From HistoryExtra, which I think is the blog for the BBC History Magazine podcast (highly recommended), comes evidence that bras were originally medieval torture devices:
Lengberg Castle, first documented in 1190, was rebuilt into a representative palais in the 15th century by adding a second floor. During extensive reconstruction in July 2008, a vault filled with waste was found beneath the floorboards of a room on the second storey of the castle, where it was dumped during the 15th-century reconstruction.
Due to dry conditions in the vault the organic waste, mainly consisting of worked wood, leather (shoes) and textiles had been extremely well preserved, and four of the linen fragments resemble modern bras. The criterion is the presence of distinct cut cups – in contrast to antique Greek or Roman breast bands, simple strips of cloth or leather wound around the breasts and designed to flatten rather than enhance.
There are some written medieval sources on possible female breast support, but they are rather vague on the topic. Henri de Mondeville, surgeon to Philip the Fair of France and his successor Louis X, wrote in his Cyrurgia in 1312–20: “Some women… insert two bags in their dresses, adjusted to the breasts, fitting tight, and they put them [the breasts] into them [the bags] every morning and fasten them when possible with a matching band.”
These ‘bags’ served the same purpose as antique breast bands – that is to contain too large breasts. However, the “shirts with bags in which they put their breasts” that Konrad Stolle complained about in his chronicle of Thuringia and Erfurt in 1480 seem to have obtained the opposite effect, as he concludes his description with the words “all indecent”.
Forget the indecency of the “shirts with bags” attached, check out the matching string bikini panties.
What I want to know is did Maid Marian stuff her stretch lace underwires? It looks like they also made halter styles 600 years ago too. A little variety of discomfort for the ladies. Did they also have racerbacks and push-ups? And now that Hillary has decided to go without makeup, will she dare to wear only a camisole under those pantsuits, setting another precedent for the rest of us? I only ask.
Anyway, I immediately thought of Avedon when I saw it.
Hope I scooped her on this one. ;-)