Victoria’s Secret might get credit for reinventing the brassiere, but the earliest-known bras now date back to the Middle Ages, according to Austrian archeologists at the University of Innsbruck.
The university said Wednesday that it found four linen bras in an Austrian castle dating back to the 1400s, proving that women wore bras more than 600 years ago. It’s such a revolutionary find because fashion experts thought the modern-day bra was only about 100 years old after women became tired of tight corsets.
One specimen in particular “looks exactly like a [modern] brassiere,” Hilary Davidson, fashion curator for the London Museum, told The Associated Press. “These are amazing finds.”
Some of the ancient bras were intricately decorated with lace, suggesting that they were meant to be seen by someone else other than the person wearing it.
Although the linen garments were discovered in 2008, they did not make news until now, says Beatrix Nutz, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery. Researchers said the bras underwent carbon dating and they had to make sure the look of the bras fit with the 1400s.
“We didn’t believe it ourselves,” Nutz said. “From what we knew, there was no such thing as bra-like garments in the 15th century.”
Among the more than 2,700 textile fragments that were found in the Lemberg Castle in Tyrol was a linen undergarment that looks like a pair of panties. Nutz said it is men’s underwear because women did not wear anything under their flowing skirts in the Middle Ages.
Women started experimenting with bra-like garments in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until when the modern-day brassier was invented by Mary Phelps Jacob, who received a patent for her bra in 1914.