600-Year Old Bras Discovered In Austrian Castle

By Amir Khan on July 20, 2012 10:01 AM EDT

Bra
A new discovery in an Austrian castle is rewriting the history of underwear, researchers said. Researchers found 600-year-old linen bras -- a finding that contradicts all previous thoughts about women’s undergarments at the time. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A new discovery in an Austrian castle is rewriting the history of underwear, researchers said. Researchers found 600-year-old linen bras -- a finding that contradicts all previous thoughts about women's undergarments at the time.

Researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Germany found four linen bras dating back to the Middle Ages in an Austrian castle. Experts said the findings are surprising because it has been thought that bras were a relatively modern invention -- roughly 100 years old, as women abandoned the corset.

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Nutz made the discovery in 2008 but did not make any announcement because researching the items and carbon dating them to be sure of their age took time.

"We didn't believe it ourselves," Beatrix Nutz, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery, told the Associated Press. "From what we knew, there was no such thing as bra-like garments in the 15th century."

Surprisingly, one of the bras "looks exactly like a (modern) brassiere," according to Hilary Davidson, fashion curator for the London Museum. "These are amazing finds," she told the Associated Press.

The four bras were found amongst 2,700 other textile fragments, including linen, cotton and leather. "Four linen textiles resemble modern-time bras," the researchers said. "[They had] 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."

The bras were not only functional -- they were intricately decorated with lace and other ornamentation, which suggests that they were made to be seen by a suitor.

Nutz said that a pair of underwear that looks like women's panties was also found, though it is likely a male undergarment, as women did not wear anything under their skirts in the Middle Ages.

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

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