Ancient Greece was known for many things; right from the beautiful art to the very rich literature. Ancient Greek fashion was equally interesting and had certain characteristic features about it. Women in ancient Greece were quite modest as far as their clothing was concerned. Here is a detailed look at how people dressed in ancient Greece.
Types of Clothing
The kind of clothing worn in ancient Greece was loose and flowing, and the garments were rarely sewn together. The fabrics used were mainly linen or wool. Women also wore a veil with their clothing whenever they stepped out of the house. In fact, the ancient Greek fashion was quite modern in its outlook as far as men were concerned―male nudity was really not a big deal at that time.
The chiton was worn in ancient Greece by men as well as women. It could be worn with a himation (a kind of cloak). When worn without the himation, it was known as a monochiton. The chiton appeared after the Persian invasion. A belt named zoster was also worn. This dress was seen in two varieties―the Doric chiton, which consisted of two rectangular pieces of cloth, and was worn long, and the Ionic chiton, which differed in the overfold. The overfold was worn longer on the Doric chiton.
The himation was a form of outdoor wear, generally made from a rectangular piece of wool. With the use of lighter fabrics, the himation could be worn at any time of the day. It was also used as a form of drapery to be worn over the chiton. The himation can be compared to the Roman toga, the only difference being that the former has less volume in the fabric. When worn solo, the himation was known as a achiton. This piece of clothing can be compared to modern cloaks worn today.
Women often wore the peplos and this costume goes back to the period before 500 BCE. This can be described as a piece of woolen material, styled as per the height of the wearer. The peplos consisted of a tubular-shaped cloth that was folded inside out. The top area of the tube usually gathered at the waist, while the bottom extended till the ankles. The cloth on the upper area was brought underneath the left arm. This was secured with the help of tapes or pins on the right shoulder. The top layer of the cloth, which draped the waist, often gave the appearance of two pieces of cloth. There were certain types of patterns that were used for the peplos. Some of the common patterns included checks, flowers, waves, and even stripes. When women wore the peplos, the arms were generally left bare.
The chlamys also had a flowy appearance and was mainly worn by the soldiers in ancient Greece. It was used as a cloak and was pinned at the right shoulder. It was an apt form of clothing for soldiers due to its light fabric and flowy material. During winter, the soldiers used this piece of clothing as a cover to keep themselves warm.
Jewelry and Makeup
Jewelry formed a significant part of ancient Greek fashion. This was discovered with the findings of jewelry pieces at Greek sites, which proves that women in ancient Greece loved to wear all sorts of ornaments with their elaborate costumes. Bracelets, earrings, and beautiful necklaces were worn with the Greek attire. Even men were not left behind as far as fashion was concerned. It is known that the Greek men wore jewelry till the 4th century CE.
Ancient Greek women also used makeup. Pale or light skin was considered a status symbol for women. They used honey and olive oil to improve their skin. Dark powder was dusted over the eyebrows, and red powder was used over their lips.
Several Greek sculptures, pottery paintings, and written records have survived the ravages of time, and they tell us a great deal about the way the ancient Greeks styled their hair. We know that there were elaborate hairdos, both for men as well as women, and more often than not, they also signified their social status. Furthermore, different hairdos were meant for different occasions, so a banquet hairdo was different from a wedding one.
Evidence tells us that during the early phases of Greek Empire, men wore their hair long, and also kept full beards and mustaches. However, with the passage of time, shorter hair and shorter beards became more trendy. Depictions from the later period of Greek Empire portray statues of clean-shaven men. All these depictions from different periods of Greek history show how men’s hairstyle trends changed over a period of time.
Evidence that has survived over the years shows that there were a variety of women’s hairstyles in ancient Greece. It is worth mentioning that a majority of these hairstyles were short, and we don’t see many long flowing tresses. The most popular was the braided hairstyle, however, bangs and ponytails were also common. We also have ample evidence of hairdressing devices such as hair pins and combs from the ancient Greek sites, especially the tombs.
Footwear in Ancient Greece
According to historical and archaeological sources, the ancient Greeks used a variety of footwear. The kind of shoes/sandals/slippers they used, depended not only on their gender, but also on their social status. Following are some of the most common types that were used regularly by the ancient Greeks.
Literally meaning ‘to step into’, the embades were boots, often having a felt or fur outer lining. Though we have different designs of embades, what distinguishes all of them from other shoe types is their enclosed shape, which not only served as a protective covering on the foot, but also imparted comfort to the wearer.
Krepis were flat sandals with a half-boot design, having a cross-stripped pattern on top. Their rugged soles, which were made from cowhide leather, made them durable and perfect for walking the rocky terrains. More popular among the ancient Greek youth, especially those working in the military, these were specially designed for the outdoors, and were very comfortable.
These were high-soled boots, which made the wearer look taller. Archaeological finds tell us that these boots were designed differently for men and women. While wearing such high-soled boots was not a popular fashion trend in ancient Greece, according to sources, they were more popular amongst the Greek actors and were associated with the Greek tragedies.
Made from leather or cloth with crisscrossing laces covering the front portion, these were calf and knee length boots, wore primarily by soldiers, hunters, and theater actors. They were also popular among long-distance travelers as they covered the entire shin, and protected the feet from poisonous bites, etc. Wealthy people wore more intricately designed buskins, often having a fur covering.
Specifically meant for ceremonies and rituals, the Phaecasium was the footwear of priests. However, their design was so elegant that they were also equally popular among philosophers and countrymen. Made from either leather, linen, or felt, these boots were also worn by affluent women. Women’s Phaecasia bore intricately embroidered patterns, and were often also ornamented with pearls.
The supposed precursors of modern laced shoes, the Carbatines were made from a single piece of raw hide. They had holes on either of their sides that enabled the thongs to pass through, and fasten at the ankles. These made extremely comfortable walking shoes.
These were sandals which had wings on the rear end. Whether their use was prevalent in the ancient Greek society is not known for sure as yet, however, we know of these shoes from the various mythological depictions, especially those of God Hermes. Winged sandals were symbols of valor, courage, and swiftness.
Thus, we can see the ever-changing scenario of Greek fashion since the ancient days. Greek fashion is popular even today with celebrities, wearing toga-inspired dresses to red carpet events. Wear this fashion with a modern touch and give yourself the look of a Greek divinity!