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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.

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Want Priority Boarding On Your Alaska Airlines Flight This Holiday Season? Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
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Between steep fares and crowded terminals, flying during the holidays isn’t fun. But on Friday, December 15, a special Alaska Airlines promotion will ease boarding stress and transform packed planes into mile-high ugly sweater parties, in honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the airline will offer free early boarding to travelers willing to don their holiday worst at the airport.

The promotion is good for all Alaska Airlines flights in the airline’s 115-city network, and for flights offered by Virgin America and Horizon Air (both of which are operated by Alaska Airlines). In addition to escaping the waiting crowds, passengers who share the most festive knitted looks will be featured on Alaska Air's social media pages if they tag their photos and videos using the hashtags #UglySweaterDay and #MostWestCoast. And since no plane aisle-turned-catwalk is complete without a soundtrack, “festive holiday-themed boarding music will play all month long to help get guests into the holiday spirit,” according to a press release.

Worried you’ll be the only person on the plane wearing a sequined Rudolph cardigan? Even if other passengers don’t get the memo, airline crew will also be wearing ugly sweaters—so feel free to unleash your inner Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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