"He was dressed in tights, a leather jerkin and codpiece"
Archduke Rudolf, wearing pumpkin hose and a codpiece
Public DomainArchduke Rudolf, wearing pumpkin hose and a codpiece - Credit: Alonso Sánchez Coello (1532–1588)

The codpiece was a covering flap or pouch that attached to the front of men's trousers, accentuating the crotch. It was an important item of European clothing in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Portrait of Antonio Navagero (1565)
Public DomainPortrait of Antonio Navagero (1565) - Credit: Giovanni Battista Moroni

In the 14th century, men's hose consisted of two separate legs worn over linen drawers, which left the crotch covered only by a layer of linen. As the century wore on and doublets shortened, the genitals were rather exposed – the codpiece began life as a triangular piece of fabric covering the gap.  As time passed, codpieces became shaped and padded to emphasize rather than conceal. They were at their most ostentatious in the 1540s, but had fallen out of fashion by the 1590s.