The Codpiece A Celebration Of The Male Figure

The 1500s saw an interesting turn of events in mens medieval clothing. With the onset of the Little Ice Age and the period of cooling that ensued, Western Europe began adopting voluminous clothing, with women especially favoring abundant layers. But this was far from saying that fashion was entirely relinquished. On the other hand, as the Renaissance got everyone comfortable in its golden glow, fashion only got more creative.

Bursting Renaissance Opulence

While the tall, narrow lines of clothes in the late medieval period endured for just a little bit longer, the Renaissance costumes promptly set the trend in wide hips and conical silhouettes for women and a broadly square figure for men. The era ushered in a time of opulence in clothing initiated by rivals France and England, tempered only by the somber luxury that Spain displayed.

Shirts and chemises developed full sleeves and often full bodies. Pleated designs became frills, then wide ruffles that eventually led to the wheel-like ruff towards the end of the century under Elizabeth Is influence.

The prominent choice materials for Renaissance dresses of the era were silk brocades and velvets in bold patterns, usually in pomegranate or artichoke motifs. Elaborate slashing that revealed fabric of different colors, contrasts or patterns beneath the outer material remained popular. Nevertheless, contrasting fabric was used as trim on skirts, sleeves, and necklines. Red and yellow were the most fashionable colors to wear, while the trend in furs favored the silvery lynx and the dark brown sable.

Mens Fashion Sticks Out Prominently

At this glowing point in fashion, the fashion sense of Henry VIII influenced male Renaissance clothing in England. The lavish Tudors clothes gradually steered English mens fashion away from the narrow designs of the Middle Ages with wide revers and collars and large sleeves that gave strapping emphasis to male shoulders.

But perhaps most remarkable at this time is a clever piece of male accessory that made the Renaissance men jut out in pure male prominence: the codpiece.

The story that led to this bold fashion statement began with a mans hose having been created separately for each leg. This left a significant area between the legs covered only by the layers created by a mans chemise, doublet and jerkin. But when the hemlines of Renaissance clothing gradually rose (they started out at ankle length), covering the genitals became a problem.

So the codpiece began as a flap of fabric covering that most revealing gap. However, the Renaissance awakened the boldness in men, and they began to shape and pad and emphasize rather than conceal. The codpiece came at the height of prominence especially during Henry VIIIs reign, during which the armors for war even had such a bold addition, not to mention the then kings armor itself.

It was only during the last Tudor, Elizabeth I the Virgin Queens, reign that the codpiece declined in popularity and eventually fell out of use.