the codpiece:
A woman was asked what kind of penises women preferred, big or small or medium-sized. She answered: ‘Medium ones are the best.’ When asked the reason, she replied: ‘Because there aren’t any big ones’.
posted by verstegan at 9:18 AM on June 19, 2016 [46 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you both. That article about Bartels' dis is fantastic.
posted by colin_l at 6:50 PM on June 19, 2016

One of the interesting things about the portrait of Henry VIII is that it was intended to draw the eye to his manhood. There were concerns about a male heir, and this portrait has two big vees in the form of his padded shoulders (V) and his wide stance (^) were intended to indicate virility. Learned about this whilst watching Wolf Hall last year. There was another program tie in about Henry and Ann.
posted by terrapin at 7:15 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

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