Contemporary bras are more comfortable, modified versions of corsets — or so it was believed, until a 2007 discovery changed the way we see women's underwear. Working with a team of her colleagues, archaeologist Beatrix Nutz recently publicized her discovery of several linen bras and some underwear in a medieval castle.
Nutz has presented academic papers about her discovery, and even analyzed the underwear for DNA (see picture). But the public didn't hear about the medieval bras until a BBC history program showed pictures of them. Nutz and colleagues also found a pair of men's underwear (pictured below) — apparently medieval women wore no panties.
What this means is that women were wearing bras long before the invention of corsets. So corsets have been revealed as the uncomfortable, restrictive version of bras. Does that mean the middle ages were actually a more liberal time than the corset-obsessed eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Possibly — historians have offered a lot of evidence that gay marriage was legal in medieval Europe, too.
However you choose to interpret them, these intimate bits of history tell us that women have been sporting pretty much the same kinds of chestwear for hundreds of years.
Thanks for the tip, zuludaddy!