I think most people are guilty of a fashion blunder – as a child I loved nothing more than to parade around in my silver Puffa Jacket which made me look like a space-age Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. From bell-bottoms to shell-suits, and our returning obsession for dungarees, Fashion Faux Pas will always come back to haunt us, eventually…read on!
1. THE CODPIECE
There was never an item of clothing more sexy and alluring than a pouch that accentuated the genital area of a man. Yes girls, the codpiece (literal translation ‘scrotum piece’). Back in the 1500’s, men wore hose (not to be confused with tights) which covered both the legs, but not the penis…this brings a whole new meaning to “freezing your nuts off” eh! As doublets got shorter, men folk began exposing themselves (cheeky!) and had to turn to the codpiece to maintain their dignity.
Giovanni Battista Moroni: It would take some serious concentration during a conversation to look Giovanni in the eye!
The codpiece began life as a simple triangle of fabric that would be tied to the hose; however, as time went on, the covering became more elaborate. Men would decorate longer and more padded versions, using the codpiece as a tool to emphasise their manhood. However, there are conflicting views with regards to the sexual connotations of the codpiece. Some believe that the extra room allowed men more freedom, and others maintain that the codpiece would have contained medication to relieve symptoms of venereal disease.
Whatever the explanation; the codpiece is certainly one of the most ridiculous looking pieces of historical clothing!
Faux Pas Rating- 7/10
2. FAKE BEAUTY SPOTS
Long before Madonna drew hers on with an eyeliner (disclaimer: I’m assuming eyeliner!), the Romans were either drawing or sticking fake beauty spots all over the show to hide scars from smallpox and acne.
Enjoying great popularity during the 17th and 18th centuries, beauty spots were not limited to ‘au naturelle’ shapes. Some ladies requested their ‘mouchete’ (literal translation…’small flies’) be made in the shape of hearts, crescent moons or even stars.
She was a two-a-day kinda gal: A woman applying beauty patches.
Beauty spots have long been used to highlight the delicacy of a ladies skin. Physical patches have been made from many materials, including; black taffeta, silk, Spanish leather, velvet and even mouse skin. I’m not sure mouse skin ‘mouchete’ would be that popular today; maybe I’ll just stick to drawing mine on with a Sharpie.
Faux Pas Rating- 5/10
3. THE CRINOLINE
If you want to make your waist look smaller, you use a corset right? Wrong. You wear a crinoline. Read on…
If you have ever seen the film ‘The King and I’ with the beautiful Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens, you will be familiar with the line “they think you dress like that because you shaped like that”. That’s because she was wearing a crinoline.
Men would have had no trouble abiding to the saying ‘Look but don’t touch’.
The crinoline was essentially a cage-like device upon which the skirt of a dress would hang. Prior to this ‘cage’, women had to layer heavy petticoats to give the impression of a small waist and wide hips.
Despite ‘slimming’ its wearer, the crinoline could be a massive hindrance…imagine fighting your way through a revolving door with a huge metal cage about your waist?! Never mind taking a walk down a pier on a windy day…you may be caught on a blustery updraft and end up fifty miles out at sea! And, there would be no chance you sitting in EasyJet economy…
Faux Pas Rating- 8/10
4. MEELS (MENS HEELS)
It is a common phrase after a night out for many a woman – “my shoes are killing me!” – once upon a time, men wore heels too…!
Next time you moan about how much your arches hurt, remember, heels weren’t actually designed for walking in! They were originally a form of riding shoe; more specifically, the Persians wore them when fighting in battle, using the heel to secure themselves in the stirrup so they could skirmish more effectively. As such, the heel became a beacon of virility and masculinity, and thus became highly fashionable across Western Europe.
As with most fashions, the aristocracy took things to a whole new level. They increased the size of their heels, although not quite reaching the dizzy heights of ‘sky scraping’ stilettos. King Louis XIV of France bolstered his small stature with 4in heels, which were decadently emblazoned with battle scenes – how jovial! Hark at the pre-Louboutin craze of the 1700’s…
Are they for men or women? Who knows, its all chop and change in the world of heels!
Then women came along and stole the heel for themselves…woe! However, more recently, the 1960s saw a return of low-heeled shoes for men-folk (huzzah!) in the form of cowboy boots! And some men chose to strut their stuff in platform shoes in the 1970s.
Faux Pas Rating- 8/10
5. LOTUS FEET
Hold on to your hats’…this one is crazy! The origins of this epic tradition are rooted in China. Legends tell the tale of a club-footed empress who demanded the binding of feet be a compulsory tradition, adhered to by the royal court!
Historical records, however, tell a different story; Li Yu, the ruler of parts of China from 961-975, fell in love with a dancer who bound her feet to imitate the shape of a new moon.
Foot binding became popular and spread from the cities and into the countryside, where ‘Lotus Feet’ could offer young girls a way to increased wealth. Men saw small feet as desirable, dainty and womanly.
So, what does foot binding entail? Mothers would take their eldest girl (usually at a young age where their bones would be softer and more ‘pliable’) and literally break their daughters toes and foot bone. They would then bind their feet tightly, after covering the skin with herbs, and repeat the process daily. Not only was this process extremely painful, but the poor girls would endure a lifetime of problems, with some actually dying from gangrene.
Pain is Beauty: Chinese woman with bound lotus feet.
I think this tops the bill of history’s worst Fashion Faux Pas…