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15-century medieval lingerie discovered in Austria‎
20
Jul '12
Up until now there was nothing to indicate the existence of bras with clearly visible cups before the 19th century. Textiles found in a castle in Eastern Tyrol now prove that there already was clothing similar to modern bras in the 15th century - a discovery made by Beatrix Nutz, an archeologist from the University of Innsbruck.

In the course of extensive reconstruction of Lengberg Castle, East Tyrol, Austria, funded by the country Tyrol, starting July 2008, archaeological investigations of several parts of the building were carried out under the direction of Harald Stadler (Institute of Archaeologies, University of Innsbruck).

During the research a vault filled with waste was detected in the south wing of the castle in room 2.07 on the 2nd floor. The fill consisted of dry material in different layers, among them organic material such as twigs and straw, but also worked wood, leather - mainly shoes - and textiles. The building history, as well as investigations on construction techniques performed by Martin Mittermaier and Walter Hauser (Landeskonservatorat Tirol) and the archaeological features heavily suggested a dating of the finds to the 15th century, when another level was added to the castle by order of Virgil von Graben.

The reconstruction is mentioned by Paolo Santonino in his itinerary, who also gives us a short description of the castle and mentions the reconstruction and the consecration of the castle chapel by Pietro Carlo (1472–1513), Bishop of Caorle, on October 13th 1485. The vault spandrel was most likely filled with waste during the addition of the 2nd storey as isolation or to level the floor. This date has now been confirmed by fife Carbon-14 dates carried out at the ETH-Zürich.

The assemblage consists more than 2.700 individual textile fragments. An initial review of the material gave a wealth of different forms, including a number of almost completely preserved pieces of clothing as well as fragments of linen lining of garments with remnants of the former colorful woolen outer layer.

Fragments of several linen shirts show pleats on collar and sleeves. The sleeves of these shirts with preserved textile buttons and corresponding button holes with small cuff circumfence suggest that they were constituents of female clothing, or were even worn by children. One pair of completely preserved linen underpants, the fragment of a second one and a textile fragment of red and blue wool which turned out to be the codpiece of a pair of trousers belong to male clothing.

Four linen textiles resemble modern time bras. The criterion for this classification is the presence of distinct cut cups. The two more fragmented specimens appear to be a combination of a bra and a short shirt. They end right below the breast but have additional cloth above the cups to cover the décolleté, and no sleeves. Both “bras” have decorated lower ends. Finger-loop-laces (laces worked in loop manipulating braiding technique) are sewn onto the hem with lace-stitches resulting in simple needle-lace. Besides its decorative function - one that cannot be seen anyway when worn under a dress - this also serves as reinforcement for the hem and adds further support to the breasts.

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