we think of Greece today as a relatively small country in the east of Europe, it was at
one time the 'it' place of its day. It was a country of eminent thinkers
and put Greece at the forefront of civilized thought and argument.
Manners and costume also helped create a Greek culture that gave additional
structure to one of the greatest civilisations the earth has seen.
Consequently Greece has influenced every other nation that has risen to
The ideas, philosophies and writings left behind by the Greeks and the
resultant archaeological finds from old ruins have created a good source
of Greek era material and especially of costume.
Pictorial evidence has enabled us to have a very clear idea of Ancient
The fashion history of ancient Greece has been carefully illustrated on vases,
pots and in statue form.
These two images above are representations of ancient Greek dresses found by
One common factor of the styles of all early clothes is that they are
made from uncomplicated basic shapes which rely on girdles, belts and
brooches, clasp or pins to create shape and form around the human body.
Grecian clothes were little more than artfully arranged pieces of cloth,
pinned and tucked into position as shown here.
Their elegance is
derived from the careful arrangement of folds and
complex arrangements of girdles, strapping or belts. Simple borders
fall into interesting patterns when arranged as a long chiton robe.
Embroidered patterns such as checks and floral forms were used to embellish
the fabric edges to create border effects. The most famous Greek pattern is the Greek key/fret pattern
Other patterns such as the acanthus were also a typical Greek motif.
Both men and women wore the tunic or Greek chiton and it was simply an
arrangement of folded and wrapped fabric as shown above and left.
Women wore a floor length dress called a Greek chiton. In early
times the Doric chiton was made from fabric which was the height of the
wearer, plus 12 inches. The width was that of the full open arm span. The
fabric was folded as shown in the chiton pattern picture shown right. A is
pinned to A and B is pinned to B. The open sides are wrapped around
each other and a girdle tied at the waistline with the loose fabric of C at
the same level. The gap between B and the side fold will drape when in
fabric and become the second armhole.
Men mostly for everyday clothing, wore a short knee length Greek chiton
although there were times when they wore it long as did the Charioteer of
Delphi in 475 BC.
Cloth was so valuable it was not cut in earlier eras, but in later times
the chiton was constructed from two pieces of cloth. The earlier Greek
Doric Chiton above was made of wool and simply folded around the body. In
time they evolved into the Ionic chiton, which was made of linen and even
The advantage of using linen to make the Ionic chiton was that it was much more flexible,
the result was that it hung in
fine pleats of diaphanous crepon. Delicate muslin was also used.
With better materials came more sophistication, and more scope for the
Greek fashion elite of the day, for example to create sleeves. As a
result, Ionic chitons used more material and were fitted with fibulae on the
shoulders. The Ionic Chiton attracted more accessories from the Greek
fashion forward of those days, in particular they added brooches to confer wealth
From a costume
history concept of fashion repeating itself, the fine pleated look of the
Ionic chiton was revived by the
Edwardian fashion designer
Fortuny who created
Delphos tea gowns. Women adored Fortuny gowns because not only were they
very relaxed and comfortable, but also showed off their feminine attributes.
Colours for Ancient Greek clothing were not just white or natural as was first
thought. While paint had worn away from statue evidence, further
investigation showed the women of ancient Greece wearing several colours
such as yellow, red, purple, blue or green.
Men wore white or beige. Some fabrics
The different arrangements of fabric created a variety of
styles like these two shown above.
The Ancient Greek cloak was a simple rectangle or square of cloth thrown around
the shoulders and fastened mostly with a bronze pin. The name for this
particular short cloak mostly worn as a short military cloak by young
men or horsemen was a Greek chlamys.
In colder weather the larger cloak was worn, this was called a Greek Himation.
The female cloak is called a Greek peplos
and was worn over their chiton.
Initially Greeks used wool and linen fabrics, but as the society became
more sophisticated they traded for silk goods and it was not so much fashion
styles that set individuals apart as the differentiation by the luxury that
silk fabrics offered.
the centuries hair dressing was important to create various complex updo hairstyles.
Women used gold, silver hair pins, cone
headdress and tiaras. Young girls used fresh flowers and ribbons.
Only boys and women had long hair and men cut their hair once they became
Plaiting, crimping and waving of female hair as well as
decoration with pins, tiaras and bands is well illustrated in Greek imagery
and is shown left.
Popular styles involved tying the hair up with a fabric scarf, adding
ribbons or garlands when a young woman or wearing a 'Stephanie' metal head
When making costumes for fancy dress parties always remember the golden rule
of getting the hair and feet as near as the style worn to match a costume.
Ancient Greeks mostly went barefoot although some wealthy people did wear
sandals. Courtesans wore gilded sandals.
Greek warriors of battle wore tunics of leather with metal plaque
Helmets and leg protection called greaves
added more skin coverage. Read and see more battle dress, helmets and
shields on the Greek battle
dress web page.
The metal battle
dress itself was valuable since it had to be crafted by skilled metalworkers.
higher the rank the better the dress armour and shield was crafted, and possibly, the
more protective it became.
Some of the decorative metal elements paid homage
to favourite Gods the Greeks thought would take care of them in battle and
in the after life. One characteristic of the Greek helmet was that it
almost totally enclosed the head and sometime had moveable sides, (but no
visor) enabling the soldier to push back the face cover when at ease.
Horsehair crests made the helmet an impressive sight. Several are
Greek light infantrymen wore double felt or leather tunics and leather
greaves. All wore the Chlamys in battle (see above)
as a cloak or as a left arm wrap for battle blows protection.
Original boundaries have changed in the past 2000 years so that famous Greek
cities such as the incredible remains of the city of Ephesus are now part of
Greece has a long history, but the Greece of the ancient world on this page,
was declining by the time the Academy at Athens closed in 529AD.
529 AD is considered to be the start of the middle ages and the end of
antiquity. It was also the end of Hellenistic Greece as the Ottoman empire
spread far and wide invading lands east and west.
The earliest Greeks of importance began with the Pre-Socratic
philosophers such as Thales and Pythagoras. After came Socrates then Plato
and later Aristotle, each teaching the former. The Academy at Athens had
existed for 9 centuries since the days of Plato.
After Alexander the Great came Hipparchos, Cicero, Lucretius, Ovid, Seneca,
Pliny, Galen and Ptolemy. Each Greek made his mark on western philosophy and
science and many of the words related to ethics and medicine in use today
are derived from the teachings of these men. The world owes a great
deal to one of the most sophisticated early civilised societies on earth at
Fashion-Era.com looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era. Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also
contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear. These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.
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