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Corsets & Codpieces (ePub)

A Social History of Outrageous Fashion

Medieval History P&S History Social History Victorian Era Women of History Georgian Era Tudors and Stuarts

By Karen Bowman
Imprint: Pen & Sword Social
File Size: 103.1 MB (.epub)
Pages: 176
ISBN: 9781473869226
Published: 28th October 2015

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£6.80 Print price £16.99

You save £10.19 (60%)


As reviewed in the New York Times

 'Karen Bowman is the writer’s equivalent of a magpie, her beady eye alert for the oddest of details and the weirdest of facts in her brisk romp through a millennium of fashion’s victims.'

Read the full review here

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Have you ever wondered why we wear the type of clothes we do? Packed with outlandish outfits, this exciting history of British 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 odour.

Take a fresh look at history's hidden fashion disasters and discover the stories behind historical garments:

• How removing a Medieval woman's headdress could reveal her as a harlot

• Why Tudor men traded in their over-sized codpieces for corsets

• The ridiculous roof-raising results of four-foot high Georgian headgear

• How the 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 20th century drive for practicality and comfort. A fascinating read for fashionistas and history fans alike.

Vlog review featured online here.

Lil's Vintage World, YouTube

Provides a fascinating insight into the history of costume.

Essex Family Historian No.160

This is a delicious morsel of a book which is a delight from start to finish. Filled with wonderful and well chosen sketches, illustrations and photographs, this is a real treat for history lovers. From medieval to modern, Karen Bowman takes you on a journey through the most ridiculous and uncomfortable fashions. Tall medieval hennins (headdresses), tight corsets (often causing early deaths of women), flammable crinolines and many other strange fashions are vividly described. Bowman writes about the dark side of seemingly beautiful historical dresses, and she does it with considerable skill and a hefty dose of humour.
"Corsets and Codpieces" is a keeper and should grace every history lover's bookshelf. It's lovely.

Sylwia S. Zupanec, Amazon

For anyone interested in humanity, the growth and change of men and women over the centuries, women’s rights or simply anyone interested in clothing and design will absolutely love this book by Bowman. I highly recommend ‘Corsets and Codpieces’ for any bookshelf!

Read more here.

Queen to History

his is an exciting history of British fashion trends. From people using bum rolls and bombastic breeches to augment their figures, why Tudor men traded in their oversized codpieces for corsets, to crinolines causing a spate of shoplifting among Victorian ladies. A fun and incredible insight to how fashion shaped us and we shaped fashion.

National Archives

As featured on

Sylvia Kent's Reading & Writing Forum

A cornucopia of arcane information that will delight anyone interested in the history of fashion, this is splendidly illustrated takes us from Roman times to the 1940's, describing not only the fashions in clothing, but also explaining how dress influenced deportment and manners through the ages...

... Packed with all manners of delicious details, this is a thoroughly entertaining compendium - with a marvellous appendix made up of extraordinary items uncovered by the author in the course of her research, from the side-effects of cocaine toothpaste to the archaic form of measurement still used as the basis for British shoe sizing.

Jane Austen's Regency World, May/June 2016 - Joceline Bury

A sartorial journey through British history focusing on the unusual items of clothing people wore.

Britain Magazine

Corsets and Codpieces offers intriguing insights into the peculiarities of English dress from the ordinary to the outlandish. Bowman’s research, as well as mapping the path of fashion through history, explores the minutiae – recipes for dyes, costs of fabrics, the dangers of crinolines and the toxic effects of Elizabethan make-up – and also enlightens us on contemporary attitudes to the more eccentric styles. An absolutely fascinating read.

Author Liz Freemantle

Karen Bowman charts our sartorial history in this fascinating read for fashionistas and history fans alike.

Antiques Diary

A well-illustrated overview of changing fashions over the centuries.

Your Family Tree

A diverting and fascinating journey through the quirkier aspects of British sartorial history.

The Bookseller
 Karen Bowman

About Karen Bowman

KAREN BOWMAN is the author of Essex Girls (2010) and Essex Boys (forthcoming, 2013). She is a member of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists and has written articles for Essex Life & Countryside, Cambridgeshire Life and British Life magazines, as well as short stories for Seven Pens Press. Karen is also a frequent public speaker on historical subjects, including fashion. Her website is www.karenbowman.co.uk

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