In Praise of the Peascod

Spring. Today was warm and sunny. Time to pack away the warm jumpers and reassess the wardrobe. I got dressed and glanced at myself in the mirror. Horrors. Flesh spilling out all over the place. Forget muffin tops, this was far more Yorkshire Pudding, billowing uncontrollably in every direction. I longed for snow, for the temperatures to plummet to zero so I could hide myself once again under a nice thick woolly.

I suspect I’ll get used to it again over the summer, but this annual ritual when I realise my body is not as it was is distressing. I write as someone who has enjoyed a dinner of pasta followed by a ginger spiced hot cross bun. Well, it is Good Friday.

One of my colleagues, alarmed by the growing number of items in her wardrobe she could not wear, tried the 5:2 diet. She is a very good advertisement for it. She looks wonderful, has bags more energy and has embraced it as a way of life. I am not sure I have the willpower.

I am interested in the beneficial effects of fasting, but not sure I could actually commit without a lot of hand holding.

So this afternoon,  settled down with a new book about everyday life in Elizabethan London the chapter on clothing grabbed more than my attention. When I read about the peascod, I wondered if the time might be ripe for a revival of this particular fashion, and this time round it could be extended to women.

Far from vaunting a flat stomach, the C16 male fashion icons exaggerated their bellies. It was a fashion that lasted twenty-five years. “Imagine that the line of the doublet follows the line of the chest down to about diaphragm level. It then parts company with the chest, and curves outwards and then back again to a point below the waist. To keep that line, it had to be carefully stiffened and padded.” So writes Liza Picard in Elizabeth’s London.

Well, I don’t much fancy the padding, and it seems it was a fashion that made bending over impractical if not downright impossible, but what a disguise for the expanded waistline.

It so happened that I had taken a photograph of a statue of someone modelling this very fashion item earlier in the day. Et voilà:

John Smith statue, Bow Churchyard

John Smith statue, Bow Churchyard

John Smith’s statue is of my favourites in the City. Admittedly, it’s always been his boots that have excited my admiration before. They are so over the top, and quite ghastly in heavy rain I should imagine. Now I realise he couldn’t even bend over to empty out those extravagant turn ups.

It does seem odd that centuries before washing machines, ease of travel and so on and so forth, fashions could make daily life so difficult. It’s not as though Smith led a quiet existence. He was a soldier and an adventurer. Pocahantas intervened on his behalf to stop her father Powhatan from killing him. Back in Europe, he was captured and sold into slavery in Turkey, only escaping by murdering his master.

Perhaps he left his peascod and boots at home in the wardrobe.

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13 thoughts on “In Praise of the Peascod

  1. Thank you for that insight into why all those doublets are filled out. Did they want to look larger because they weren’t very big to begin with? Was it about “fatter is richer”? John Smith, mythic hero of Virginia Colony, must have been some kind of guy. The archeology being done in Jamestown, VA, is bringing up all sorts of details about the nasty and brutish life in the early colonies.

    Fasting is what we did in our 20’s. Don’t think we felt cleaner but we certainly felt more virtuous. I am now too old to care about virtue.

    • Ah. I never fasted in my twenties. Maybe it’s something one has do at some stage of one’s life. I understand it can be very good for arthritis.

      Isn’t it strange how so many fashions impede movement and progress? Including high heels for women today.

  2. Just give me my comfy jeans or Athleta Metro Slouches and a nice looking top! I had to go up a size in jeans… oops 😀 I am not a fan of summer and staying cool in clothes that show more than I want to show (flabby upper arms) is one of the reasons.

  3. Wow. Those boots are quite something! Positively extravagant! The 5:2 has worked nicely for me for *ages* Isobel. Counteracts the effects of the hedonistic weekends. 😀 You’ll get used to it quite quickly and it re-educates the taste buds and appetite.

    • They are pretty over the top n’est-ce pas?

      I need to read some guidance re vegetarian 5:2. By chance I was working with the colleague I mentioned. her lunch comprised some blueberries, some carrot sticks and a couple of strawberries. When I asked if that meant she was on a fast day now, she looked at me and said, “Oh no. This is how I eat now.” I was impressed, but also slightly appalled…

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