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Medieval "Lingerie" From 15th Century Castle Could Rewrite Fashion History 177

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-cloths dept.
fangmcgee writes "Archaeologists have unearthed several 500-year-old bras that some experts say could rewrite fashion history. While they'll hardly send pulses racing by today's standards, the lace-and-linen underpinnings predate the invention of the modern brassiere by hundreds of years. Found hidden under the floorboards of Lengberg Castle in Austria's East Tyrol, along with some 2,700 textile fragments and one completely preserved pair of (presumably male) linen underpants, the four intact bras and two fragmented specimens are thought to date to the 15th century, a hypothesis scientists later confirmed through carbon-dating."
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Medieval "Lingerie" From 15th Century Castle Could Rewrite Fashion History

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  • by macraig (621737) <mark@a@craig.gmail@com> on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:00AM (#40708131)

    I'm rather more interested in WHY all this was hidden under floorboards in the first place. "2700 textile fragments"? Must've been a lot of space under there, enough for a nice big hoard of gold bullion. Instead we find... clothes?

    • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:08AM (#40708181)
      Medieval trolling: Came expecting gold, left with some hag's bra. You mad bro?
      • by jhoegl (638955) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:35AM (#40708353)
        Thou are speaketh in a comical form and manor. I say art thoueth a baffoon or comical jester?
        You simply must continue on. Doesth thou produce plays? Pray tell where doest one sign up to get tickets? I wish to submit myself to thy whimsicle banter!
        • Thou are speaketh in a comical form and manor. I say art thoueth a baffoon or comical jester?
          You simply must continue on. Doesth thou produce plays? Pray tell where doest one sign up to get tickets? I wish to submit myself to thy whimsicle banter!

          Art thou a foreigner still attempting to apprehend the vagaries of the English tongue?

          Thy grammar is weak; though switchest betwixt second person singular and plural without reason, and though fabricatest idiomatic chimerae such as "thoueth" without regard for linguistic merit. Thy conjugation is often off: thou dost use the third person indicative form "speaketh" when thou speakest directly to a second person. Thine usage of helping verbs is often spurious, and thine orthological butcherings of "dost" and "doth" are most droll.

          • by idji (984038) on Friday July 20, 2012 @03:18AM (#40708533)
            Your text, Sir, on the other hand is full off anachronisms.
            • by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday July 20, 2012 @03:58AM (#40708685) Homepage

              But in honesty - so was Shakespeare's and indeed all medieval and renaissance playwrights. The anachronisms have their origins in the circle-plays which were one of the few forms of theater that were allowed in the middle-ages under catholic rule. Peasants used to do Easter Passions with each craft guild depicting one part of the story - and they used to set the story in their own familiar circumstances. The Shepherd's circle for example is in medieval English and describes things from a contemporary rather than ancient shepherd's point of view.

              These anachronisms were probably unintentional at the start but became traditional over the years.

              By Renaissance times the tradition was well established and all playwrights gleefully used anachronisms all the time. Sometimes with clever plot points to sneak them in. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus uses magic to introduce time-travel in a plot which left a clear imprint on present-day Doctor Who - and so hides it's massive anachronisms (a medieval character meeting Helen of Troy) behind a clever plot - but even that wasn't always done, when the anachronisms were more subtle they were usually just left unexplained. So for example, in Macbeth, Duncan's two sons spend time at the court of Edward the Great, even though Macbeth is set almost two centuries before Edward the Great was even BORN (but Edward was a direct ancestor to Queen Elizabeth - still reigning monarch when Macbeth was written), the passage is a clear case of puckering up to the royal rectum rather than attempting to be historically accurate or believable.
              So one could argue that any attempt to write in Shakespearean-inspired middle-English would be MORE authentic if it's filled with anachronisms since Shakespeare himself loved anachronisms.
              Tom Stoppard (perhaps the greatest Shakespeare-expert in contemporary theater, also the script-writer for Shakespeare in Love) played on this beautifully when he wrote "Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are dead" - a play which posits what would happen if the two messengers that leave the court of Hamlet to visit England would arrive in the England of King Lear.

              • by dwye (1127395)

                So for example, in Macbeth, Duncan's two sons spend time at the court of Edward the Great, even though Macbeth is set almost two centuries before Edward the Great was even BORN (but Edward was a direct ancestor to Queen Elizabeth - still reigning monarch when Macbeth was written), the passage is a clear case of puckering up to the royal rectum rather than attempting to be historically accurate or believable.

                Wrong Edward. First, the only "The Great" among the English is Alfred of Wessex, therefore Edward The Great could not be Longshanks, his son (II) or his grandson (III), and certainly not Pretty-Boy Edward IV of the House Of York (Bess's great grandfather). Second, a number of Saxon Edwards were available -- I think that the Edward mentioned was The Confessor (who would certainly NOT qualify as "Great" in my book, but then I don't get to name them), not one of the Norman (ignoring that he grew up with Norm

          • Not only, but also (Score:4, Informative)

            by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday July 20, 2012 @03:32AM (#40708581)
            The castle is in Austria. And the period is the 15th century, not the 16th. Although the clothes have been carbon dated I can't find a reference to the exact date, but for most of the 15th century the language would have been Middle English. And educated people like yourself would have been writing Latin. (In fact, you have to resort to Latin to get your point over: grammar,singular, plural,fabricate,idiomatic,linguistic,conjugation,indicative, and a bit of Greek: orthological.)

            Why am I being a pedant? It narks me, very slightly, that the GPP post is off-topic and gets modded +5, while on-topic posts are ignored. Come on guys, I know this is Slashdot, but have you really never seen a bra before?

            • by azalin (67640)

              Come on guys, I know this is Slashdot, but have you really never seen a bra before?

              To quote admiral Ackbar: "It's a trap!"
              Be careful before you answer, because mentioning your private collection of Victoria's not so secret catalog, will result in even less people willing to shake your hand.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by tehcyder (746570)

                Come on guys, I know this is Slashdot, but have you really never seen a bra before?

                To quote admiral Ackbar: "It's a trap!" Be careful before you answer, because mentioning your private collection of Victoria's not so secret catalog, will result in even less people willing to shake your hand.

                Fewer. Sorry, pet peeve. Fewer of a distinct number, less of an homogenous mass.

            • by digitig (1056110) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:32AM (#40709367)

              The castle is in Austria. And the period is the 15th century, not the 16th. Although the clothes have been carbon dated I can't find a reference to the exact date, but for most of the 15th century the language would have been Middle English.

              In Austria??? A dialect of Early New High German, surely? If you're going to be a pedant it's important to get it right.

              • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Friday July 20, 2012 @09:03AM (#40710531)

                The castle is in Austria. And the period is the 15th century, not the 16th. Although the clothes have been carbon dated I can't find a reference to the exact date, but for most of the 15th century the language would have been Middle English.

                In Austria??? A dialect of Early New High German, surely? If you're going to be a pedant it's important to get it right.

                Naw, they'd probably be speaking Early New High English with an Aussie accent, mate. Though I am surprised someone sent to a penal colony could afford a castle.

              • I was writing about someone writing cod-15th C English. An English person writing contemporaneously about Austrian fashion would have been writing in late Middle English. Yes, of course the Austrians would have been speaking a version of German, if not Italian.
            • have you really never seen a bra before?

              You realize you already answered your question:

              Come on guys, I know this is Slashdot,

            • by ancarett (221103)
              Middle English? In Austria? Really?

              If you're going to pedant, pedant all the way!
          • Beware of the Grammar Huguenots.

            • by silentcoder (1241496) on Friday July 20, 2012 @04:12AM (#40708759) Homepage

              >Beware of the Grammar Huguenots.

              That post had such potential... if only you knew history. The Huguenots fled persecution (In fact I'm of Huguenot Descent - that's my own family history you're talking about) - you basically said the equivalent of "Beware the Grammar Jews" when you meant to say Nazis.

              Since "Grammar Catholics" has no time-reference, I suppose a good version could be "Beware the Henry VIII Grammar Anglicans" instead ?

              • by cold fjord (826450) on Friday July 20, 2012 @05:17AM (#40709051)

                Since "Grammar Catholics" has no time-reference, I suppose a good version could be "Beware the Henry VIII Grammar Anglicans" instead ?

                Surely you jest? Henry VIII's Grammar Anglicans? As a descendant of Huguenots you can't expect . .

                Knock, knock . . . Smash! . . .

                Ah ha!! Nobody expects the Anglican grammaticians!* . . . Cardinal Biggles! Read the charges!

                .

                .

                * Nope, not made up [wiktionary.org]! And I won't stop calling you Shirley.

              • by tehcyder (746570)

                Since "Grammar Catholics" has no time-reference, I suppose a good version could be "Beware the Henry VIII Grammar Anglicans" instead ?

                That makes no sense: the Huguenots were persecuted by and fled from Catholic France TO England and other Protestant countries.
                You do know that Henry VIII created the Anglican church in opposition to Catholicism?

                • It makes perfect sense if you realize that the Catholics weren't the only people who comitted atrocities in those wars.
                  The vast majority of Huguenots fled to South Africa, not England btw.

                  >You do know that Henry VIII created the Anglican church in opposition to Catholicism?
                  1) False - Henry VIII created the Anglican church because he wanted a Catholic church that deemed the monarch a higher authority than the pope.
                  Even today the Anglican church is the most similar to the catholic church of all protestant churches.
                  2) The reference isn't to the REASON for their creation anyway but to the METHOD of their establishment. Henry didn't just found a competing Church - he effectively took over administration of the existing Catholic church - and to secure that position changed it's name and then banished the Catholic faith (despite having changed little EXCEPT the leadership and name). For a long time after that genuine Catholics in England were driven underground, persecuted and tortured - their fight for religious freedom had many interesting chapters before it ended - among them the Guy Fawkes conspiracy (Fawkes was a catholic revolutionary).

                  I wasn't talking about WHY Henry established the Catholic church (your wrong about it anyway - and the reason he wanted to be in charge of the church was about the shallowest you can imagine: because he didn't want the pope to be able to deny him a divorce), I was talking about what the Anglicans DID in the years after that.

                  While the Catholics were committing atrocities in some countries (The Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands, The French suppression of the Huguenots) etc. - make no mistake, the protestants were JUST as bad in many places where they were in charge. In Iceland the protestants used to force nuns and priests to copulate at gunpoint !

                • by Phrogman (80473)

                  Actually all he did was eliminate the bond that made the English Church subject to the Pope in any regard. Instead he assumed the role with regards to the English church. Other than that there were very few differences at least at first. A role theoretically still held by Queen Elizabeth I believe.

    • by JanneM (7445) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:25AM (#40708297) Homepage

      Probably fairly valuable clothes at the time. Few people ever actually saw money in their whole lives; a dowry would most likely have been in the form of clothes, cloth and similar things.

    • by nazsco (695026)

      Obviously a 15 century neck beard crossdressing stash.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      I guess the Earl's wife arrived earlier that day and he really really needed to stash all the evidence of what we was doing.
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        I doubt it - The Austrians didn't have earls, they had counts and barons. Earls were English or Scandanavian.

        • by daem0n1x (748565)

          Dude, this was a joke, no need to get so Nazi about it :-)

          Both "Count" and "Earl" translate to "Conde" in my language, and both translate to "Graf" in German so Earl and Count mean basically the same thing.

    • by BeanThere (28381)

      I would venture to guess a merchant was attempting to conceal stock from the taxman.

    • Because the King wanted to hide things from the queen.
      Put you head into the gutter for a while, it would make a lot of sense.

  • Well, yes. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:02AM (#40708139)

    I know a chick named Donna Matrix who goes for the whole Medieval Lingerie thing.

    Tends more toward leather and chainmail than lace. Probably due to the crude manufacturing technology of the times.

  • Those "(presumably male) linen underpants" look more like a g-string.

    Perhaps those bards got up to more fun in the taverns than we know.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday July 20, 2012 @03:39AM (#40708605)
      You know the song "Gaudeamus igitur"? The one they used to sing in some US colleges? It starts "Jam nox stellata volumina pandet, nunc, nunc bibendum et amandum est" - "already night unfolds her starry veil, now is the time to drink and make love". If that isn't enough, read Rabelais, including his interesting proposals for how to build a new wall round Paris. Rabelais was a 16th century medical doctor who wrote humorous books to amuse his patients (and piss off the Pope). At one point he lists the best sound in the world as being bollocks slapping against a woman's bottom. With all the worries nowadays about the spread of pornography, we tend to forget that the 19th century and the rise of fundamentalist Protestantism was actually a very aberrant period of human history.
      • by wisty (1335733)

        Or Carmina Burana.

        I'm only familia with the Cantana by Orff (written in .... modernish Germany) but it's based on 11th or 12th century poetry.

        The first bit is about the wheel of fate, then spring, then drinking, then courtship, then there's the song when the soprano fakes an orgasm onstage, then we go back to the wheel of fate.

        The words are written by monks, I think.

    • by azalin (67640)

      Those "(presumably male) linen underpants" look more like a g-string.

      Perhaps those bards got up to more fun in the taverns than we know.

      To be more precise many women wore less under their several layers of skirts. Sweet dreams.

  • I think this of interest to /. readers, as most have never seen a bra that has been successfully removed from a woman.

    • Thanks for reminding me that, being gay, I'm fortunate not to be living in the 1400's and fumbling around in the dark with those tricky codpieces.

      • Being gay != not having sex with women.

        Being gay == having sex with men.

        You are on slashdot, you are not gay or hetero.

        Eunuch you probably would have noticed but the life style is much the same.

        • Being gay != not having sex with women.

          Being gay == having sex with men.

          Er. Source, please? I've never encountered that one before.

          Why then would we say GBLT if those who were Bi- fall under the category of Gay?

          You are on slashdot, you are not gay or hetero.

          Eunuch you probably would have noticed but the life style is much the same.

          I don't think you can apply the same "Slashdot geeks don't get laid" to the gay male contingent. The dynamics don't work quite the same way.

          Women have learned to withhold their consent to sex in order to broker power with males, and essentially reserve it much like doggy treats with the result that males compete to become the highest bidder in terms of fitness. (This

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I think this of interest to /. readers, as most have never seen a bra that has been successfully removed from a woman.

      That's unfair, most of us, er, them have masturbated into a favourite cousin or sister's discarded underwear at some point. ..

      • by drkim (1559875)

        Ha, ha..! An excellent point!

        That would also explain why this bra was found: "...hidden under the floorboards of Lengberg Castle..." by some 15th century nerd.

        His attractive cousin, Princess Grossbosom: "I say, Prince Jackalot, have you seen the breastbags I left in the royal laundry?"
        Prince Jackalot: "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, no."
        Princess Grossbosom: "I say, Prince Jackalot, why are you staring at me in such a peculiar fashion?"
        Prince Jackalot: "Ah, no reason."
        Princess Grossbosom: "Good Prince, we a

  • by decora (1710862) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:26AM (#40708299) Journal

    the patterns of the seams were shared by numerous ancient civilizations, separated by centuries, that had no contact with each other. and yet, they all share the same markings.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:44AM (#40708397)

    What looks at first glance like a descending backstrap is, in fact, the edge of a missing descending section - look at the lace holes, and the lay of the fabric.

    The entire lower front of what I assume to be some kind of "control garment" (like those combined bra/corset things you sometimes see in catalogues) is missing. Bodice, or corset, with built-in cups, yes. Brassiere, in the modern sense, no.

    I'm betting on costumes for a game of "The Naughty Pirate rips the Farmer's Daughter's Bodice".

  • by maroberts (15852) on Friday July 20, 2012 @02:49AM (#40708427) Homepage Journal

    ...that even in the 15th century, you still had to ensure you protected your washing line from underwear fetishists.....

    • ...that even in the 15th century, you still had to ensure you protected your washing line from underwear fetishists.....

      You think the lady doth undress too much?

      • by Rysc (136391) *

        A tip of the hat to you, sir, for the only genuinely funny comment posted to this story thus-far.

  • While they'll hardly send pulses racing by today's standards, the lace-and-linen underpinnings predate the invention of the modern brassiere by hundreds of years.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    Talkin' about jumping to conclusions!

    • by azalin (67640)
      Well most people, while appreciating good packaging, are more interested in the content.
  • Once again /. editors can't get even the basics correct. They refer to 500 year old bras while the article says 600 years old...

    • The first article linked to by the article says 500 years old, though whether the discrepancy in the summary is down to scrupulous fact-checking by the editor or a serendipitous cock-up is anyone's guess.

      News for serfs. Stuff in tatters.

  • 2 words... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 20, 2012 @05:10AM (#40709031)

    0xB16B00B5

  • by photonic (584757) on Friday July 20, 2012 @05:29AM (#40709095)
    Maybe they found one of the first versions of a bra with a modern design, but already some Roman mosaics [wikipedia.org] showed women wearing two-piece clothing, which isn't so different from a modern day bikini.
    • I especially like the "ruptured" look-and-feel of these designs. I think modern couturiers can learn from that.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:07AM (#40712421) Journal

    Let's face it, when it comes to history, man judges it based on where we are at. We think people are stupid because they lived in the past and they didn't have modern plumbing or an iPad, or anything like that. bah.

    Why wouldn't someone think of making a bra 500 years ago? 1000 years ago? Fuck, man has been around for millions of years, and been making their own clothes for that long. How hard is it to come up with a bra design? Not fucking very. Underwire, ya, I can see that being a modern invention, but the bra? Nope.

    People were just as smart as we are now (based on most the world, that isn't saying much, i'm sure), and they solved the same fucking problems we did. If we could travel back in time, we'd be surprised by all the stuff we think are "modern" inventions aren't.

    Truth is, man is very conceited and thinks he's all that, when in fact, we've been all that for 1000's of years. We aren't doing anything new.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:58AM (#40713353)

    Looking at those pictures, I'm reminded of the undergarments in the Elder Scrolls games. For those who aren't familiar, they're a series of video games in a fairly generic fantasy setting (the gameplay is fantastic and unique, they're great games, don't get me wrong, but the setting could be mistaken for many other Tolkien knock-offs).

    Anyways, one of the things you commonly do is loot the bodies of bandits and whatnot that you kill. And if you take their clothes, they're left laying there in their underwear (not removable for ESRB reasons). In the case of females, it looks almost exactly like the ones in the article. I had always thought it a bit anachronistic for the time period the games were portraying - obviously modern designs made using old materials don't fit "Generic Medieval Fantasy Europe" - but it turns out it may not be.

    Which doesn't explain how the game developers knew, of course, but they seem to have been right by accident.

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