SNARK WEEK: Crotch-Lacing & Codflaps

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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.

Well, you’re gonna hear about it regardless!

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:

Hans Wertinger, The sick Alexander the Great and his physician, 1517.

The Wedding Dance, c. 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, has some quality examples of laced hose and codpieces.

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?

Not even Richard Armitage in Robin Hood (2006-2009) gets a pass from us. Nothing is sacred with Frock Flicks. *bites fist*

A textbook example of unnecessary lacing from Robin Hood, AND it shows that it can be a look for all genders to rock!

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.

Unlike Blackadder. Now, there was a series that never failed to commit to the codpiece.

All’s Faire in Love (2009) shows the perennial favorite of low-budget costume shops everywhere: A pair of jersey knit dance tights with a contrasting codflap sewn in the front. At least it’s actually placed correctly, I’ll give them that.

The Spanish Princess (2019) paired a subtle contrasting codflap with a nice pair of contractually obligated leather pants! Impressive! This is also a good example of the codflap being placed way too low.

Here’s another shot of the same leather pants + codflap from The Spanish Princess. You can see that the flap is just sort of tacked on over what looks like crotch lacing — so it’s a twofer!. It looks weirder than an actual codpiece, honestly. I can’t stop staring at it…

Now that I’m staring at it (can’t look away) doesn’t it look an awful lot like this codflap from The Borgias (2011)? I think those a different pants, though, so someone’s been stealing codflaps…

Oh, now here’s an excellent example of a codflap that’s so subtle that it’s basically a triangle sewing in the front of … are those jeans? Will (2017) clearly didn’t give a fuck, but we still do!

Ok, this one pains me greatly because overall The Advocate (1993) does a very good job representing the clothing of the middle and upper classes in 15th century France, but the costume department couldn’t resist the temptation of putting Colin Firth in a pair of ye olde contractually obligated leather pants any time he was seen not fully dressed. Should I be mad? Honestly, who can blame them. Firth in his prime was definitely snack-worthy.

Still Star Crossed (2017) goes for the smaller, tasteful codflap + leather pants option (or sometimes just leaves the flap off entirely).

And in the “What the Actual Fuck Were They Thinking” category, we have this single entry from Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

I can’t wrap my brain out the line of thinking that was like “you know, poofy pants look weird, so let’s not do them in this film” AND THEN DECIDED TO GO WITH PADDED SADDLEBAGS.

THEY WRAP AROUND, PEOPLE. THEY ARE WRAP-AROUND MANBAGS. HELP ME UNDERSTAND WHY. HOW IS THIS LESS RIDICULOUS THAN POOFY PANTS? NOT EVEN THE TUDORS WENT THIS FAR.

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.

I just need someone to appreciate this gif as much as I do.

 

Are you staring at frock flick crotches now? Hmmm?

 

 

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19 Responses

  1. Jill

    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!

    Reply
    • MoHub

      Absolutely! Teen girls used to stand in front of the theater and giggle at the posters.

      Reply
    • B. Durbin

      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.

      Reply
  2. Abby

    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.

    Reply
  3. mmcquown

    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?)

    Reply
    • Susan Pola Staples

      Besides the Zeffirelli R&J, complexes being awesome, did anyone notice HVIII aka Keith Michel complexes kept growing as Hank aged?

      Reply
  4. Saraquill

    With things like long swords, big guns, bigger cars, etc. in film and TV, why the fear of drawing attention to actual penises?

    Reply
  5. Lily Lotus Rose

    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. ;)

    Reply
  6. Kaite Fink

    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.

    Reply
    • B. Durbin

      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.

      Reply

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