Tudor Codpiece Definition
What exactly was a codpiece and what was its purpose? The codpiece was originally an inverted triangular section of cloth sewn into the hose around a man’s groin which would be held closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. The codpiece worn by the Tudors was padded and boned and became so large that it was used to carry small weapons or jewels hence the reference to genetalia of a man being referred to as the “family jewels”. The codpiece came into fashion during the late Middle Ages and came into prominence during the reign of Henry VIII and disappeared during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Clothing and Fashion – Reason for the Codpiece
The main garment worn during the Middle Ages was the doublet but as fashion dictated an extremely short doublet the use of a codpiece became necessary for the sake of modesty. Early hose were fitted to the leg similar to modern tights but open at the crotch which resulted in the genitalia simply hanging loose under the doublet. The origin of the codpiece was a small bag with a flap at the fork of the hose which was fastened by ties.
The Tudor Codpiece and King Henry VIII
The fashion and design of Codpieces gradually evolved to emphasize the male genitalia and were eventually padded and enlarged to astounding proportions. The codpiece became prominent during the reign of King Henry VIII who is often associated with the codpiece and this peculiar, over sized, item of clothing is featured in his portraits. Codpieces retained their practical origins and doubled as pockets.
“The codpiece was exaggerated in size, the bag was puffed and slashed, and even
ornamented with jeweled pins.” Boucher
The Decline in the fashion of the Tudor Codpiece
When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558 and she dictated many of the fashions and the fashions of men became more feminized. The codpiece became smaller, with less bombast (padding). The Tudor codpiece fashion slowly declined and completely disappeared by the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. The Tudor codpiece was replaced by a vertical opening which was concealed in folds of material.