The Fashionable Sex, 1100-1600

 Dedicated followers of fashion – or senders of coded messages via the doublet, codpiece and hose? Lois Banner mounts an intriguing investigation of how male clothing reflected changing images of power, gender and sexuality in medieval Europe.

In late medieval and early modern Europe young male bodies, not just female ones, were eroticised. In art and literature, in costume and behaviour, young men's bodies were alluring. Is it any wonder that, according to Caroline Bynum, medieval nuns in their ecstatic visions perceived their highest moment as the one in which they were wedded to Christ, depicted in those ages as a beautiful, desirable young man? Or that Chaucer's Wife of Bath was first attracted to Jenkin by his 'legs and feet so fine and fair'? Then there is Chretien de Troyes' description of Cliges, his knightly hero in his twelfth-century Arthurian romance, Cliges:

He was in his flower... He was more comely and charming than Narcissus... His locks seemed made of a fine gold, and his face was of a fresh rosy colour. He had a well-formed nose and a shapely mouth, and in stature he was built upon Nature's best pattern...

Or there is Chaucer's fourteenth-century description of a young squire in The Canterbury Tales as a 'lover and lusty bachelor':

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