Underwear has been around for a long time. it isn't some new-fangled invention. As far back as Ancient Rome, men and women were known to wear simply wrapped loin-cloths, probably made from linen, under their outer garments. There was, of course, no universal rule in undergarments; people wore what was comfortable, available, or necessary for modesty—or nothing at all.
In Medieval times, humans still wore loincloths but other undergarments became available, as well. "In addition to loincloths, medieval men wore an entirely different type of underpants called braies. Women of the period might have worn a breast band called a strophium or mamillare made from linen or leather. Just like today, those competing in sports could benefit from wearing confining garments that correspond with modern sports bras, dance belts, or jockstraps."
Not much is known about Medieval underwear because it wasn't written about much, if at all and natural fabrics don't survive for more than a few hundred years, at most. Therefore, most of what historians know about medieval undergarments has been pieced together from period artwork and the occasional archaeological find.
"One such archaeological find took place in an Austrian castle in 2012. A cache of feminine delicates was preserved in a sealed-off vault, and the items included garments very similar to modern-day brassieres and underpants. This exciting find in medieval underwear revealed that such garments were in use as far back as the 15th century. The question remains as to whether they were used in earlier centuries, and whether only the privileged few could afford them." Medieval men's underpants were fairly loose drawers known as braies, breies, breeks, or breeches. Varying in length from upper-thigh to below the knee, braies could be closed with a drawstring at the waist or cinched with a separate belt around which the top of the garment would be tucked. Braies were usually made of linen, most likely in its natural off-white color, but they could also be sewn from finely woven wool, especially in colder climes. I don't know about you, but woolen underwear does not appeal to me at all! But, I suppose, you get used it...especially if you're living in a cold clime and it helps keep in some warmth. But braies were not only used as underwear, they were also frequently worn by laborers with little else when doing hot work. These could be worn well below the knees and tied to the wearer's waist to keep them out of the way. No one knows for certain whether or not medieval women wore underpants before the 15th century. Since the dresses medieval women wore were so long, it could be very inconvenient to remove underwear when answering nature's call. Since there is no evidence one way or the other, it's entirely possible that, at times, medieval women wore loincloths or short braies.
What about hose or socks, you ask? Both men and women would often keep their legs covered with hose, or hosen. These might be stockings with complete feet, or they might be merely tubes that stopped at the ankle. The tubes could also have straps underneath to secure them to the feet without completely covering them. Styles varied according to necessity and personal preference. Hose was not ordinarily knitted. Instead, each one was sewn from two pieces of woven fabric, most commonly wool but sometimes linen, cut against the bias to give it some stretch. Stockings with feet had an additional piece of fabric for the sole. Hose varied in length from thigh-high to just below the knee. Given their limitations in flexibility, they weren't particularly well-fitted, but in the later Middle Ages, when more luxurious fabrics became available, they could look very good indeed.
Men were known to attach their hose to the bottoms of their braies. A laborer might tie up his outer garments to keep them out of the way, with hose stretching up to his braies. Armored knights were likely to secure their hose this way because their sturdy stockings, known as chausses, provided some cushioning against the metal armor. Alternatively, hose could be kept in place with garters, which is how women secured them. A garter could be nothing fancier than a short cord that the wearer tied around her leg, but for more well-off folk, especially women, it could be rather more elaborate, with ribbon, velvet, or lace. It is thought that women's hose only went to the knee.
This probably a lot more than you ever wanted to know about Medieval underwear but, still, you have to admit it's fascinating. Or maybe I'm just weird.
I'm off for the weekend and heading out to spend a little time with my family, enjoying some of this beautiful early fall weather. Quigley, Jr. wants to take a picnic and go for hop through the nearby woods. Sounds perfect to me! Whatever your plans are, have a great time and I hope you get to spend a little time enjoying all of the gifts that Mother Nature has to offer. See you again on Monday. Until then, stay safe and be happy.