Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, March 31, 2008

Digging into the Mystery of History's Contraceptives & the Curse of Eve

***Warning, some vulgar words are used in this post --- not for the faint of heart or underage crowd***

Red dog on a white horse, Auth Flo, monthly courses, little visitor, Bloody Mary, indisposed, the rag, vapours, time of the month, cramps, collywobbles, period, menstruation, no matter how you put it they all mean the same thing and it ain’t pretty.

When you read a book the most information they give you is the female was indisposed, or she has her monthly courses. In the case of nobles, the ladies maid checked the sheets for spots of the stuff. King’s had spies that would check to see if his wife was bleeding…I sure wouldn’t want anyone spying on me during that time of the month.

They didn’t have tampons and maxi-pads back then either, so what did they use when the Curse of Eve was upon them?

This is where the term “on the rag,” comes from…women used to have strips of cloth rags they would use during menstruation to catch the fluids. It was pretty simple, and not much different than now. Commercial sanitary napkins didn’t come around until the late 1800’s.

Tampons have been around as a medical device since the 1800’s as well, but they were used to stop the bleeding from bullet wounds. It wasn’t until around 1930 that the applicator and string were attached and began being marketed for feminine use.

Also it has been noted in several places that women of the lower classes would use nothing, and one woman was even quoted as saying how disgusting it was to bleed into her chemise day after day. Needless to say, lots of strong perfumes were used…as bathing wasn’t a regular practice. (shudder...)

A period meant a woman was fertile, and that she was not currently with child. It was also considered very unsanitary, made worse by the church. A woman who was experiencing her collywobbles, was encouraged to keep to herself. Her husband would be warned to stay away from her and she was not aloud to attend church.

Now that we know a little bit about a woman’s indisposition, what types of methods were used to make sure she kept on having it? I’m talking about contraception.

The Pill wasn’t invented to stop pregnancy until 1960, and while we know coitus interuptus was evident even in biblical times, there had to be more than that right? Of course! We are sexual beings and if we can think up something to keep us doing it, you know we will!

As far back as 1550 BC, woman would mix together concoctions, soak a handful of wool, and then place it in the vulva, the mixture would be quite effective. Other various soaked sponges have been used throughout history as well. Pessaries of elephant and crocodile dung were introduced in the second century…there is no way I would have put animal feces near any part of my body…

Another popular pessary in Victorian times was the wooden block. Ouch! It had concave sides and was inserted into the vagina. However in the 1930’s it was condemned as an instrument of torture…uh, you think?

There were also various herbal remedies that could be used as a drink to prevent pregnancy or work somewhat like the morning after pill.

Moving on to penis protectors, you know the condom. Every thing from animal intestines and skins to fine linens and cloths have been used to cover it up. Many of these sheaths needed to be soaked before use. Casanova was famously known for using condoms. The name condom supposedly comes from a Dr. Condom, who used to make cloth sheaths for King Charles II, however many believe this to be false.

The first rubber condom was made in the 1850’s, hence the term “rubbers.”

So now that I’ve informed you of the various methods of birth control, I leave you with this…

Wiener wrap, French tickler, French letter, armour, roadblock, pecker pack, protection, cervical sponge, Dutch cap, love glove, jism jacket, cock sock, jolly bag, Mr. Happy’s business suit, nightcap, sheath, shag bag, raincoat, life saver…

*Not all of the words above were in use throughout history, however some were too weird, unusual or funny for me not to share with you.*

The Polls Are In!

Did Prince Arthur Tudor and Catherine of Aragon consummate their marriage?

66% Hell yeah they did!
19% No way!
14% We’ll never know...

Monday, March 24, 2008

'I have spent this night IN Spain'

One of the biggest controversies in European history, one that would change the face of religion in England, is whether or not Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII, and his new wife Catherine of Aragon, ever did the deed.

Here are the known facts, at the time of marriage, Arthur was fifteen and Catherine just shy of sixteen years old. Prior to the marriage, Arthur had stated that he found his new wife to be pleasing to him and that he was feeling 'lusty and amorous.' It was also perfectly acceptable for two people of such a young age to be married and engage in sexual intercourse.

The couple were put to bed as was customary in the day. The following morning a joyous Arthur loudly proclaimed his need for water, that he had 'spent the night in Spain' and being a husband was very 'thirsty work.'

There are some that say he may have made these comments to cover up the fact that he hadn't been able to do his deed, but why would he? We know how boisterous and proud Henry VIII his brother was, what's to say that Arthur was not the same when it came to sexual prowess?

The young couple shortly after the marriage moved to Wales where they took up their duties as Prince and Princess of Wales at Ludlow Castle. There they remained for six months until Arthur's death. If Arthur was so weak and sickly why would he be sent to live at the drafty, cold, remote castle?

It was after his death, with the help of her duenna Doña Elvira, that Catherine was able to say the marriage had not been consummated. (However Catherine and her duenna were never close, and she ended up betraying Catherine later in life.)

Historians say that Arthur was frail. What evidence they have is not clear other than he wasn't a great sportsman. The causes of his death are really unknown, and have been attributed to the 'sweating sickness' that claimed many lives during that time. Others who believe the marriage was consummated say Arthur expired from overexertion.

Whatever the uncertainty is, a pregnancy did not result from her short marriage to Arthur, and she became pregnant almost immediately upon wedding Henry VIII.

The Pope believed the marriage had never been consummated and issued a dispensation saying that her marriage to Arthur was not consummated and she was free to marry his brother Henry VIII, however that wouldn't happen for about eight years after Arthur's death. We don't know if Henry thought she was a virgin on their wedding night or not. We do know that in order to set her aside after twenty-four years of marriage so he could wed another, that he did believe she'd slept with Arthur.

Many say that Catherine was such a pious woman, honest and religious and that she would never lie about whether she consummated her marriage with Arthur. If she said she didn't, then she didn't. But we also know of her strong conviction. She was an extrememly powerful woman, and very smart. She knew that if she conceeded to having slept with Arthur that she could indeed be set aside. That her daughter the heir to the throne would be claimed illegitimate and her marriage to Henry VIII annulled. She would not have admitted to such a thing knowing how it would hurt her daughter's future.

What do you think? Did they or didn't they?

The Polls Are In!!!

Would you ride naked through the streets for a good cause?

61% Yes
38% No

Which chocolate do you like better?
27% Lindt & Ghirardelli
18% Godiva & Hershey’s
9% Nestle

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Legend of Lady Godiva

Does the name Godiva ring any bells with you? If you’re thinking of chocolates…well I’m right there with ya, except I am talking about the woman who inspired Joseph Draps to name his chocolatier Godiva.

Lady Godiva, or by her given Saxon name, Godgifu, Countess of Mercia was married to Earl Leofric of Mercia.

The couple came to Coventry, then a teeny weeny town of Coventry, and in 1043 founded a Benedictine priory. Lady Godiva is said to have given many gifts in honor of the Virgin Mary, by melting down her own gold and silver that were then made into crosses and other spiritual pieces.

The legend says Leofric taxed the people of Coventry harshly, and that many people would plead with Godiva to ask him to lower the taxes. Leofric repeatedly denied her requests. Then one day, fed up with her nagging him about it, he turns to her exasperated and says, “I’ll lower the taxes when you ride through the town naked on your horse!”

With a serious face Godiva says, “Do I have your permission to do so, husband?” Leofric already annoyed beyond belief says yes. Little did he realize that his headstrong wife would actually strip down, climb onto her horse and ride through the village. Now here is where stories differ.
One version says that all the people of the town were ordered inside and were not to look at her as she went by, and another version says all the towns’ people in the marketplace averted their eyes. In both of these versions there is a man named Tom. Tom decides he wants a peek, that naughty boy. He peeps at the beautiful Godiva riding in her birth-day gown (suit didn’t sound right…) down the street, hence the term “peeping Tom.” However the first story of the peeping perv didn’t come out until the 1700’s…

Needless to say, a stunned Leofric lowered the taxes. Edward I, was fascinated with this story and actually had an investigation done to see if it really happened. According to ancient documents, the taxes were lowered at that time.
Coincidence or did someone get naked?
In 1057, Leofric died and was buried in one of the porches of the Abbey. His title went to their only son Aelfgar who died in 1062 leaving the title to his son, Eadwine who was only fourteen at the time. His younger brother Morkere gained the earldom of Northumbria in 1065.

Godiva kept her lands, and continued to possibly rule them until her death. However both of her grandsons would have their lands taken from them by William the Conqueror.

Lady Godiva’s death is not exactly known. It is most definite that she died before the Domesday Book was commissioned in 1085, however we know she died after William conquered England in 1066.

It is noted from the Domesday book, completed in 1086, that Godiva, had holdings in Leicester, Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire that had not yet been re-granted to anyone else, since at the time of the book she had already passed.

She must have been a very popular woman, and held a lot of clout for William the Conqueror to allow her to keep all of her lands. Most lands were stripped from the noblemen, as was evidenced by her two grandsons. Most women were tossed aside or abused.

We know for certain that Lady Godiva existed, as for the legend, there have been many conflicting arguments. For one thing, it was not recorded until nearly two hundred years after it happened. Also, when this event was supposed to have occurred, Coventry was still a small town with only about 50 working people living there.

Whether or not it’s true it is a fabulous tale, and one the people of Coventry love! Each year a pageant is held that follows the route of the legendary lady. The picture on the left is a statue of Godiva riding on her horse in Coventry.

So is the Legend of Lady Godiva myth or reality? What do you think?

Happy Monday!

The Polls Are In!!!

Alright you all voted last week and here are your results! Thanks to all those who participated!!!

If you had to be clean shaven, which method would you rather use?
62% sugaring
25% a Perret razor
6% seashells
6% threading
0% a flint rock

Do you think a man looks sexy with…
68% Clean shaven
25% a goatee
6% a beard
6% a mustache
0% cut up stubbly face, lol

Monday, March 10, 2008

Historical Methods of Hair Removal

Ladies, have you ever forgotten to shave your legs, underarms or bikini area, then donned an outfit that showed your hairy figure perfectly to the world?

Men have you forgotten to shave your face, rolled out bed when the alarm clock didn’t go off and then showed up to work looking scruffy and stubbly? Or oh know! You didn’t wax your back before going to the beach…

We’re talking about hair removal today, and when it came about and why it’s so important. I’m giving you a very short version of history, but you should be able to get the basic ideas.

Hair removal didn’t start just yesterday, or even a hundred years ago. It has been around since caveman times. Although some things have changed, mostly which part of the body we’re removing hair from, the techniques have only been honed a little with technology.

Removing hair from the head and face of men was originally not for vanity purposes but for survival. It is known that not only cavemen did this but ancient Egyptians as well. There have been speculations that for safety, scraping off the beard and hair on the head would take away the advantage of an adversary having anything to grab onto. For cavemen it was possibly known that those with less hair had less mites, hence scraping the hair from the face.

Now I keep saying scrape…why scrape? Well they didn’t have Gillette or Bic back in the day…They would take sharp rocks, sea shells or flint blades and literally scrape the hair from their faces. I’m sure not only hair came away...um…OW!!!

The ancient Egyptians were known to have better forms of razors made of flint or bronze. They also used a method of depilatory called sugaring. A sticky paste (bees wax was sometimes used) would be applied to the skin, kind of like waxing. Then a strip of cloth was pressed onto the paste and yanked off, removing the hair.

There is a rumor going around that women have only been removing hair from their legs for the last hundred years or so. Well that is true for American and European women. The fact that removal of body hair for Europeans wasn’t popular gives sense to the fact that American women didn’t shave, because most of the immigrants were European. However in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Middle Eastern countries, removing body hair was important. In fact these women removed most of their body hair, except for t the eyebrows. Egyptian women removed their head hair. Having hair down under was considered uncivilized. Now any men reading this should know the women were not the only ones to remove their pubic hair…

It was also considered uncivilized for men to have hair on their face. Having a scruffy face meant you were a slave or servant, definitely of lower class. Is that why corporate guys and politicians always have clean shaven faces? Do we associate a clean shaven face with someone powerful?

In the ancient Roman Empire, hair removal was often seen as an identifier of class. The wealthy women would remove their body hair with pumice stones, razors, tweezers and depilatory creams.

(Check out this painting that was painting in the 1800's by French painter, William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Venus is devoid of body hair, and you will notice in most paintings throughout history the women are void of body hair...)

There was also another technique used called threading. The women would take some string or yarn and lace it through the fingers of both hands, then vigorously rub it on the area therefore tugging, ripping, pulling the unwanted hair away…

We do know European women did not engage in body hair removal during the middle ages. In fact it wasn’t until Elizabethan times that Euro women began the practice of hair removal…except they didn’t remove leg, armpit or pubic hair…they removed their eyebrows and the hair from their foreheads to give themselves a longer brow.

This look was so fashionable that it is said, mothers would often rub walnut oil on their children’s foreheads to prevent hair growth. They were also said to use bandages covered with vinegar and cat’s poo. Gross!

The Perret razor was invented in the 1760’s by French barber, Jean Jacques Perret. It is an L-shaped wooden guard that holds the razor and is supposed to reduce the damage done to skin (ex: cuts!) when shaving.
(left picture)

However it wasn’t until the 1880’s that a much safer razor came along. Meet King Camp Gillette. He wasn’t a king, that was just his name. He was an American businessman, and in case you didn’t recognize his last name, he was the inventor of the Gillette razor. (right picture)

In 1915, the first women’s razor came out. It was in this same year that an edition of Harpers Bazaar magazine came out with an issue featuring a model wearing a sleeveless dress and *gasp* no hair in the armpits!

Thus started the ritual we have today of shaving away the unwanted hair.

So what do you think? Do you like shaving? Wish it wasn't a big deal? Check out the polls on the main page...

Have a great week!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Polls Are In!

Thank you to everyone who participated in last weeks polls! Here are the winners:
Which type of underwear would you rather wear?

50% Modern
25% Victorian
18% Commando
6% Regency
0% Medieval

Which movie do you think is more historically accurate?

71% Pride & Prejudice
14% Braveheart & Marie Antoinette
0% Casanova & First Knight

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What's Covering Her Lady Parts?

While men’s undergarments changed very little over history, women’s has changed drastically!

Just think what Queen Elizabeth I of England, would say if her ladies maids handed her a lacy thong and bra. She’d be spitting mad! Although have you heard of the Victoria’s Secret diamond bra and underwear? She may not have been as mad if they tried to put that on her… I bet if Katherine of Aragon had come to Henry VIII’s room with a diamond bra and panty set on, Anne Boleyn would have had a hell of time trying to turn his head!

Today I will deal strictly with the Medieval, Regency and Victorian eras, roughly the years 1200 – 1850. Let’s start off with the ultra-sexy smock!

Women in the middle ages, wore a garment called a smock, later renamed chemise by the Normans, which is French for shirt. The term was very fitting, because a chemise is basically a very long shirt, or today would look like a woman’s slip. It was a flowing piece that reached the ankles and had long sleeves, over time it shortened in length and in sleeve. In the 1300’s it would become a little more snugger to show off the figure. It was often made of a thin fine linen or silk material. She would not wear any ‘panties’ under the chemise. Yup, she was naked as the day she was born.

Could you imagine? I won’t get into what happens when she’s having her monthly you know what…but I will discuss it in a later blog...

Historians are unsure if women wore stays (corset) in the early medieval days or not. There has been some hinting to it, besides dresses being so narrow of waist it is hard to imagine they didn’t have one, but also an illustration of a demon who was wearing a corset, which was done in the 12th century.

This picture to the right shows a woman wearing a chemise worn under a corset.

We do know that stays or corsets were worn later on and still worn today, although it isn’t a part of women’s fashion. Some women today wear them to slim their waists, and others wear them for sex appeal. They were quite popular in the Elizabethan eras as well as the Regency and Victorian times. Corsets were made out of linen fabric that was stiffened with busks of wood or whalebone. It was then laced up the back. Depending on the style at the time, the corset would either flatten the breasts, or push them up to enhance them. Throughout history these contraptions, being tied so tightly, have been the subject of jokes (check out the cartoon below) and were a great risk to the health of women.

Pain is beauty, and for some women, it was painful to live. As it is today, being thin was popular in the past as well. Just so popular in fact that women would lace themselves so tight they could hardly breath, and would pass out. Don’t even think about eating…

It was very popular to be able to span your own waist with your hands.

Look how skinny this woman is…Ouch! (This picture is not from the medieval time period, it is from the early 1900’s, but they still cinched their waists this small in previous time periods.)

Petticoats came into popularity sometime in the earlier 1500’s. It was an under-skirt that was attached by laces to the corset. Their thickness depended on the skirts worn by the woman and the weather. As the gowns of women expanded it is said that the petticoats did as well. It wasn’t uncommon for a woman to wear three sets of petticoat skirts. Various materials and colors were used. Remember Mammy from Gone With The Wind? All she ever wanted was a red petticoat, and Rhett being the handsomoe sexy devil that he was, got her one.

Petticoats had a number of forms other than being simple skirts. The year is 1545 and in walks the farthingale. The material was made of the same thing as a skirt petticoat, but it was lined with wood, whalebone or wire, making it a wide cone shape. Look at Queen Elizabeth I’s dress, see how wide it was? That was from a farthingale. A simple petticoat/under-skirt was still worn under the farthingale.

By 1625 the farthingale was no longer popular, and women wore thick petticoats to widen their dresses. By 1690 they had another contraption they considered fashionable underneath their gowns, the bustle, or as I like to call it ‘The Booty Enhancer.’ Most people when they think of a bustle think of a wedding gown, and how you have to pin it up in the back, called a bustle. But a bustle back in the day, was an actual piece worn under the gown. Take a look at this picture on th right. Looks like a booty enhancer doesn’t it? I guess…We all know bootyliciousness is sexy, but this looks like A LOT of junk in the trunk, lol. Here’s a picture on the left, of a woman doing her daily ablutions dressed only in her chemise, corset, petticoats and bustle.

The bustle didn’t last long, and by the early 1700’s was replaced by the hooped petticoat, a milder version of the farthingale. It went from being pyramid shaped to dome shaped, and by the 1730’s, was wide and flat. So instead of using the bustle to accentuate their derrieres, they decided wide hips were in fashion(see the petticoat on the right)…hmm…maybe I should go back in time… This fashion lasted until the 1770’s, when “Oh no! The bustle is back!” Not unlike us with 80’s fashions constantly reappearing. It would disappear again for a few years before and after 1800, only to resurface again 1810. By 1815, it was back, but this time in the shape of a large sausage, and referred to often as the bum roll. “Pardon me, but have you seen my bum roll? I seem to have lost it…”

By 1830 women began to wear drawers/pantaloons/pantalettes. They were calf to ankle length, made mostly of linen or silk. They were however used more widely by the upper class than the lower class. So ladies…we’ve technically only been wearing some form of underwear for 178 years to cover our lady parts down under…not that long…

I hope you found this blog to be informative. Check out the poll on the main page and let me know what type of underwear you would rather wear: Medieval, Regency, Victorian, modern or just go commando… I think I’ll stick with modern.

The Polls Are In!!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2 polls posted for the last week!

What Country Are You Most Interested In?

37% England

24% Scotland & Ireland

11% France

6% USA

What Are You Most Interested in Seeing At History Undressed?

48% Clothes

38% Myths

32% Scandal

16% People & Places

Check out the new polls that are up! Results in next week...