A 17th Century Toilet Pendant

Wellcome Library, London // CC BY 4.0

When Henry VIII began courting Anne Boleyn, he gave her a small gold pendant, attached to which were an ear scoop and two toothpicks. While the gift of two toothpicks and a scoop to remove ear wax might not seem romantic to 21st century couples, Boleyn would have likely appreciated the toilet pendant, since it would have been highly fashionable in the 16th century court.

The ornamental wearing of toilet sets, in particular toothpicks, became increasingly popular in the Renaissance and the practice continued well into the 18th century (toothpicks in particular fell by the wayside upon the invention of the toothbrush). Toilet pendants, like this 17th century example held by the Wellcome Collection in London, were status objects made out of expensive materials such as gold and silver. The wearing of a toilet pendant was an expression both of the personal hygiene of its wearer as well as knowledge of court etiquette practices. According to Renaissance scholars, the wearing of such pendants “embodied and communicated not only an individual’s identity, but the social relations of a class.”

But this particular pendant, with both the toilet instruments and an intricately worked pomander on top, was firmly entrenched in two traditions that both signaled a deep interest in personal hygiene. Derived from the French pomme ambre or pomme d’embre, which translates to “amber apple,” the pomander was a small charm that would have been stuffed with fragrance. Usually worn around the waist or neck, the pomander would have dampened many of the unwelcome, pungent smells of the Renaissance, but it also had a medicinal purpose of sorts.

Until the acceptance of germ theory in the 19th century, Europeans believed that disease was caused by miasma, or foul smelling air. Perfumes, like the kind contained in pomanders, were believed to be a defense against disease. As pomanders became more popular throughout the Renaissance, the term was used more broadly to encompass nearly any charm or pendant that contained fragrance.

The Wellcome’s pendant is one of the numerous examples of pomanders that survive. Like the toilet set, examples span multiple centuries showing increasingly whimsical and elaborate approaches. Stand-alone pomanders were, apparently, more common; numerous 16th century portraits depict aristocratic or wealthy sitters holding pomanders, again pointing to their relative commonality as a fashionable accessory.

Pieter Janz Pourbus via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Though both pomander and toilet sets were incredibly popular during the same time span, the Wellcome’s pendant, which combines the two trends, seems relatively unusual. It’s a testament to a moment in which haute couture, personal hygiene, and medicine seamlessly blended into one noticeable object.

Matthew Stockman, Getty Images
Why Do Wimbledon Players Wear All White?
Matthew Stockman, Getty Images
Matthew Stockman, Getty Images

by James Hunt

Wimbledon's dress code is one of the most famous in sports. The rules, which specify that players must dress "almost entirely in white," are so strict that the referee can force players to change under threat of disqualification. In the past, many of the sport's top players have found themselves on the wrong end of this rule—but where did it come from?

It's believed that the rule stems from the 1800s, when tennis was a genteel sport played primarily at social gatherings, particularly by women. The sight of sweaty patches on colored clothing was considered to be inappropriate, so the practice of wearing predominantly white clothing—a.k.a. tennis whites—was adopted to avoid embarrassment. The All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon, was founded in 1868 (initially as the All England Croquet Club) and introduced Lawn Tennis in 1875.

Quite simply, the club is just a stickler for tradition. Recently issued guidelines for clothing include statements such as "White does not include off-white or cream," that colored trim can be "no wider than one centimeter," and that "undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)" are not allowed. That's right: even players' underwear has to be white.

The rules have rubbed many famous tennis players the wrong way. In 2013, former Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was told not to wear his orange-soled trainers after they were judged to have broken The All England Club's dress code. In 2002, Anna Kournikova was forced to replace her black shorts with a pair of white ones borrowed from her coach. And Andre Agassi refused to play at Wimbledon in the earlier years of his career because his signature denim shorts and garish tops were banned.

The all-white clothing rule isn't the only piece of baggage that accompanies Wimbledon's long history. It's the only Grand Slam tournament that's still played on a grass court, and the only one that schedules a day off on the middle Sunday of the tournament.

However, the club is not immune to change. In 2003 a long-standing tradition of requiring players to bow or curtsey to the Royal Box on the Centre Court was discontinued by the Duke of Kent (who also happens to be The All England Club's president) who deemed it anachronistic—though the requirement does stand if the Queen or Prince of Wales is in attendance—and in 2007 the prizes for the men's and women's tournaments were made equal. The all-white clothing rule may be annoying for players, but at least the club has shown it can change with the times in the areas where it really matters.

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An Eco-Friendly Startup Is Converting Banana Peels Into Fabric for Clothes

A new startup has found a unique way to tackle pollution while simultaneously supporting sustainable fashion. Circular Systems, a “clean-tech new materials company,” is transforming banana byproducts, pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark, and flax and hemp stalk into natural fabrics, according to Fast Company.

These five crops alone meet more than twice the global demand for fibers, and the conversion process provides farmers with an additional revenue stream, according to the company’s website. Fashion brands like H&M and Levi’s are already in talks with Circular Systems to incorporate some of these sustainable fibers into their clothes.

Additionally, Circular Systems recycles used clothing to make new fibers, and another technology called Orbital spins those textile scraps and crop byproducts together to create a durable type of yarn.

People eat about 100 billion bananas per year globally, resulting in 270 million tons of discarded peels. (Americans alone consume 3.2 billion pounds of bananas annually.) Although peels are biodegradable, they emit methane—a greenhouse gas—during decomposition. Crop burning, on the other hand, is even worse because it causes significant air pollution.

As Fast Company points out, using leaves and bark to create clothing may seem pretty groundbreaking, but 97 percent of the fibers used in clothes in 1960 were natural. Today, that figure is only 35 percent.

However, Circular Systems has joined a growing number of fashion brands and textile companies that are seeking out sustainable alternatives. Gucci has started incorporating a biodegradable material into some of its sunglasses, Bolt Threads invented a material made from mushroom filaments, and pineapple “leather” has been around for a couple of years now.

[h/t Fast Company]


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