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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?