Despite their state of decay, the knickers bear more than a passing resemblance to the string bikini briefs that are popular today, while the bra has the fitted cups and delicate straps of its modern-day counterparts.
While it was known that medieval men wore undergarments that looked like modern-day shorts, it was thought that women simply wore a smock or chemise.
Hilary Davidson, fashion curator at the Museum of London, said that the discovery “totally rewrites” fashion history, adding : “Nothing like this has ever come up before.”
She believes that it was “entirely probable” that something similar had been worn by Britain’s medieval women.
“These finds are a very exciting insight into the way people dressed in the Middle Ages,” a major newspaper quoted Davidson as telling a history magazine.
“It’s rare that everyday garments of any kind survive from this period, let alone underwear,” she said.
The undergarments were among almost 3,000 fragments of clothing and other detritus that had been found in Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol during recent renovations.
It is thought that they had been buried when the building was extended in 1480 and that the exceptionally dry conditions stopped the fragile garments from disintegrating over the centuries.
Beatrix Nutz, of Innsbruck University, who made the find, initially had faced scepticism but radiocarbon-dating tests confirmed her suspicions.
The haul included four bras and two pairs of pants. Two of the bras resemble modern counterparts but the others have been described rather bluntly as “shirts with bags.”