Archives for posts with tag: Underpants

Benozzo Gozzoli,affreschi S.Agostino, S.Sebastiano1464-5,S.Giminiano

Benozzo Gozzoli, Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, 1465c, San Giminiano, Italy

It’s not an easy topic to cover, underpants…

As the word implies they are ‘under’ pants or trousers or breeches, according to which era you are looking at. Investigating the history of Renaissance men’s underpants is complex. Primary sources are scarce: practically no surviving underpants, some documentary sources and limited visual material.

In Christian medieval Europe, representing naked – or nearly naked – men was frowned upon. Things got better with the Renaissance and the revival of classical ideals of beauty. Portraying nakedness in the name of art was not only acceptable, but became fashionable among Italian Renaissance artists especially. As most art commissions were still religious, artists had to find the appropriate themes where they could include naked bodies (which by the end of the 1400s they were studying assiduously and reaching exhilarating results. See Michelangelo Buonarroti).   ‘Christ on the cross’ was popular , but in terms of dress, not useful to us as the figure of Christ followed an iconographic convention which showed him naked with a cloth draped across his loins. Fortunately, Renaissance artists liked to place religious themes and stories within a contemporary context. Thus we have representations of saints being flogged, stoned, burned and, as in the case of Saint Sebastian, shot with arrows at close range.  Usually these saints are represented as normal citizens, stripped down to their underwear. For a dress historian this is as close to a real pair of Renaissance men’s underpants as one gets.

A survey of images of semi naked saints produced between the 1400s and the 1500s brought some interesting results: two types of underpants seem to have been in use and were being represented at this time. We could say, in general terms, that the style worn was related to fashion and hence to social class. According to the perceived social class of the saint (these saints were ‘transposed’ into the contemporary with great artistic licence), they were shown wearing either baggy pants or close-fitting briefs.

Baggy pants were worn by the lower classes or by men who did not wear tight-fitting, fashionable clothes :

Giovanni di Paolo,Battesimo,1440s,Esztergom

Giovanni di Paolo, group baptism, 1445c, Esztergom cathedral,  Hungary

In the above scene the three men being baptized have stripped down (others are in the process of doing so), they wear the long-legged, gathered, linen under trousers which had been in use since barbarian  times.

A mid-way version  existed, as represented bellow:

The_Martyrdom_of_St_Sebastian

Anon Bavarian artist, Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, second half of 15th century

Saint Sebastian was usually represented as an upper class man. In this image we see that he has retained some of the dignity of his status through his fur-lined hat, still on his head. His underpants are a kind of modern-day ‘boxer short’ gathered at the waist line and reaching down to the top of his thighs. The textile used is a fine soft linen, we can imagine these shorts would not have been too bothersome under his long gown, visible on the ground under his left foot.

By the last quarter of the 1400s  European men’s fashion aimed at a very close-fitting silhouette. Doublet (jacket/coat) and hose (thigh high socks) were skin-tight. The ideal of a perfectly harmonious, healthy  and agile body was back from ancient times. Clothes reflected this ideal. As the doublet shortened, the genital area and the buttocks were in danger of becoming visible at every move, especially as tailors had not solved the mystery of how to make tight-fitting breeches(trousers). The two socks, or legs, were still  separate until the last decades of the 1400s, when they were eventually sewn together center back. The young man on the far left of the image below shows this ‘body conscious’ fashion at its best:

0168A_06A

Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy

Tailors invented a way of covering the offensive area (the preacher San Bernardino da Siena often raged against this indecent fashion from his pulpit). Tabard or poncho-like covers with a hole for the head and fabric long enough to cover up front and back. As worn by the young man in profile in the image below:

0168A_18

Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief (detail) , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy

The same series of reliefs made for Cremona cathedral in northern Italy gives us perfect evidence of what was worn beneath this style of clothing

Amadeo Giovanni Antonio, formelle per l'arca dei martiri persiani, 1480-2c, duomo  Cremona ,part 2

Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, marble relief (detail) , 1480-82c, Cremona cathedral, Italy

Of the three saints being flogged in the above image, two wear real underpants in the ‘brief’ style. These would have been made out of  linen and cut on the bias to assure a minimum of stretch, yet reduce the bulkiness of the fabric. Perfect under the tight-fitting hose.

Northern European artists also represented saints in underpants during this period:

The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

Mater of Jacques of Luxemburg, ill. manuscript (detail), Saint Sebastian, ,1466-70, J.P. Getty museum USA

In the above image the artist is careful to represent the construction of the underpants: there is a central section gathered at the waist to create a sort of ‘pouch’, while the rest is smooth and probably cut on the bias.

master of the acts of mercy,austrian,martydom st Lawrence,1465c,met NY

Master of the acts of mercy, Austrian, martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, 1465c, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York USA

The artist of the above image represents tiny briefs in a dark colour, unusual but not unique:

anon german woodblock, St Sebastian

Anon, hand coloured  wood block print, 1460-70c, Munich, Germany

The only surviving pair of briefs I have found from this period is Austrian and it is believed to have belonged to a woman as it was found alongside a bra-like garment. After seeing so many ‘briefs’ worn by men during this period maybe we should not take it for granted that these were a specifically female garment. Maybe there is an interesting story behind these pants too.

pants, Austria Lengberg Castle, 15th century

 

Linen underpants, found at Lengberg castle, Austria. 15th Century.

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I am re-posting this piece on men in underpants from last year. Time to get back onto this interesting topic once again. Soon I will post a follow-up on this: Renaissance underpants!

Aspertini Amico, madonna e santi, 1508-9c, mus naz Villa Guinigi lucca

 

Aspertini Amico, Madonna and saints, 1508-9, museo nazionale Villa Guinigi, Lucca, Italy

Did men wear underpants in the past? well some did and some didn’t. The ancient Greeks abhorred this item of clothing defining it as “barbaric” and unhygienic. The Romans adopted them in extremis to keep warm in the northern outposts of the Empire. They took the idea from the barbarians who wore tunics and trousers as their costume. But under the toga a roman citizen would have only worn his tunic which served as outer garment/undergarment, often even slept in at the end of the day. A fresh tunic would have been put on after the daily ablutions.

With the middle ages the barbaric custom prevails and soon all men wear underpants under their tunics (as well as an under shirt/tunic). Very simple in shape, made of linen and held up at the waist with a draw string. Baggy and comfortable. the peasant in the mosaic is working in the field in the summer heat and has stripped down to his underpants

peasant, mosaic, 12 th Century, St Philibert Abbey, Tournus, France

peasant, mosaic, 12 th Century, St Philibert Abbey, Tournus, France

Everything changed once men started wearing clothing that was closely constructed to the body. By mid 1300s we get into the western pattern cutting era and a new age of male body consciousness. Baggy underpants are out, skin-tight briefs are in.

Martydom of St Stephen, illuminated manuscript, 1380c, Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Martydom of St Stephen, illuminated manuscript, 1380c, Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Ok I am bored of underpants now. We’ll leave the topic aside after today and move on to other stuff (but we will come back to it I promise)

I am re-posting this piece on men in underpants from last year. Time to get back onto this interesting topic once again. Soon I will post a follow-up on this: Renaissance underpants!

Aspertini Amico, madonna e santi, 1508-9c, mus naz Villa Guinigi lucca

 

Aspertini Amico, Madonna and saints, 1508-9, museo nazionale Villa Guinigi, Lucca, Italy

Did men wear underpants in the past? well some did and some didn’t. The ancient Greeks abhorred this item of clothing defining it as “barbaric” and unhygienic. The Romans adopted them in extremis to keep warm in the northern outposts of the Empire. They took the idea from the barbarians who wore tunics and trousers as their costume. But under the toga a roman citizen would have only worn his tunic which served as outer garment/undergarment, often even slept in at the end of the day. A fresh tunic would have been put on after the daily ablutions.

With the middle ages the barbaric custom prevails and soon all men wear underpants under their tunics (as well as an under shirt/tunic). Very simple in shape, made of linen and held up at the waist with a draw string. Baggy and comfortable. the peasant in the mosaic is working in the field in the summer heat and has stripped down to his underpants

peasant, mosaic, 12 th Century, St Philibert Abbey, Tournus, France

peasant, mosaic, 12 th Century, St Philibert Abbey, Tournus, France

Everything changed once men started wearing clothing that was closely constructed to the body. By mid 1300s we get into the western pattern cutting era and a new age of male body consciousness. Baggy underpants are out, skin-tight briefs are in.

Martydom of St Stephen, illuminated manuscript, 1380c, Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Martydom of St Stephen, illuminated manuscript, 1380c, Bibliotheque Nationale de France

Ok I am bored of underpants now. We’ll leave the topic aside after today and move on to other stuff (but we will come back to it I promise)

Before you think I am weird go see the previous blog and you will know what this is about.

So what happened in Europe once Christianity arrived, did they or didn’t they wear underpants? well things get difficult for the dress historian here due to the proximity of underpants to genitals and the reproductive organs. Anything to do with sex quickly became taboo, which means we are very short on images and even written evidence on the wearing of underclothing.

But here is something interesting. Have a really good look at the figure on the far left, inside the hut ( and while you are at it the guy sitting next to her).

Yes she is not wearing underpants and yes her genitals are on show. The question is WHY?.  Possibly a reference to staying indoors during the winter months, keeping warm and having sex. But back to underwear: with the use of long linen undershirts women did not generally wear underpants (except at that time of the month). The T shaped undergarment  was enough, it hid the woman “shame” and absorbed sweat and body odor. Linen could be boiled in hot water or scrubbed on riverside stones, unlike wool or the silk used for outer clothing by the higher classes.

Limbourg brothers, month of February, Les tre Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, 1412

Limbourg brothers, month of February, Les tres Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, 1412

 les-tres-riches-heures-du-duc-de-berry-fevrier-february-detail
Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc Du Berry

linen underpants, 15th century, Lengberg castle, Germany

linen underpants, 15th century, Lengberg castle, Germany

Ok they are in bad shape despite excellent conservation, but they are an amazing find (found with other underwear) and they are from the same period as the above image.

So in conclusion we can say that some women did and some women didn’t wear underpants in the middle ages.