Underwear – can this be true?

Sometimes you realize you have missed a very interesting find. And sometimes you find unexpected things from the wonderful world of internet.

Like underwear for instance.

I was searching for information and hints on binding the chest because I’ve been quite fed up with using modern bras under my medieval clothes. (I must confess I came upon some pretty interesting but highly useless stuff with the keywords ‘breast’, ‘chest’ and ‘bind’…) The binding of breasts has been mentioned in medieval literary sources: the full-bosomed ladies benefit from the support it gives and the smaller ladies can add some extra padding. The sources claim the binding is either healthy or hazardous. (I can check the sources when I get next to the right book.)

Over the years I’ve used binding at events but I was using a modern, flexible bandage then. It did work but it had nothing to do with authenticity. I have also tried a long narrow strip of linen but it was not flexible at all and therefore didn’t work. Next on my list of options is linen cut on bias. Or…

While searching, I came upon an abstract for a lecture Bras in the 15th Century? A Preliminary Report and I nearly screamed out loud. Unfortunately I have yet to find the whole lecture. The name of the researcher Beatrix Nutz helped me to find a blog by a fellow costuming blogger with a photo of underpants found from the same excavation site. Sadly, the link to an article written by Nutz returned a 404 Not Found notification. Bummer.

If there are equally good photos and information about the bras, I might ditch my plans of binding!


A working link to the article is www.uibk.ac.at/urgeschichte/mitarbeiterinnen/harald-stadler/schloss-lengberg/harpfe-dec-2010.pdf and pages 30-31.(Thank you Marc!)

And more information has started to show up! Here are a few links:
Medieval lingerie? Discovery in Austria reveals what really was worn under those tunics
More on medieval bras – new details on 15th century find

According to the radiocarbon dating, the finds are from the 15th century – but that doesn’t make them at all less interesting!

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12 Responses to Underwear – can this be true?

  1. Kaukameeli says:

    Ihan saman huomasin ja ihan samalla tavalla etsin kuumeisesti lähteitä.
    Tämmöisen löysin, löytyy PDF-tiedostona kun googlettaa.

    B. Nutz, Unters Kleid geguckt. Die Textilien aus der Zwickelfüllung von Schloss Lengberg. In: Zentrum für Alte Kulturen (Hrsg.), Das Zentrum für Alte Kulturen, Atriumhaus, Jahresbericht 2009 (Innsbruck 2010) 64-65

  2. Uta says:

    Ach ja! Vielen Danke! Nyt guuglaamaan, guuglaamaan, kohta tästä sännätään. Kiitos Kaukameeli!

  3. Uta says:

    Hier! Täällä! Here!


    Ja sivut 64-65. Kovasti näyttävät halterneck-mallisilta bikinien yläosilta.

    And scroll down to pages 64-65. They look an awful lot like halterneck style bikini tops.

  4. tanya says:

    I saw the same abstract over a year ago and have heard nothing else since. I’d love to know more

  5. Uta says:

    You are not alone… 🙂 I’m quite tempted to ask a friend who knows German a lot more than I do to do some serious digging of the good ol’ internet. There has to be more research done on the excavation and at least something published. Fingers crossed…

  6. Eliana says:

    Must have! 🙂

  7. Marc says:

    here is the correct link to the pdf you got a 404 error for: http://www.uibk.ac.at/urgeschichte/mitarbeiterinnen/harald-stadler/schloss-lengberg/harpfe-dec-2010.pdf

    Looking at the various information I’ve found about this discovery it is not clear whether the “panty” is male of female. No mention of the bra in most of the articles by the Tyrol university it seems. I expect we’ll have to wait a bit longer for more clarifications, it seems one of the archeologists is writing her doctorate about the textile finds…

    If necessary I can translate the articles from german to english…

    • Uta says:

      Thank you Marc for the correct link! I read through the article with my very basic knowledge of German so I think I must have missed most of the information. (20 years ago I studied German for 3 years but have forgotten almost everything, sadly enough. It would’ve been useful now.) And out of sheer stubbornness, I refuse to use Google translator, so I would be very grateful if you could help me with one detail at least? (And later, if more articles show up, I might turn to you again…)

      When the article speaks about the pair of panties in more detail (I found the spot because it mentions the words I recognize “modernen Tanga” 😉 ), do they say something about DNA analysis? And perhaps something along the lines of not being able to find out whether they had been worn by a woman or a man?
      “Eine DNS-Analyse, durchgeführt unter der Leitung von Mag. Dr. Walther Parson am Institut für Gerichtliche Medizin der Medizinischen Universität Innsbruck, erbrachte leider keine neuen Erkenntisse.”

      If this is the case – bummer. I had heard rumours about a DNA analysis being done and hoped they could have been able to tell who the panties belonged to. I haven’t found any mentions about the DNA analysis in the English speaking articles that have been quoted a lot these past few weeks.

  8. Bess Chilver says:


    I came across your blog actually through looking for references for cherries! you have a lovely image from the Luttrell Psalter with a little boy scrumping for cherries.

    Anyway, I had a lovely look through your blog as I am interested in medieval dress too and found this page.

    I attended the MedCos session where Beatrix was speaking about the Lengberg finds. She is of the opinion that the “pants” are more likely to be male underclothes rather than female based on written and visual evidence. There are images of mens “pants” which are JUST like the find. As to DNA evidence to prove either way, there wasn’t enough to find any DNA so that proof doesn’t exist.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Uta says:

    Thank you so much for your comment Bess! I’m not surprised there wasn’t any DNA, but still a bit disappointed – it would have been grand to be able find traces of our ancient ancestors. 🙂 And I agree on the opinion that the pants were more likely male underclothes than female – I don’t think women wore much panties back then.

  10. Petri Kasari says:

    Joskus pari vuotta sitten netissä oli juttu 1400-luvun alun rintaliiveistä, jotka oli löydetty jonkun Keski-Eurooppalaisen linnan umpeen muuratusta komerosta nettisosite on seuraava ja pitää sisällään myös hyvän kuvan rintaliiveistä:

    T. Petrus Curonus, jota miehenpuolena tietysti kiinnostaa enemmän liivien sisältö, mutta jolle tällainenkin detalji jäi mieleen.

  11. Ivanna says:

    I know this is almost two years late, sorry. For binding, try a long narrow strip of material like muslin (anything light but sturdy will do). Overlap each layer 2/3 of the way over and start from above the breast. The thinness of the material will allow for more flexibility but the overlap will give the compression. I use 8″ wide by 8 ft long. The larger the breast, the longer the binding needs to be.

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