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Clothing and Dress for Women in the Art of Ancient Greece

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Clothing and Dress for Women in the Art of Ancient Greece

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Clothing and Dress for Women in the Art of Ancient Greece

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Time line

Clothes began as the skin of an animal. Weaving seems to have begun to be used for baskets. This weaving began with natural stips such as rush or bark. Once spinning was developed baskets, pouches, and rectangles could be woven using basket weaving techniques. This is still done and is referred to as tatting. Netting also in similarly made. Once spinning was discovered string skirts can be made. This appears to be how the Minoan clothing was made. If Minoan clothing was made of string then the elaborate shapes of fitted clothing in the Minoan frescoes could be explained. Minoan women are shown wearing a vest-like top that exposes the breasts and a girdle-like belt around the waist. Below this is a flounced skirt ('pe-ko-to' ?) of an elaborate sort. Minoan men wore short pants which consist of a girdle around the waist with a strap between the legs and a half kilt on the rear. Another possibility is a skirt make of hides. This is illustrated: Click here. The flounced skirt and girdle made with string is illustrated: Click here.

Once the loom was in common use one would expect the rectangle of cloth would be a common component of dress. The peplos of the ancient greeks is just this. from a loom. The peplos consisted of a large rectangle of cloth folded around the body and hung from the shoulders. It was bound with a belt at the waist. Homer mentions the peplos only for women. The similar chiton was mentioned only for men. During the classical period women wore the peplos or the chiton. A himation was a cloaklike garment also worn. Athletes went nude in the sports contests. One of the athletes tripped and strangled himself in his garments and from that time onward athletic contests were performed in the nude. Atalanta sometimes was nude when she raced and beat men.

Greek men at the time of the Trojan war wore different kinds of clothes than were present in classical Greece. When Athena dressed for war she sheds her soft embroidered robe and puts on a tunic in its place. In addition she has the Aegis, a helmet, and a spear. When Patroclus puts on Achilles' armor he puts on greaves, cuirass, sword and shield. This is probably because men always wore tunics. That women wore robes and men wore tunics is born out by the figures on the warrior vase unearthed by Schliemann himself. This vase is dated to 1200 B.C.E. or just after the Trojan war. The tunics were gathered at the waist as some warriors wore belts or aprons. The main armor during the Trojan war was leather. Most of the warriors wore leather helmets, shields, cuirass, apron, and greaves. Only a few warriors had bronze equipment. A good javelin could pierce the leather and this explains the deadly nature of that weapon as described by Homer. A bone overlay provided additional protection for some warriors. The helmet was not the Corithian or Athenian helmet of the classical period. Neither the face nor the ears were that well protected. The Hittite men of this period wore what might e described as a knee length, shirt-like tunic. The Greeks seemed to be wearing a similar but shorter tunic. The Minoan culture of before the Trojan war dressed their men in something like boxer shorts with a very tight girdle around the waist. They also wore a long skirt made of skin on some occaisons. Minoan men are frequently shown with no clothing above the waist. Rarely they are shown with robes on.

During the classical period men and women wore a combination of one or more of a peplos, a chiton, or a himation. A tunic or a girdle might be worn as an undergarment. A chiton might be worn on top of these or alone. A peplos might be worn alone or over a chiton with or without undergarments. A himation could be worn alone or over any other combination of garments.

During this period women became aware of the attractive nature of clothing and began to wear clothing that revealed the voluptous nature of the body underneath. This was especially true of the material from Amorgos. This material exploited a wild plant of the islands. This wild plant was used for the weaving of the flamboyant linen and silk robes of ancient Amorgos, prized items of the classical era, which were dyed red using the lichen Rocella tinctoria.

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A glossary of Clothing terms

  1. ampechone (ἀμπεχόνη -- fine upper garment or shawl often worn over a chiton.
  2. apoptygma -- ἀπόπτυγμα , Louvre E 803 the overfold, or part folded back, on a peplos. This word seems to mean 'spew away' from Indo-European 'apo', 'of, away' and 'spyeu', 'To spew, spit'
  3. apodesmos (ἀποδεμος)-- band, breastband, or girdle. May have been used by spartan women for athletic purposes. 'Outer constraint' from Indo-European 'apo-', 'off away' and 'deme-2', 'To constrain'.
  4. chlaina - χλαῖνα - A cloak worn over the chiton. Odyssey 5.229. Also line 1133, Aristophanes, Wasps. Might be from IE 'ghleu-', 'to be happy, joyful'
  5. Chiton (Χῐτών) -- a robe made of two pieces of material from a possibly semitic word. In early times (Homer) this applied only to a man's garment. The word 'ki-to' appears on the linear b tablets from the Mycenaean period. The female version was the peplos.
  6. chitoniskos, Louvre F 203, an Amazon, wearing a cuirass over a chitoniskos, bracelets and a taenia, approaches a shield and a quiver.
  7. diadem, 'διάδημα' Würzburg L 248, Maid with diadem (Ariadne?). In general a diadem is a headband worn by Persian kings.
  8. diplas -- δίπλαξ -- double folded mantle, helen, Iliad 3.125.
  9. eanos -- ἑανός -- 'robe', Homer, Iliad 14.177 from Indo-European '2. eu-' 'to dress, put on' and '2. nei-, neiə-, nī-', 'to be moved, excited; to shine'. Normally this word is taken to mean the same as 'peplos'. It may be like the word 'polos' that is found associated with goddesses and other very important women.
  10. eima -- εἷμα -- 'garment', Homer, Odyssey, 2.4, translated 'clothing'. Indo-European '3. ei-', 'bright; reddish' and ,7. mel-', 'wool, woolen garment' would make it 'red wool'.
  11. epiblema, Berlin 1574 -- ἐπίβλημα -- large cloak or mantle that is wrapped around the body.
  12. exomis, RISD 25.082 - a short tunic.
  13. flounced skirt('pe-ko-to') - a skirt worn by Minoan women perhaps only when they were involved in religious ceremonies. 'pe-ko-to' is a word found in Linear b translated to 'πλεκτά'in Greek. Though this means 'knitwear' the term may refer to the knotting or interweaving method most likely used to make the flounced skirts.
  14. himation -- ἱμάτιον -- thick cloak or mantle
  15. kaluptra, Boston 04.16 - καλύπτρα - A woman's veil. Odyssey 5.232, 10.545
  16. καταστεφής -- katastephes -- deck with garlands, crowned, wreath -- from Sophocles, Trachiniae, line 180, From Indo-European 1. kat- 'to link, plait, weave; chain, net' and steb(h)- 'stump, post, pillar; to support, etc.' Obviously this word is related to 'stephane' but the derivation suggests a relation to the pollos of a caryatid. The stephane may well be a circular pad that would allow the women to carry a jug of water more easily.
  17. Kestos, κεστός - embroidery on a girdle and somtimes a brassiere. Iliad, 14.214, πολύκεστος: richly embroidered, cf. “κεστὸν ἱμάντα
  18. kolpos, Louvre Ma 3582, a gathering of fabric (usually on a belted chiton) that spills over the belt, often obscuring it.
  19. Kekruphalos, Louvre CA 587, a woman standing in a frontal pose, with her head profile to the left, wears a sleevless chiton and a kekruphalos. This is a woman's hair net. (κεκρύφᾰλος). The meaning of the word is something like 'show white' from Indo-European 'ku̯ek̑-', 'to see, show, appear', and 1. bhel- 'glittering white'.
  20. Κιμμερίκόν - A woman's garment, Aristophanes, Lysistrata line 45, 52. Also a city in Bosporus. This may have been a city at the end of the silk road. The translator of Aristophanes, Lysistrata, Jack Lindsay, Ed. translates this as "gawdy toilets Of stately silk".
  21. kredemnon - κρήδεμνον - a veil or mantilla with lappets or flaps. Iliad 14.184.
  22. κροκωτός -- a saffron colored robe worn possibly over a chiton. Aristophanes, Lysistrata line 47, 44
  23. κυνῆ πρόσωπα Θεσσαλίς -- (Thessalian bonnet) -- Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus line 314, bonnet
  24. Mantle
  25. mastodeton (μαστόδετον) -- breast band. from Greek meaning 'breast binder' but not Indo-European
  26. meniskos The restored Peplos Kore wears a meniskos on her head. A supposed sunshade placed atop statues to protect them from the elements.
  27. ὀρθοστάδιον -- a loose, ungirded tunic which hung down in straight folds from the neck to the ground (possibly for dancing since a stadion is a dancing floor). Aristophanes, Lysistrata, line 45
  28. paryphe, Louvre Ma 3303 a clump of drapery, clasped by korai in the front of their skirts
  29. peplos (πέπλος)-- a robe (a woven covering) hense the possible derivation from Indo-European: '3b. pel-, pelə-, plē-', 'to wrap, cover; cloth; fell, pelt' and 'plek̑-', 'to ply, pleach, plait, weave'
  30. περιβαρίδες -- women's shoes from Indo-European '2a. per-', 'to pass over/beyond' and 'baitā, or paitā?', 'goatskin; cloak, mantle' and '1. u̯ebh-', 'to plait, weave, waver, move back and forth'. The suggestion is the athe shoes are formed of goatskin that is bound around the foot. Aristophanes, Lysistrata line 45.
  31. petasos, Louvre F 30, worn by Hermes as a hat.
  32. pharos - φα̂ρος - A mantle or cloth wrapped around the body. Odyssey 5.230,ἀργύφεον φᾶρος -- long white robe, finely woven and beautiful Calypso. Aeschylus, Libation Bearers φάρεσιν μελαγχίμοις line ten, φᾶρος -- shroud, a wide cloak or mantle from IE 'bhar-', 'bristle, stubble; something jutting out', μελάγχιμος -- black dark
  33. plokos -- πλόκος -- wreathing, wreath, Euripides, Medea line 786
  34. polos (plural poloi) the headress or crown of a goddess.
  35. ῥῆγος -- rug, blanket, coverlet, Odyssey 6.37
  36. sakkos, Louvre CA 587, a woman draped in a himation and wearing a sakkos on her head, is profile to the left.
  37. sphendone, σφενδόνη, Louvre CA 587 a woman, seated profile to the right, wearing a himation over a sleeveless chiton, and a sphendone in her hair. The sphendone is broad in front.
  38. stephane, Louvre G 42, Στεφάνη -- Artemis, wearing a himation draped over her shoulders, a thin chiton with an overfold, a thin stephane and wreath in her hair. A stephane can be a wreath, diadem, or crown. From Indo-European 'steb(h)-', 'stump, post, pillar; to support, etc.' The name seems to relate to the pads women wore to help them carry a water jug on their head. Consider χρυσοστέφανος -- gold-crowned at Hesiod, Theogony, line 17
  39. taenia, Louvre CA 587, a woman wearing a chiton with a long overfold, and a broad taenia, stands profile to the right and holds an alabastron in her outstretched right hand.
  40. thusanos -- θύσανος -- tassel (Homer, Iliad 14.182, 2.446)
  41. tunic -- Louvre F 36, Herakles, wearing his lionskin over a short tunic. In The Wasps of Aristophanes, line 1137, the word τηνδὶ -- tunic? appears which seems to be translated as tunic. Tunics and chitons are very similar. Tunic comes from Aramaic kituna while Chiton comes from Hebrew kethonet
  42. tunic on a doll
  43. ζῶστρον -- zostron -- a belt, girdle, Odyssey 6.37
  44. zone - ζώνῃ - 'girdle' from Indo-European 'i̯ō[u]s-', 'To gird'. Iliad 2.448

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Costumes

A peplos is a pretty easy garment to make. It consists of two pieces of rectangular material that are pinned along the top. The Greek ladies used long pins like hat pins, but you should use safety pins. The material overlaps and is pinned through. These pins could be decorative like a brooch. The width of the rectangle is equal to the width between your wrists when your arms are spread out. The height is equal to the distance between your shoulders and your ankles. The pins should leave a space for your head in the middle. You slip the garment over your head so your head sticks through and the material hangs on your shoulders and arms. You gather the material at your waist with a sash or cord. The material should be a supple material such as silk or a knitted fabric like wool. The Greek ladies usually wore wool. Images follow:

In The Trojan Women Line 496, by Euripides Hecuba describes the clothing of a slave: "Torn rags about me,..., and under them torn flesh."

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Jewelry

A line in the Birds of Aristophanes, line 670 states: "She is dazzling all over with gold, like a young girl." This suggests that young women wore a lot more jewelry than the older ones did.

The same style of garment was worn by rich and poor women. The rich woman wore finer material that was embroidered. Rich women would also wear a crown and fine jewelry.

They used many kinds of jewely made from precious and semi-precious stones. These were set in gold and silver. The pieces included: rings, earrings, clasps, necklaces, crowns, combs, and pins. A web site on Greek Jewelry is at: Click here

Jewelry was very important to a woman of ancient Greece. Jewelry often indicated a woman's wealth and status. Jewelry also included symbols which were important to religious beliefs. Some pictures follow which you click on to see:

Examples of gold jewelry follow:

A coin necklace is made with one or more coins. Ancient Greek Coins are quite decorative and desirable.

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Cosmetics and Make-up (makeup)

The ancient Greek ladies had available a number of substances to color their lips and skins. There are a number of earth colors which could have been used. Ochre includes various oxides of iron that could be red, yellow or black. The red version could be used as a rouge. Charcoal can be ground to a black powder that could be mixed with olive oil or wax and used as a mascara. The ancient Egyptians knew how to make white lead and this substance was available to the Greeks in powdered form. They liked oils and lotions as well. Olive oil was available as was lard, tallow, bees' wax, and lanolin. Soap was a discovery of the Romans so the ancient Greeks had no soap.

In the theater the actors wore masks that were painted.

What they wore was light. Rouge was the most evident.

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Culture and Clothing

In Alcestis of Euripides, line 1050: "For she is young, as is evident from her clothing and adornment."

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