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Historical film & TV have a real hard time with the very notion of the codpiece, often going to increasingly ridiculous lengths to avoid using them in men’s costumes, and thereby inadvertently drawing more attention to the crotch than if they’d just used the damn codpiece in the first place. Here’s an overview of some of the ways that costume designers have decided to try to tackle the problem of the … tackle … by trying to eliminate, minimize, or totally acid-trip their way around not using codpieces.
So, let’s start with crotch-lacing, which is by far the least obtrusive way for a fella secure his trousers in a historical flick. Crotch-lacing isn’t actually historically inaccurate, it’s just that the breeches or hose would be laced closed and then a codpiece was tied (or “pointed”) to the front of the breeches over the crotchular region. Let’s look at some historical examples to start us all off on the same page:
The end result of failing to commit to the codpiece is a look that seems inoffensive to the modern eye, but sticks out (heh) like a sore thumb. Typically you see crotch-lacing in combination with the much celebrated contractually obligated leather pants in historical flicks, and often on the bad boys because unnecessary lacing is how you know they’re badass, right?
So, from the humble crotch-lacing we move on to the far more endemic issue of codflaps. Now, you may wonder what the difference between a codflap and a codpiece is … Well, it is very simple. It’s a flap of fabric, typically U-shaped or triangular, that the costume designer has fitted over anything from from regular pants to dance leggings in an attempt to approximate the look of a codpiece without actually, you know, committing to it.
And in the “What the Actual Fuck Were They Thinking” category, we have this single entry from Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
So, there you have it. An introduction to one of the most common historical flick tropes that has managed to become like the Streisand Effect of crotches. The less you try to draw attention to something, the more you end up making people focus on it.
Are you staring at frock flick crotches now? Hmmm?
My fave codpieces were the ones used in the livery for the Capulet and Montague boys in Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet. Contrasting halves–hah!
Absolutely! Teen girls used to stand in front of the theater and giggle at the posters.
I think my favorite was in a stage version of Romeo and Juliet, where the theme was mixed times (the older folk wore period clothing, while the younger generally wore modern clothing.) The Montague crowd dressed in period clothing for the masquerade, turned their backs to the audience to affix their masks, turned around with superhero masks on… and matching codpieces.
Thank you for doing Snark Week this week! My almost eleven year cat is having an MRI today to see whether she has a brain tumor and having Snark Week posts to read is giving me something to do other than melting down at my desk while I wait for news about her.
Hugs. Critters are vital family members. My pooch is “not” begging for my lunch as I write this.
Sending love to you and your kitty!!
All the hugs.
In at least one of the various films of the lives and wives of Henry VIII, the codpiece has been done right. Maybe it was the one with Keith Michell (sp?)
Besides the Zeffirelli R&J, complexes being awesome, did anyone notice HVIII aka Keith Michel complexes kept growing as Hank aged?
Don’t even get me started……
also love the GIF (loved Blackadder’s mom)
The gif is reminding me of cats playing with doorstops.
With things like long swords, big guns, bigger cars, etc. in film and TV, why the fear of drawing attention to actual penises?
I loved this one. And yes, I was staring at the crotches. And for me–a definite non-expert about historical accuracy related to costumes–Will (2017) was THE WORST offender I’ve ever seen regarding costumes and just everything. What’s so devastating about it was that the head costume designer was a Downton Abbey alum–aka someone who definitely knows better! (Yes, I know the decisions aren’t all up to the costume designer.)
Also, Colin Firth is still in his prime, right? If not, I didn’t get the memo. ;)
Blackadder for the win always!!
If you can’t have accurate codpieces, then you had better be David Bowie not giving a fuck in Labyrinth and go all in. We are going to look, so make it worth our time.
I once saw a female cosplaying Jareth from Labyrinth with a stuffed front—and what she’d stuffed it with was a small stuffed cat.
Codpiece in rock music? Check out Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson…
Does your codflap hang low? Does it wobble to and fro?