600-year-old bras uncovered

Reply Thu 19 Jul, 2012 04:39 pm
Somebody may have posted this already but, if so, I cannot find the thread.


By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press – 10 hours ago

VIENNA (AP) — A revolutionary discovery is rewriting the history of underwear: Some 600 years ago, women wore bras.

The University of Innsbruck said Wednesday that archeologists found four linen bras dating from the Middle Ages in an Austrian castle. Fashion experts describe the find as surprising because the bra had commonly been thought to be only little more than 100 years old as women abandoned the tight corset.

Instead, it appears the bra came first, followed by the corset, followed by the reinvented bra.

One specimen in particular "looks exactly like a (modern) brassiere," says Hilary Davidson, fashion curator for the London Museum. "These are amazing finds."

Although the linen garments were unearthed in 2008, they did not make news until now says Beatrix Nutz, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery.

Researching the items and carbon dating them to make sure they were genuine took some time. She delivered a lecture on them last year but the information stayed within academic circles until a recent article in the BBC History Magazine.

"We didn't believe it ourselves," she said in a telephone call from the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck. "From what we knew, there was no such thing as bra-like garments in the 15th century."

The university said the four bras were among more than 2,700 textile fragments — some linen, others linen combined with cotton — that were found intermixed with dirt, wood, straw and pieces of leather.

"Four linen textiles resemble modern-time bras" with distinct cups and one in particular looks like today's version, it said, with "two broad shoulder straps and a possible back strap, not preserved but indicated by partially torn edges of the cups onto which it was attached."

And the lingerie was not only functional.

The bras were intricately decorated with lace and other ornamentation, the statement said, suggesting they were also meant to please a suitor.

While paintings of the era show outerwear, they do not reveal what women wore beneath. Davidson, the fashion curator, described the finds as "kind of a missing link" in the history of women's underwear.

Women started experimenting with bra-like garments in the late 1800s and the first modern brassiere was patented in the early 19th century. It is thought to have been invented by New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob, who was unhappy with the look of her gown over a stiff corset.

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.

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Reply Thu 19 Jul, 2012 04:56 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
women did not wear anything under their flowing skirts back then.

Free speach & freedom, they were doing it back then too Smile Lordy....

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Reply Thu 19 Jul, 2012 05:43 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Did they find any in my size? 44 double D's?
0 Replies
k copelin
Reply Thu 19 Jul, 2012 11:11 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Excellent post Mr. Lustig.
In fact, there are so many possible ways to respond to this information, that all I am going to say is "Bravo."
0 Replies
Reply Fri 20 Jul, 2012 01:22 am
@Lustig Andrei,
So, how are they holding up, so to speak?
Lustig Andrei
Reply Fri 20 Jul, 2012 02:00 pm
To me, this is a very uplifting discovery and story. To some others it could be a total bust.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 20 Jul, 2012 02:20 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
This is one of those bras, compared to one from the 1950's


A satiric poem from the 15th century, from a book called called "Meister Reuauß" ((Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. 2880, Bl. 130v bis 141r):

Ir manche macht zwen tuttenseck

Damit so snurt sie umb die eck,

Das sie anschau ein ieder knab,

Wie sie hübsche tütlein hab;

Aber welcher sie zu groß sein,

Die macht enge secklein,

Das man icht sag in der stat,

Das sie so groß tutten hab.

Translated in English, something like this:

Some woman makes two bags for the breasts,
when she moves around the houses,
so that all the boys look at her,
because she has such beautiful breasts.
But when they are too large,
she makes small little bags,
so in town no-one can say,
that she has big tits.

Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 20 Jul, 2012 02:21 pm
@Walter Hinteler,

In that castle, they didn't only find bras, but men underwear as well!


(Source for both posts: Innsbrück University - Prehistory
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Lustig Andrei
Reply Fri 20 Jul, 2012 02:24 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
So, then, the hint that something like bras must have been in use in the 15th century was there all the time in that bit of Deutches doggerel, but no historian ever picked up on it that I know of until this archeological discovery.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 20 Jul, 2012 02:34 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
When they found these underwear in 2008 .... well, somehow they "refound" that above quoted poem as well: it was re-printed in 1873 .... and then, after the discovery, again in 2010.

Obviously, no-one paid attention to what it meant until recently. Or, the "wrong" people were reading it Wink
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