Clothing in ancient Greece
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Clothing in ancient Greece primarily consisted of the chiton, peplos, himation, and chlamys. Ancient Greek men and women typically wore two pieces of clothing draped about the body: an undergarment (chiton or peplos) and a cloak (himation or chlamys). Clothes were customarily homemade out of various lengths of rectangular linen or wool fabric with little cutting or sewing, and secured with ornamental clasps or pins, and a belt, or girdle (zone). Pieces were generally interchangeable between men and women.
While no clothes have survived from this period, descriptions exist in contemporary accounts and artistic depictions. Clothes were mainly homemade, and often served many purposes (such as bedding). Common clothing of the time was plain white, sometimes incorporating decorative borders. There is evidence of elaborate design and bright colors, but these were less common.
History and Types
The chiton was a simple tunic garment of lighter linen that was worn by both genders and all ages. It consisted of a wide, rectangular tube of material secured along the shoulders and upper arms by a series of fasteners. Chitons typically fell to the ankles of the wearer, but shorter chitons were sometimes worn during vigorous activities by athletes, warriors or slaves.
Often times excess fabric would be pulled over a girdle, or belt, which was fastened around the waist (see kolpos). To deal with the bulk sometimes a strap, or anamaschalister was worn around the neck, brought under the armpits, crossed in the back and tied in the front. A himation, or cloak, could be worn over-top of the chiton.
A predecessor to the himation, the peplos was a square piece of cloth that was originally worn over the chiton. The top third of the cloth was folded over and pinned at both shoulders, leaving the cloth open down one side. Sometimes the peplos was worn alone as an alternative form of chiton. As with the chiton, oftentimes a girdle or belt would be used to fasten the folds at the waist.
The himation was a basic outer garment worn over the peplos or chiton. It consisted of a heavy rectangular material, passing under the left arm and secured at the right shoulder. The cloak would be twisted around a strap that also passed under the left arm and over the right shoulder. A more voluminous himation was worn in cold weather.
Women often wore a strophion, the bra of the time, under their garments. The strophion was a wide band of wool or linen wrapped across the breasts and tied between the shoulder blades.
Fasteners and Buttons
Since clothing was rarely cut or sewn, fasteners and buttons were often used to keep garments in place. Small buttons, pins and brooches were used.
Large pins, called peronai, were worn at the shoulders, facing down, to hold the chiton or peplos in place.
Ornamentation in the form of jewelry, elaborate hairstyles and make-up was common for women. Small gold ornaments would be sewn onto their clothing and would glitter as they moved.
Ancient Greek clothing was made with silk, linen and most often, wool. The production of fabric was a long and tedious process, making ready-made clothing expensive.It was socially accepted that textile making was primarily a women's responsibility, and the production of high quality textiles was regarded as an accomplishment for women of high status. Once made, the cloth was rarely cut. The seamless rectangles of fabric were draped on the body in various ways with little sewing involved.
- Alden, Maureen (January 2003), "Ancient Greek Dress", Costume 37.1: 1–16
- Adkins, Lesley, and Roy Adkins. Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece. New York: Facts On File, 1997. Print.
- Ancient Greek Dress Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
- Garland, Robert. Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.
- Johnson, Marie, Ethel B. Abrahams, and Maria M. L. Evans. Ancient Greek Dress. Chicago: Argonaut, 1964. Print.
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