This post is the second installment of a series that looks at costumes throughout the ancient world.” In the first part, we discussed the costumes of ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Minoans. In this post, we’ll focus on the costumes of ancient Greece.
Ancient Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics, democracy, columns and pavilions, mythologies, and many more. In terms of clothing, they are known for their tunics. Their styles vary – if ever so slightly – during the different segments of their history, namely Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods.
During the Archaic period, the Greeks wore simple clothing made from wool. These woolen cloths were cut into squares which they then pinned on their shoulders and wrapped around their body.
During the early days of this period, the Greeks used the Doric chiton, which usually had patterns and was dyed indigo, madder, or saffron.
Here’s how it’s worn: “Its upper edge was folded over to hang down on the breast; it was folded around the body, caught together on each shoulder by bins, leaving the arms uncovered, and though open down the right side, was held in place by the girdle, over which it bloused.”
The Dorians also introduced the Greeks to hooded cloaks, banded leg coverings, and Phrygian caps.
During the later days of this period, the Ionians settled in Greece and brought with them high-quality textiles, which paved the way for the draped style of Grecian clothing.
The Ionic chiton consists of two pieces sewn together, frequently pleated, and had purple patterns. The wealthy Greeks had chitons made of fine wool and finely woven linen, while others used flax soaked in olive oil and peasants used coarse wool.
During this period, the Greeks draped their clothing, which required little sewing. It was held in place by decorative pins and ribbons. Instead of square fabrics they used oblong pieces of fabric in different sizes and materials. Although the dress was fairly simple, the Greeks were able to wear it in many ways.
This period was characterized by wealth and expansion of the territory thanks to Alexander the Great. New materials – cotton from India and silk from China – enriched the Grecian garb.
The men of this period wore a knee-length chiton seamed up on one or both sides. Women, on the other hand, wore the chiton up to the ankles. Women also wore the peplos, a fabric (or two) that was folded over and hung down across the top of the chiton.
The ancient Greeks had two forms of cloak or wrap: chlamys and himation. The chlamys was the smaller of the two and was made of dark wool. It was pinned on one shoulder, leaving the right arm free. The himation was larger and was used to cover the body or worn over the head for married women. It came in natural wool colors or dyed scarlet, crimson, or purple and had woven patterns and embroidery.
Men kept their hair long, but later on, cut it short and curled. Most men wore hats during bad weather only. Women kept their hair long and curled or wore wigs. They decorated their hair or wigs with flowers, jewels, and fillets.
The Greeks did not use any footwear indoors but chose leather sandals when they went out. Men also wore boots, laced up in the front.
They wore jewelry and used makeup and perfume.
Ancient Greek costumes, much like most of its civilization, continues to influence modern fashion. Designers continue to draw inspiration from the costumes of ancient Greece, such as can be seen from the popular goddess gown.
This ends part 2 of our series. Here’s part 3.