I want to summarize and synthesize some of what I discussed in my previous posts (Intro sentence). While researching for this blog, I learned that people in ancient Greece wore clothes made of hand-spun fabric (wool or linen). These often took the form of sheets or blankets, and then they were folded into fashionable dresses and tunics. This made for a loose and figure-flattering silhouette for both men and women. This made me wonder how fashion connected to the Greeks' body image. Although I still don't have a definitive answer to this question, I had some hypotheses: the weather in mainland Greece made it so that this clothing was necessary to stay cool and healthy, and the Greeks may have subconsciously wanted to cover up imperfections with their loose clothing (Brief summary of previous posts). Examining fashion is very important because it allows us to understand the culture and mindset of the people who wore the clothes--in this case, the Greeks (Importance). In addition, many ancient Greek garments and accessories have influenced our fashion today. In the modern world, issues of body image and clothing choices are very prevalent in fashion journalism (Connection to world today). I hope to return to this blog later to continue to explore Greek fashion, and maybe start to discuss modern fashion as well!
As you probably know if you've done any research into ancient Greece, the Greeks seemed very comfortable with their bodies. Many ancient Greek sculptures portrayed naked men and women, like the famous Discobolus by Myron (see photo to the right). Greeks were obsessed with the human body-- a perfect, athletic human body, to be exact. Of course, the Greeks had many athletic competitions, the most famous of which was the Olympics. In the Olympics, the Greeks competed naked. So my question is: if the Greeks were so into the naked body, why weren't their clothes form-fitting?
As you learned in the last post, the Greeks wore robes, which they draped in very flattering ways. Their robes were pinned at the shoulder (either one or both shoulders), and most Greeks did not cinch at the waist. The peplos, for example, was very boxy-- sort of like wearing a potato sack! This meant that you couldn't really tell how athletic or "fit" someone was if they were wearing clothes. Take a look at the image at the bottom to see what I mean. Do you think that makes sense? You would think a body-obsessed culture would have clothes that would show off the body. Interestingly enough, the Minoans, a civilization on the island of Crete (south of Greece) that arose in around 2000 BCE, used corsets to shape their bodies into an hourglass figure. You can see a sculpture of this here (but keep in mind before you click that ladies didn't censor their... err... chest-area). At a simple level, the weather in Greece was extremely hot, and in order to be comfortable, Greeks would need to have loose-fitting clothes. But I think it might go deeper than this. Perhaps the Greeks were so obsessed with having the PERFECT body, that they wanted to cover up imperfections with loose-fitting clothes. The Greek clothing was so well-draped that it made all figures look beautiful. This is just my interpretation-- I could be wrong. What do you think?
I got most of this information from a really fun book called The Fashion Book by DK Publishing, which I borrowed from the art teacher Ms. Zachman. You can buy it on Amazon.
I also read a website called "Naked Perfection" from PBS.
Well hello history buffs and fashionistas! I'm glad you tuned back in to learn about ancient Greek fashion. I have been busy reading all about fashion back in the BCE era. Although Greek fashion varied depending on the city-state and the time period, I am going to focus on the clothing in Athens in the "Golden Age" (around 500 BCE). First of all, Greek clothing was all hand spun wool or linen, meaning it took forever to make just one garment. Today, our clothes are mostly factory made, which is why our closets are bursting full of stuff. Back then, it took hours and hours for women to make the clothes, so people valued them more. In fact, sometimes thieves would mug people and take their clothes! Haha! The fabric used for clothing could also be used for a blanket (lol)-- it was all the same to them. This fabric was turned into a "peplos" or "chiton" (basically a tunic/dress), by pinning it at the shoulders with broaches. Women usually wore floor-length gowns while men's were cut off at the knee. Something I found very interesting is that Greek clothes were usually NOT white. Don't you think of them as white? That's because we always see Greek sculptures, but Greek sculptures were actually not white back in the day! They were painted in bright colors that wore off over the years (see photo below). In ancient Athens, female clothes were often pastel colored, although richer women might wear bright purple. Tune back in next time to learn more.
What did men and women wear in ancient Greece, especially Athens?
- hand woven, very time consuming
- could use same piece of fabric as clothes or a blanket (lol)!
- made of spun wool or linen (traded with Egyptians)
- pieces of clothing: tunic (peplos or chiton) fastened at shoulders with broach; cloak (himation)
- women's clothes were floor-length while men's were knee-length
- a lot of what we know about clothes come from and sculptures, but those have lost their color
- most Greek clothing was not white, female clothes were pastel, richer people had purple patterns
- respectable women wore cloaks or shawls
- footwear light sandals or open toed boot when they went out, barefoot at home
(Your page of notes will be longer...)
I got these notes from a Cambridge University lecture video and the amazing Metropolitan Museum of Art website (one of my favorite history websites). Both of these sources are very trustworthy because these organizations are famous and world renowned. I simply read the sources and then pulled out the parts I thought were interesting. My next post will turn these notes into a well-written paragraph!
I have always been very interested in the history of fashion. In college, one of my favorite courses was called "Costume History" and I learned all about the development of fashion in the 19th and 20th centuries. For a while, I thought I would even become a fashion history writer or a textile conservator but then I discovered I love teaching. Because of my previous interest in the topic, I want to explore Ancient Greek fashion! I plan on looking at Greek art, such as sculpture, reliefs, and painting, to see firsthand what the Greeks wore. I will explore the differences between male and female dress, but focus on females because they usually wear more interesting stuff. I'm excited to start researching!
Hi guys. I'm Ms. Barry! I teach 6th grade social studies at a private school in LA. This page will serve as an example for my 6th graders about how to write a good research blog.
Ancient History Encyclopedia
No login needed