Corsets and Codpieces

  • by Karen Bowman
  • Narrated by Susan Duerden
  • 6 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Have you ever wondered why we wear the type of clothes we do? Packed with outlandish outfits, this exciting history of fashion trends reveals the flamboyant fashions adopted (and discarded) by our ancestors.
In the days before cosmetic surgery, people used bum rolls and bombastic breeches to augment their figures, painted their faces with poisonous concoctions, and doused themselves with scent to cover body odor.
Take a fresh look at history's hidden fashion disasters and discover some of the stories behind historical garments:


How removing a medieval woman's headdress could reveal her as a harlot
Why Tudor men traded in their oversized codpieces for corsets
How crinoline caused a spate of shoplifting among Victorian ladies

Karen Bowman charts our sartorial history from the animal skins first used to cover our modesty and show off hunting skills, right up to the twentieth-century drive for practicality and comfort. Corsets and Codpieces is a fascinating listen for history buffs and fashionistas alike.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A poorly researched and weirdly sexist read

Let's put aside the complete historical apocrypha frequently referenced as fact throughout and address the author's homophobia (in their disgust for the 'foppishness' of previous ages) and sexism. It's pretty bizarre that the author of a treatise on the history of fashion would spend almost all their time discussing the male reaction to women's fashion choices, particularly in the 19th century section, with absolutely zero critical eye on why these comments were being made, and almost no references to what the women themselves thought at the time. The chunk on crinolines is the most extreme example. It lacks any historical context, and implies women who died by accidentally burning to death were at fault, offering up a single article by a woman in defence if the fashion after running through literally an entire chapter of male voices decrying them and mocking women who died while wearing them. Gross.

Acknowledgement of women's contributions to a heavily female-focused art form are cursory - with the author vastly preferring to spend a majority of her time discussing the reactions of male preachers and politicians to fashion. That would be fine if she made an effort to offer any historical context of any kind, which she does not. Where sexism is acknowledged, it somehow also manages to be very strange and gross - a preacher is "within his bounds" to say bobbing a woman's hair is disgusting according to scripture, but goes "a sexist step too far" only when he makes a separate comment. I think this is an attempt by the author to acknowledge historical context, but even so, it's clumsily done and doesn't make whatever point she was driving at.

At its best the book is sometimes entertaining, but it is consistently poorly written and researched. A waste of time for anyone interested in serious discussions of fashion history in a social context.
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- Angelina Bice

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-16-2017
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio