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Discovery of Centuries-Old Bras Rewrites History of Underwear AP

A discovery of bras dating from the Middle Ages has forced historians to rethink the history of underwear, the Associated Press reports.

The find in an Austrian castle means women wore bras some 600 years ago -- about 500 years before what was thought to be the origin of the garment.

“The University of Innsbruck said Wednesday that archeologists found four linen bras dating from the Middle Ages in an Austrian castle,” the story reports. “Fashion experts describe the find as surprising because the bra had commonly been thought to be only little more than 100 years old as women abandoned the tight corset. Instead, it appears the bra came first, followed by the corset, followed by the reinvented bra.”

The garments were uncovered in 2008, but the news did not make it beyond academic circles until an article on the find appeared recently in the BBC History Magazine.

“We didn’t believe it ourselves,” said Beatrix Nutz, the archaeologist responsible for the find. “From what we knew, there was no such thing as bra-like garments in the 15th century.”

It took some time to research the items and carbon date them to ensure that they were genuine, the report notes.

The piece adds: “One specimen in particular ‘looks exactly like a (modern) brassiere,’ says Hilary Davidson, fashion curator for the London Museum. ‘These are amazing finds.’”

Davidson called the discovery “kind of a missing link” in the history of women’s underwear, the report notes.