GIRDLE, a band of leather or other material worn round the waist, either to con fine the loose and flowing outer robes so as to allow freedom of movement, or to fasten and support the garments of the wearer. In southern Europe and in all eastern coun tries the girdle was and still is an important article of dress. Among the Romans it was used to confine the tunics; and so general was the custom that the want of a girdle was regarded as strongly presumptive of idle and dissolute propensities. It also formed a part of the dress of the Greek and Roman soldier; the phrase cingulunt deponere, to lay aside the girdle, was as equivalent to quitting the service. It was used as now in the east to carry money in; hence zonam, perdere, to lose one's purse. Girdles and girdle buckles are not found in early Celtic interments, nor are they frequent in Gallo-Roman graves. But in Frankish and Burgundian graves they are almost constantly present, often ornamented with plaques of bronze or silver, and the clasps and mountings chased or inlaid with various ornamental designs, occasionally including figures of the cross, and rude representations of Scripture subjects. In later times girdles are fre quently represented on brasses and monumental effigies from the 12th to the 16th cen tury. They were either of leather or of woven materials, often of silk and adorned with gold and gems. The mode in which they were worn is shown on the effigies; usually fastened by a buckle in front, the long free end of the girdle was passed up underneath and then down over the cincture, and through the loop thus formed, the ornamented end hung down in front. Among the sumptuary regulations of Edward III.,
there were prohibitions against wearing girdles of gold and silver unless the wearer of knightly rank or worth £200 a year. Similar regulations against extravagance in girdles are occasionally found to the 16th century. The brasses of the 15th c. present many beautiful examples of ladies' girdles, which were often worn like that of the knight with the ornamental end hanging down in front, sometimes with both ends depending from a large clasp or ornamental fastening in the center. Allusions to the girdle are common in the poetry of the 16th and 17th centuries. The purse, the dag ger, the rosary, the pen and inkhorn and the bunch of keys, were carried suspended from it, and hence it was an ancient custom for bankrupts or insolvent persons to put off or surrender their girdles in open court. It is recorded that the widow of ]Philip I., duke of Burgundy, renounced her right of succession by putting off her gir dle upon the duke's tomb. The girdle, which was a very important element in the 'dress of the Levitical priesthood, does not appear as an ecclesiastical vestment in the Christian church until the 8th century. Germanus, who died in 740, mentions the gir .dle worn by deacons; and Hrabanus Maurus in the succeeding century speaks of the girdle as one of the regular vestments, and refers to its symbolism. Sonic centuries later the church had to discountenance the extravagance in this article of attire, and splendor in the decoration of girdles was denounced as secular and unbefitting the ecclesiastical character.