Codpiece ahoy

Time for a bit of silliness. There’s a lovely chap called Ron at Fools and Heroes who’s been joking for a while about getting a codpiece for his character, something over the top, verging on ridiculous, yet still in-keeping with the time period and setting. Well, that sounded like an interesting design challenge to me (and a good excuse to make a giant padded willy)

Codpieces were only worn for a relatively short period in our history. Like birdcage hair styles, ruffs that wouldn’t fit through door frames and the dreaded shellsuit, they disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared, yet have left a lingering mark on fashion history. Henry VIII cemented the codpiece in our memory with his Holbein portraits, it’s the image of him most people still have in their minds. A large, swaggering fellow decked in furs and velvets, shapely legs spread wide, crowned with their padded glory. Such a marvellous accessory, yet it started as just a sensible flap of fabric to cover the gap between hose.

codpieceslashesI’ve used the basic codpiece pattern in the Tudor Tailor for the main body. I increased the size a little, and exaggerated the.. ahem.. curvature. The slashes are roughly in same place too, but I’ve narrow hemmed mine with red thread and stitched over the edge in gold with a blanket stitch. Instead of lining the whole thing, I gathered some gold satin (polyester, lining from one of my mums old jackets) onto two pieces of the stiffer red fabric shaped to back the… bulbous codpiecegathersfront section. I used a nice furrowing technique from Manipulating Fabric to get a real over the top plushness. It’s a brilliant book, you should buy it. While you’re waiting for it to be delivered though, this technique involves cutting a piece of fabric twice the size of the backing. You then stitch around the edges and gather it to size, match centres and tack down the gathered fabric to the backing to control fullness. You can keep going, matching further fractions accurately, or just go by eye. The more tacks, the more ripples, less depth. Less tacks, less ripples, more depth. I just kept tacking till it looked right, the tacks ended up roughly 1cm apart.

codpiecebeadwordI’ve used some stump work techniques to work a sword down the… err…centre front seam. The sword is the symbol of Crowa, the Goddess of battle in Fools and Heroes. Rons character is one of her priests. I covered some stiff interfacing, cut to blade and handle shapes, with the gold satin then stitched them in place with the smallest stitches possible, keeping them hidden beneath the satin. I reinforced the blade section with a gold thread line of backstitch down the middle. The handle has additional beadwork for that bling factor, a mixture of red and orange seed beads and other pretties from my hoard.

codpiecesecretI wanted to add something a little extra, a bit of a surprise. More is the new less, isn’t it? Or did we go back again? Anyway, a secret little pouch in the… top centre… seemed like a brilliant addition. It’s the same gold satin, and sized to hold a potion bottle neatly. I’m quite curious to see if he can manage enough of a thrust to make it work with a Holy Water of Crowa… errr… or maybe not. I dressed up a little glass potion bottle with a gold wire twist and some beads so it could nestle down safely in the padding and still be pulled out easily.

The back piece is quilted with a heavy bit of fabric inbetween the layers. As Ron doesn’t wear hose I put eyelets in each top corner and the lower point so he could play around with different options to attach it. He seems quite chuffed with his new… little friend… and I’ve had lots of requests for similar pieces in different colours. I’m not sure I want to be the woman who flooded Fools and Heroes with padded braggards though. I think I’ve managed to walk the line between in character silliness and out of character silliness quite well. I stuck fairly close to historic looking notions and fabrics, and kept the colour scheme simple. Fingers crossed, it’s not going to be one of those things I think is brilliant at the time but look back on in horror.

Remember to check the gallery for more pictures.

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