GIRDLE (AS. gyrdel, OHG. gurtil, Ger. Ofir tel, from AS. gyrdan, OHG. gurten, Ger. garten, to gird; connected with AS. gearde, Goth. gards, OIIG. gart, Ger. Garten, garden, and ulti mately with Lat. hortus, Gk. x6pros, chortos, gar den, Oh. gort, corn-field). A band or cord worn round the body to confine or support other gar ments. It was minutely prescribed to the chil dren of Israel to be worn by the priests, made "of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen" (Ex. xxviii. 8, xxix. 40) ; but it was worn by others as well: all through the Bible 'to gird up the loins' is a common symbol of activity and alertness. The zone (Gk. ri.nni,) of classical antiquity was a broad band worn by young women before marriage; hence the expres sion zonam virgineam solvere is a periphrasis for marriage. Men also, among the Greeks and Ro mans, wore a broad band or belt which often served for carrying money and other small ar ticles. The cingulum or common girdle, some
times called cestus, Gk. crrp&pior, was worn higher, under the breasts, as in the modern Empire costume. The name cingulum was also applied to the sword-belt, which formed a regular part of the Roman soldier's uniform. All through the Middle Ages girdles of various shapes were part of the costume, both of men and women, used at first to confine the loose and flow ing garments of the period, and frequently' decorated with such great richness that numer ous sumptuary laws were passed in England and elsewhere to restrain it; but by the sixteenth century the need of confinement had passed away from the more closely fitting garments of the time, and the importance of the girdle declined. For its use as a Church vestment, see COSTUME, ECCLESIASTICAL.