And Now, Some Important Historical Knowledge About Codpieces 

In Depth

Stop whatever you’re doing because: incoming codpiece news. Hot codpiece scoop. Fresh codpiece facts.

The Guardian reports on the research of Victoria Miller, a current PhD candidate at Cambridge University. She’s writing her dissertation on military touches in 16th century civilian dress, but in a presentation for an upcoming conference, she’ll take some time to explain this most maligned of historical fashion statements.

Miller looked at writing and visual art from the period when codpieces were en vogue, concluding that these odd accessories began as something imminently reasonable but quickly swelled to comical, unmanageable dimensions: “It came into fashion as something really modest, a triangular piece of fabric. In the first couple of decades of the 16th century it started to be stuffed,” she explained. “Then it got to epic proportions, some more phallic, some more testicular or ovoid in shape.”

One did not stuff one’s dick inside. So unless you were suiting up for battle, at their absurd height, codpieces were pretty much straight-up peacocking:

“Some people in the field have been looking at the remains of 16th-century graves, and have found tiny fragments of codpieces. From this we know that the genitals weren’t placed inside. They were like a pocket, almost. They were purely decorative. There are accounts of men pulling out oranges from them to impress the ladies, according to Rabelais,” she said.

The ultimate m’lady, right there. Basically an IRL dick pic delivered via DM. Because nothing says romance like an orange warm not from the Mediterranean sun, but rather from your own body heat.

In the end, despite their fame, codpieces were only around for three-quarter of a century or so. Miller suggests they were displaced by another fashion, something called the “peascod,” which “was a style of doublet constructed by skilful use of padding and stuffing to achieve a rounded and tapering look akin to the fecund shape of a peapod ripe for picking.” Trends have always been inscrutable. For more on the history of codpieces, you can read this writeup from Cambridge.

Oh, and for the Wolf Hall fans out there, you should know that Miller thinks the codpieces are entirely too discreet:

“They’re way too small to be accurate – they should be at least double the size. You can kind of see them there, but they aren’t really stuffed, and are easily missed – they’ve really toned them down for a mainstream audience. The codpiece was meant to draw the eye to the general region.”

Guess the producers didn’t think you could handle the genuine article.

Photo via Getty.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin