THROWBACK THURSDAY: Greek Antiquity

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Greek Antiquity

What can we say? They gave us the peplum

 ionic Chiton - Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

ionic Chiton - Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Clothing in Ancient Greece was quite similar is certain respects with that of ancient Egypt. It could be readily used as a form of distinction between social classes and it was common for the higher classes to have more ornate wear than those of the lower class. In some respects, the style and cut of clothing was similar as well. The Ancient Greeks had cohabitated with the Egyptians during the Ptolemaic period of Ancient Egypt and adopted their sense of long cotton dresses swathed around the body. 

In Ancient Greece, there were 4 major forms of dress: the Chiton, the Peplos, the Himation, and the Chlamys. Each had a unique role in the lives of the Ancient Greeks. 

Chiton: Kind of like the every day wear for both sexes. It was a long linen tunic that was worn by anyone and everyone, every day. These garments were sewn together and had two major styles. The earlier style, the Doric style, consisted of a rectangular piece of fabric that was draped over the shoulders and secured at the waist. With the evolution of style came the Ionic Chiton, which used much more fabric and had sleeves that were pinned from neck to wrist. For those art history /architecture nerds, there is not a Corinthian chiton, though columns do very much look like Chitons...

 Caryatid wearing a Chiton at the Erectheion - Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Caryatid wearing a Chiton at the Erectheion - Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Peplos: Worn over the chiton, it consisted of a square piece of fabric that was secured with a belt or fastener. It was more common for women and as such, is what is seen on the caryatids that line the out buildings of the acropolis. It was draped open on one side of the body, like a Doric chiton, not sleeved like the Ionic chiton.

This style became popular in the classical period (around 500 BCE) and the Spartans tended to wear it much longer, causing the Greeks to refer to them as "thigh showers" for the slit up the side of the peplos. Nothing quite like throwing shade in antiquity. 

This dress was so important that for certain statues, women would spend up to 9 months making a new and ornate version of the peplos to commemorate a victory by the gods each year. The peplos would be placed on the statue during a specific festival each year, and this varied by region and city state. 

Himation: Essentially the Ancient Greek version of an over coat. It was another rectangular piece of cloth that was secured over one shoulder. A heavier version could be worn in the winter or it could be drawn over the head for additional protection from the elements. Think toga with less volume. 

 Peplos (left) and two women wearing himations (center and right) - photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

Peplos (left) and two women wearing himations (center and right) - photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

 Hermes wearing a Chlamys

Hermes wearing a Chlamys

Chlamys: A military or hunting garb that was worn predominantly by men. It was made of a heavy woolen material that was draped over the body and pinned at the right shoulder. It was often the sole piece of clothing that young soldiers and messengers would wear, lending its association to the god Hermes, the messenger. In the military, it could be used as a light shield in combat when the solder's could not afford or did not have their heavier bronze swords. 

Accessories: The clothing of the Ancient Greeks generally consistent of plain clothing draped over the body and pinned at the shoulders or the waist. When pinned at the shoulder, a chlamys typically secured with a fibula, or brooch. These were basically ancient safety pins that were decorated ornately to reflect the wealth and status of the wearer. 

Of course, we need to mention the perizoma and the strophion, the Ancient Greek undergarments. The perizoma is the loin cloth of antiquity and is a garment we will revisit later. It was worn by both men and women. The strophion was meant to be the bra of antiquity. It was a wide band that was worn either over or under the breasts and secured in the back. This persists through much of antiquity as the form of bra worn by women. 

Ancient Greeks also had a propensity for jewelry and would wear it sewn into their clothing so that it would shimmer when they moved. The peplos that were created for statues to wear were often intricately detailed with jewels that would shine in the sunlight and during the festivals. 

For shoe wear, they wore sandals, soft shoes, or boots depending on the season and the occasion. At home, the ancients went barefoot (not much has changed...).

A few other interesting facts about Ancient Greek Fashion: The most common fabrics were wool, silk, and linen. Sewing had to be done by hand and was regarded as the purview of women. Women of high status were expected to be able to sew well and make intricate designs. They even created the fabrics that they wore and because of the long process involved in creating the fabric, often would not cut it. Much of what is known about clothing and style in the Ancient world comes from the art that arose from those cultures. Below is examples of the accessories that were common in Ancient Greece. 

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