Monday, March 2, 2009


     As requested by my friend Kristin Larkins, this post is simply about the codpiece.  I'm quite confident that without much explanation, you can imagine exactly what a codpiece is.  Some things never change and the codpiece is an example of this.
     Back in the 15th century, men wore doublets which were kind of like nightshirts that modern women wear except the men wore these all the time.  Doublets hit right above the thigh.  Needless to say they were pretty short so men wore hose underneath their doublets.  Similar to modern day tights, hose laced around the lower hem of the doublet to stay in place.  A pouch of fabric called the codpiece was sewn into the garment to um you know, hold the stuff in place.  Sometimes these codpieces were more prominent than others.  Like I said, some things never change!  For those curious souls, below is a picture titled "Portrait of Lodovico Capponi" by Angolo Bronzino.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Toga Party!

First off-FYI frat boys and sorority girls - the Greeks did NOT wear togas.  They wore Chitons.  If you want to impress and/or possibly alienate all of your friends host a chiton party for your next Greek event.  

In reality, the toga was worn by the people of the Roman Republic (509 BC - 27 BC).  Despite what you may have also seen at a Greek function in college or on my favorite episode of Saved by the Bell (you know, the one where Zack takes his Dad's car without permission to go to a toga party, gets drunk and crashes the car? I tried to find a picture I really did!), togas were not worn alone.  Rather, they were worn over a tunic and showed very little skin.  Speaking of tunics, now a days tunics are a garment for women whose length is in between a shirt and a dress.  In Roman times, a tunic was worn by men and women, had short sleeves and hit above the knee although some variation were shorter.

Back to the most famous one piece garment.  Togas came in all different colors which indicated one's freedom (aka you were not a slave), political status, and psychic abilities.  Yes, that's right.  Augurs were religious folk who predicted the future who wore multi-colored stripped togas.  In the first century BC, togas were restricted to male citizens of Rome.   After this time, the only women that donned togas were prostitutes or women who were divorced on grounds of adultery.  Women of status then wore a stola over their tunic and a palla, a veil like garment, to cover their head.  In the pictures below, the stola has been Photoshopped a lovely green to distinguish it from the tunic and palla.

The color coding of togas is quite extensive and if I wrote about it this post would be way too long but it is really interesting stuff.  I highly recommend anyone who is interested in this period in history look into it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A stomacher is not an adjective describing the superiority of one's stomach. Rather, it is a layer of clothing worn by women in the 17th century. Gowns in the 17th century consisted of a bodice and a skirt. As we all know, two pieces are often more practical than dresses. Doubles your wardrobe instantly.  In the 17th century, gowns were open in the front and a stomacher was worn over the bodice. Stomachers were similar to corsets as they were stiffened and had boning. For those of you wondering, the opening in the skirt was filled with a modeste.

Like most gals my age, my first introduction to a stomacher was in the book "Felicity's Surprise," the third book in the Felicity series from the American Girl Collection. Felicity was always my favorite of the (original) American Girls because her style was so awesome. If I remember correctly, Felicity gets a really fancy dress made at Christmas complete with a stomacher. In the American Girl catalog, the stomacher was reversible- one side had white details and the other had pink. I wanted Felicity's Christmas outfit more than anything and since this is real life and not a novel, I never got it. Felicity also wore a contrasting red cloak with her gown on the way to the ball which is also historically correct. Those American Girl people really do their research.
Here is a picture of two actual stomachers.  These are a bit blander than my American Girl's but hey, it wasn't balls all the time back then.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cauls, Bourrelets, and Hennins, Oh My!

When I was five, I loved the 1965 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderlla. I wore that Beta Max out. I even got in trouble in Kindergarten for singing the catchy "Impossible" and had to sit in the center of the square for the remainder of the class.
In this version of Cinderella, the ugly stepsisters and evil stepmother wear a variety of 15th Century headresses. Depicted below are three varieties of a bourrelet. A bourrelet is a padded roll similar to a crown that is worn on top of the head, covering all traces of the hairline. The evil stepmother's headdress (back row, left) appears to be a caul plus bourrelet variety. A caul is a netting that covers the head.

The stepsister on the right (not the one who uses unicorn oil to prevent her knees from squeaking at the ball, by the way) is wearing a bourrelet/hennin hybrid. Hollywood always takes poetic license when it comes to women's historic dress. In this case, they created this hybrid in order to distinguish the mother and her daughters from each other. Of course our heroine, Cinderella, just wears a rag since she's cleaning all the time or a crown at the end, showing her hair and making her more attractive than her sisters.
A hennin was typically one tall point and is what most of us conjure mentally when we think of a princess' hat. The hennin could also be flat. Both were typically worn with veils. Hennins were approximately 12-18 inches tall. Can you imagine walking around with that on your head? No, thank you!

If I were a student and had to write a fashion history paper, a good idea might be to compare the styles of clothing in various versions of Cinderella and try to place them in a certain time period.
And for those of you that have never seen this version of Cinderella, I strongly advise you to. But don't get the version with Brandy and Whitney. The music is there but the charm is lacking in my opinion.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


My first lesson is on a subject I love very much. A gigot (ghe-go’) is a type of sleeve that is also known as a leg-of-mutton. It looks exactly like you think it would. The fabric is very full at the shoulder and decreases in fullness at a fitted wrist.

A sister of the gigot is the demi-gigot which is full only from the shoulder to the elbow and then fitted from the elbow to the wrist. This style is not as appealing to me likely due to the lack of food in its name.

The leg-of-mutton sleeve was popular in women’s fashion from the Romantic period (1820 - 1850) up until the 1890’s. In the Edwardian period that followed, women’s sleeves shifted in the opposite direction. Sleeves were now fitted at the shoulder and grew wider towards the elbow. A good example of this style is the kimono sleeve.


Currently, I have a sweater in my closet whose sleeves look very much like a gigot. This could also be due to the sweater being an extra large and I am a small since its made by Candies and they aren’t known for their hip-ness. Either way, it gives the same effect and this is why I bought it (okay and it was only 8 dollars). Sorry I don’t have a picture of this for you right now.

Another modern example of the leg-of-mutton was modeled by the always fashion conscious Kelly Wearstler who judges on Top Design. Kelly put her own spin on a gigot blouse in Season 1 by pairing it was a nice plaid skirt and hair that doesn’t belong to any time period.


As much as I hate to even write her name, Kenley from Project Runway designed a dress for the Astrology challenge in Season 5 that clearly had hyper-gigot sleeves. The point of the challenge was to design an outfit that represented the astrological signs in an avant garde manner. Interestingly, Kenely was called out by Michael Kors for ripping of Victor and Rolf and Balenciaga in this challenge. She defened the outfit up and down saying she isn’t a thief (heck, she doesn’t even watch the runway shows) and swore it was avant garde. I know I didn’t take French but avant garde typically refers to something that is innovative; something we have never seen before. And as you can see, Kenley is not only a rip-off but also a good fashion history student so that’s at least one positive thing about her! Thanks and I hope you enjoyed your first lesson!


For this blog and all future blogs, I’ll be consulting “Survey of Historic Costume” by Phyllis Tortora and Keith Eubank. Thanks guys!