Archives for posts with tag: Undergarment

Before you think I am weird go see the previous blog and you will know what this is about.

So what happened in Europe once Christianity arrived, did they or didn’t they wear underpants? well things get difficult for the dress historian here due to the proximity of underpants to genitals and the reproductive organs. Anything to do with sex quickly became taboo, which means we are very short on images and even written evidence on the wearing of underclothing.

But here is something interesting. Have a really good look at the figure on the far left, inside the hut ( and while you are at it the guy sitting next to her).

Yes she is not wearing underpants and yes her genitals are on show. The question is WHY?.  Possibly a reference to staying indoors during the winter months, keeping warm and having sex. But back to underwear: with the use of long linen undershirts women did not generally wear underpants (except at that time of the month). The T shaped undergarment  was enough, it hid the woman “shame” and absorbed sweat and body odor. Linen could be boiled in hot water or scrubbed on riverside stones, unlike wool or the silk used for outer clothing by the higher classes.

Limbourg brothers, month of February, Les tre Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, 1412

Limbourg brothers, month of February, Les tres Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, 1412

 les-tres-riches-heures-du-duc-de-berry-fevrier-february-detail
Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc Du Berry

linen underpants, 15th century, Lengberg castle, Germany

linen underpants, 15th century, Lengberg castle, Germany

Ok they are in bad shape despite excellent conservation, but they are an amazing find (found with other underwear) and they are from the same period as the above image.

So in conclusion we can say that some women did and some women didn’t wear underpants in the middle ages.

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mosaic at Piazza Armerina, Sicily

mosaic at Piazza Armerina, Sicily

girl's leather underpants, museum of London

Its THE question which comes up in history of dress lectures year in year out… morbid/fetishist student interest for this topic aside, it is a GREAT question.
As children we all looked under our dolls’ dresses to see if there was underwear there, as adults we tend to look at the exterior first and usually dont think about what is underneath at all. But as all dress historians know, what really makes an outfit is what is worn under the clothing to shape the body.

SO this will be a key topic at FASHIONARCHAEOLOGY

For women in Ancient Roman times we have evidence of underwear: the famous sicilian mosaics (image 1)  which also address the important topic of women and physical exercise in the past  and  the hugely important Roman London find – a pair of girl’s leather underpants (image 2, now  in the Museum of London)  physical/matrial evidence to support the visual material. Amazing!!