15th Century Underwear Discovered

Thanks to Bess Chilver, Tudor costume expert, for pointing this out to me. If it was April 1st I wouldn’t believe what I was seeing or reading, but an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail claimed that sets of lace and linen lingerie (four bras and two pairs of knickers) has been discovered in a vault at Lengberg Castle, East Tyrol, Austria.

What is important about this find is that the garments have been radiocarbon-dated to the 15th century, yet, as The Daily Mail points out, it has always been thought that women did not wear knickers until the 18th century and that bras were not worn until around a hundred years ago.

You can see pictures of one of the sets of lingerie, which looks exactly like a string bikini, at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2174568/Found-castle-vault-scraps-lace-lingerie-rage-500-years-ago.html, where you can also read full details of the discovery.

This has also been reported in BBC History Magazine’s August Issue.


Bess’s thoughts from Facebook:
I don’t think it will change our thoughts about 16th century underwear – simply because the silhouette from the 1520s (at least) is VERY different to that of the 15th century. As we can’t wear a modern bra under an over bust corset, neither could the Tudors wear this garment (which, incidentally, is more likely to be similar to a “long line” bra) underneath a closely fitted kirtle which behaves a bit like a “corset” as we know it (as in reshaping the body – though in the 16th century into a “cone” shape rather than an “hour glass” with cinched in waist).”

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