During Henry VIII’s reign, codpieces became so large that it was impossible for men to bend over to pull on their shoes.The sentence was provoked by a survey of Fashioning the Body
a collection of scholarly essays written to accompany an exhibition of the same name in Paris in 2013 and that will be mounted again at the Bard Center, New York from next week.
So many terrible events crashing one-upon-another this week. The beginning was my own building escaping burning down thanks to stupid tenants and building owner (prevented only by the quick work of my across-the-hall neighbor and myself calling the fire department -- yet owner still thinks making it possible for drunk young males to play with fire is an excellent thing). Yesterday afternoon four East Village buildings just like this one were destroyed in a terrible conflagration, thanks to people's greed squeezing more and more profit out of buildings that aren't equipped to handle that much gas, while refusing to hire qualified plumbers and electricians -- not to mention the constant pounding the infrastructure of buildings, pipes and lines receive from constant renovation for wealthy people and high-rise building where there shouldn't be.
The consequence of the East Village catastrophe include evacuation all around the area, hundreds of homeless, two people missing, 19 in the hospital, four with critical injuries.
At the same time, the Germanwings tragedy-crime -- and our city at least is observing cancer week, and all the media is booming non-stop the most terrible stories of people dying of the most terrible things and how it all would be prevented and / or cured if we had a decent health care system and people could afford medical care and drugs. Our foods,even organic ones, are filled with cancer-causing pesticides and our wine is filled with arsenic.
These things have rather jangled my nerves this week -- plus, el V is where communications can happen only infrequently and for very short bursts. 90 miles off the U.S. coast and we can't skype, make phone calls, and hardly can e-mail, there's so little bandwidth in Cuba, thanks to we know whom.
So this light-hearted look at our historical fashion and style preposterousities has been welcome -- the paragraph's last sentence is particularly delightful.
No sooner had codpieces reached their most gargantuan proportions than they were at risk of bursting under their own pretentions. Not for nothing did Montaigne call them silly and even worse, a kind of “falsehood and imposture”. Yet just 250 years later – a mere blink compared with the millennia it takes to produce a permanent swerve in the body’s skeleton – they were back in fashion. In the Regency period, skintight trousers for men were teamed with narrow coats (rather than Henrician puffed shoulders and barrel chests) to create a long, lean line broken by a wide buttoned flap that puckered and pouched much like an impromptu codpiece. The effect was to draw attention to the phallus while nonchalantly pretending that it was the last thing on your mind.