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It is widely believed that the bra is a modern invention, however new evidence shows that women were wearing bras 600 years ago, back in the medieval era.
At the Lemberg Castle in Tyrol, Austria, four linen bras have been found among 2700 textile fragments in piles of straw, wood, dirt and pieces of leather.
These linen garments were actually unearthed in 2008 but it took time to carbon date the article and to make sure they were genuine.Gallery: Cheeky fashion snaps
"We didn't believe it ourselves," says Beatrix Nutz, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery. "From what we knew, there was no such thing as bra-like garments in the 15th century.”
Four linen textiles resembling contemporary bras, complete with distinct cups, were identified in the medieval haul. According to a statement from the University of Innsbruck, one in particular looks like today's version 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."
The bras were also intricately decorated with lace and other ornamentation, the statement said, suggesting they were not only functional but also to please a suitor.
The Style Spy: How to wear geometric printsOne specimen in particular "looks exactly like a (modern) brassiere," says Hilary Davidson, fashion curator for the London Museum. "These are amazing finds."
Davidson has described the finds as "kind of a missing link" in the history of women's underwear.
It was previously thought that the first bra-like garments were invented in the early 19th century by New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob in a revolt against the look of her gown over a stiff corset. Her version consisted of two handkerchiefs stitched together with ribbons for straps.
A linen undergarment resembling modern day briefs was also found at the Lemberg Castle, but these were actually men’s. Women did not wear anything underneath their skirts.
“Underpants were considered a symbol of male dominance and power," Nutz said.
So it seems women wore bras, then corsets, then bras again. It seems to prove women were suffering by choice for the fashion of corsets rather than because there was no other alternative.
Sounds like nothing much as changed!
And speaking of underwear...