A team of Austrian archaeologists has discovered four bras from the 1400s. It reveals that women wore the garment some 500 years before fashion historians thought it was invented.
About 2,700 textile fragments were found in Castle Lengberg in Tyrol, Austria, by researchers from the University of Innsbruck. The garments were discovered stuffed inside a vault in the building’s south wing. Alongside fragments of a male codpiece, lots of shoes, and some shirts, archaeologists discovered four linen bras.
They resemble modern bras because they have distinctly cut cups. One of the most well-preserved pieces of underwear looks like the longline bra of the 1950s, as it has an extra piece that extends down to the bottom of the ribcage. Like a corset, six eyelets on the left side of the body would be used to fasten the garment with lace.
Another bra has two broad shoulder straps and a possible back strap (it hasn’t been preserved, but partially-torn edges suggest its existence). It’s elaborately decorated with needle-lace, sprang-work (an early form of knitting), and finger-loop-lace.
Two of the more fragmented specimens appear to be a combination of a bra and a short shirt, as they have additional cloth above the cups to cover the décolleté. They also have lacework for decoration.
Until now, historians placed the invention of the bra with either French corset-maker Herminie Cadolle in the late 1700s, or Mary Phelps Jacob who was awarded an US patent for the “technology” in 1914.
There were some medieval texts that referred to bra-like garments — sometimes mentioning pockets for the breasts or shirts with bags — but until now, there has been no physical evidence for the underwear.
Fibre samples of two of the bras were sent to the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zürich to be Carbon-14 dated. All results confirmed that the lingerie is from the 1400s. They were most likely sealed in the vault in around 1485, when renovations were made to the castle. …