C15th Medieval Lingerie Discovered!

A Fabulous Feminine Find !

{Another post from our guest blogger – Kat Woods}

When I woke yesterday morning and read a post on my facebook page from a fellow friend, I didn’t think it would be such a monumentious day. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, you are seeing Medieval Underwear!



These garments, which I personally believe are linen due to them being in such close proximity to the skin and therefore having to be laundered frequently, have laid hidden in a vault beneath the floorboards of Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol, Austria since the 15th century.

The find, four bras (2 of which look like modern Bra’s and 2 which are described as ‘shirts with bags’) and two pairs of pants, were discovered by Beatrix Nutz, of Innsbruck University and she faced scepticism until radio-carbon dating proved otherwise.

Already since this article was first posted on the Daily Mail website in the UK yesterday, many have discussed the finds.

Two woman rightly say
“One find doesn’t mean all women everywhere during the 800years of “middle ages” wore underwear but obviously some of them, in some places at one time, did.”

“I do not believe it’s quite a shock, especially if you are a woman : wearing breasts is heavier than you think, it can hurt if you have big breasts, so why wouldn’t have a woman looked for a way to feel better in her body?”

Today, another woman backs up my own thoughts and research with  “Until today it was just a myth:  ‘The tailoring skills to make intricately cut and shaped clothing did not really develop in Europe until the middle of the fourteenth century. About this time, women began wearing an undergarment of stiffened linen, tightened by front or back laces. In the fifteenth century this item was known as a pair of stays or bodies in English and corps or cors in French. The English word corset presumably comes from a version of the French cors. At first corsets were made of two layers of linen, held together with a stiff paste. The resulting rigid material held in and formed the wearer’s figure.’   Now we know more  :)”

From my experience into researching medieval ladies headdresses from various effigies throughout the UK the bust line is far higher than the modern bust line and the cleft of the bust is just below the collar bone. We know ladies that this is not possible; boobs cannot be that pert without some form of body binding. The Roman acrobats had leather bustiers as they are portrayed in mosaics, and we know the Italian ladies of the Renaissance also had leather laced up corsets of a similar form alongside the early Tudor corsets. Elizabeth I Funeral effigy at Westminster had reeds in her linen corset as I myself have seen it. I too have found refs’ for ‘a pair of bodies’ and ‘corsettus’ and Queen Philippa, wife to Edward III, had documented a red velvet corset, cut in 13 pieces, although there is no descriptions as to how this would look.

And I noted elsewhere yesterday “Lack of evidence doesn’t mean that evidence is lacking, we just haven’t discovered it yet.
These fabulous feminine finds to me is proof for years that backs up my hunch, there were medieval undergarments similar to Roman acrobats depicted on Mosaics. :-)”

But let’s be honest here ladies, my sisters in the Medieval Re-enactment fraternity, it maybe ‘one find’ but it is one find that gives us a closer glimpse into the woman’s side of the Medieval World, a world that is always hidden and overshadowed by the Medieval masculine world, but has always been there. Such wonderful finds like this, turn all our thinking onto its head and make us all address and re-evaluate our own research and sharing such valuable research information to each other without any bitchiness, backstabbing or malice, is what it’s is all about. I LOVE this part of our hobby. I love it when a find is found and tangible proof finally appears to back up your own private musings which you dare not say aloud for fear of being set down publicly because you dare to think outside the box by looking at other references differently, piecing them all together like a jigsaw until you have the full picture.

Until yesterday, a part of my jigsaw picture to medieval undergarments for many a year was missing from my talks of “Dressing of a Lady” ( shown here) which we did with our Group ‘Age of Chivalry’ for English Heritage. The missing piece has now fallen into place.  I cannot wait to read what the M.E.D.A.T.S  ( Medieval Dress and Textile Society)  conference discusses and many respected Medieval persons, medievalists and Historical Costumiers think when they put their thoughts to the discussion but until then I shall be happy to read the Full Article in Aug issue of BBC History and I pick up my copy today YAY!!

Guest Blogger:  Kat Woods

{~Runs a business which has raised the costume and headwear standards in re-enactment throughout the UK, Europe, Australia and USA  by producing High Quality Bespoke pieces of work for Re-enactors and Medieval Interpreters in the UK and Worldwide, English Heritage, CADW and Museums.
~Been a key participant in re-enactment for over 26yrs and in that time has portrayed Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan and Regency with Dance and period style dresses and accessories. Is a keen researcher of period costumes and headwear but specialises in the medieval period as this is where her heart and passion is strongest. This has led to a lot of ecclesiastical research in particular photographing tomb effigies and has a large data base of primary sources.
~Ran a successful medieval dance group, called ‘The Court of King Edward’ for Excalibur Medieval Society, which had a reputation of being the best in the South West of England.
~ Now part of ‘Age of Chivalry’, a Fourteenth Century Medieval Group which specializes in the re-creation of Full Contact Tournament Fighting and Dance of the period of Edward, The Black Prince which she runs with Richard Babbage.
~Participates in dance workshops by renowned Historical Dance teachers of the Early Dance Circle, Diana Cruickshank and Philippa Waite. Attended workshops by the late Peggy Dixon.
~Organises medieval society weekend tours of Medieval Exeter with its Medieval Underground Tunnels.
~Has been made honorary member of many other UK societies due to her help and advice.
~Kat is working on a book about medieval headdresses from her research of Female Medieval Tomb effigies. She had exclusive access to the effigy of Princess Beatrice, Countess of Arundel in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel and had written permission from Arundel Castle to contact the Courtauld Institute of Art for more detailed photographs of the Duke of Norfolk’s ancestor.}

Accessories and Bling!

Hello again, readers.

Last week’s Dreadful Note of Preparation from Damien, reminded me that while my Project Gorgeous Garment may be nearing completion, my supply of knick-knacks and trinkets was a little sparse?  And even though dressing-up and getting into the spirit of the Abbey Medieval Festival is completely our own experience choice, I began to wonder where on earth I could get the right kind of bling?   So, this week, I want to write about attention to the final details of your medieval costume.

I know I’m not the only person that tends to leave things like this to the last moment, and one of my pet hates is not being a hundred percent happy with my choice and having to settle with something I don’t really like because of time.  And for me definitely one of those ninety-ninth hour things is accessories.  A lot of our customers have also been asking where to find something affordable to complete their medieval costumes.

Fear not readers! Medieval accessories – obviously not authentic – are easier to find than you think. And while I know I would love to have a falcon on my arm as a fashion statement, it’s really not that do-able for most.  So, last weekend, I went on a different type of hunt.  I visited Morayfield Shopping Centre in Caboolture, North Brisbane, with my three children (who were on a good behaviour bribe!) to see what was out there in the way of Medieval style jewellery. The kids pretended to be Birds of  Prey, hunting for shiny, old, things, which took their fancy!

Nothing completes your medieval costume like some bright accessories and a smile!

Historians, with the utmost of respect – I anticipate your alarm – but we found some great imitation bling in ……DIVA!

And like it or loathe it, I came home happy!  Part of what I want to do in the overall Medieval Festival is to bring a medieval entertainment experience to the masses.  So I left my authenticity eye at home and just wanted to see what the universe would put forward. Lo and behold! I found brooches, necklaces, rings, ear-rings, tiaras and bling galore.

Obviously, very modern, but let’s not underestimate the importance of having a fun experience! And let’s face it, if we had a pre-requisite to wear only authentic accessories, the Abbey Medieval Banquet and Carnivale would be a quiet party! If DIVA’s accessories enable your medieval transformation, then they get my vote! It’s all in the spirit of preparation for the Medieval Banquet, Abbey Tournament or Carnival!

Go forth and shop!

Till next time, Caroline