22 July 2012

Fifteenth century bra... and panties

This brassiere has been featured on many websites this week, but it wasn't until I got to Spiegel Online that I found the associated* panties:

"Up to now, there was nothing to indicate the existence of bras with clearly visible cups before the 19th century," writes Beatrix Nutz, a university archaeologist. But now the university is proudly displaying four bras with "distinctly cut cups" dating back to the 15th century.

The bras come from a trove of 2,700 individual textile fragments found during archaeological investigations of Lengberg Castle, in the country's East Tyrol region, as part of an extensive reconstruction that began on the building in 2008. Although the garments were first found that year, the discovery was only announced this month.

The bras themselves were reportedly found in a "vault filled with waste" that was perhaps put there when a documented 15th-century addition was made to the castle. Two of them, which are highly fragmented, are described as "a combination of a bra and a shirt," with no sleeves but with lace stitches below to provide extra support. The third, which is elaborately decorated, "looks a lot more like modern bras" given that it has shoulder straps and indications of a back strap. The fourth "resembles a modern bra the most," with its cups "made from two pieces of linen sewn together vertically."

Other finds in the same vault included linen shirts with pleated collars, a pair of completely preserved linen underpants, and a codpiece for a pair of trousers.
*Addendum: "associated" by location but not by wearer.  See the link provided by Stella in the Comments which indicates that the lower garment was for a male.


  1. Although they look like the associated panties, apparently those were actually for a man. From the article I read about this:

    "Also found at Lemberg Castle in Tyrol was a linen undergarment that looks very much like a pair of panties. But Nutz said it is men's underwear – women did not wear anything under their flowing skirts back then.

    "Underpants were considered a symbol of male dominance and power," she said.

    Medieval drawings often show a man and a woman fighting for a pair of underpants in a symbolic battle to see who "wears the trousers" in the family."


  2. Clearly these are the undergarments of a married couple.... I am pretty sure Victoria's secret is that their underwear is no longer purchased after the ring is put on.

    And according to the expert, Nutz, "Underpants were considered a symbol of male dominance and power". - I'll accept it as a symbol of wealth but power?

    1. Possibly related to the phrase "Who wears the pants in that family"?

      I read a comment from someone who was wondering if it could possibly be a sanitary belt. I'm looking forward to the archeologist's report. There's a preliminary one here: http://www.nesat.org/abstracts/lecture_nutz.pdf

    2. Thank you for providing the link.


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