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What did the ancient Greeks wear?

Updated on August 17, 2010
Photo by Mohamed Aly
Photo by Mohamed Aly

From the Homeric age (about 1000 B.C.) to the Hellenistic age (ending 1st century B.C.), Greek dress was noted for graceful simplicity, which allowed the sport-loving Greeks maximum freedom. It consisted of two basic draped rectangles worn variously by both men and women- a shirtlike garment (the Dorian peplos and the Ionian chiton) and a wrap (the himation and the chlamys).

The Dorian peplos, worn by all women on the Greek mainland vintil the 6th century B.C., and by some later, was a relatively narrow rectangle folded on the left side, often opening on the right, and caught on the shoulders and bloused over a belt. The upper edge was turned down in a deep overfold, which could be held under the belt or raised to cover the head. The peplos, of colorfully dyed wool, was heavy and close-fitting.

The Ionian chiton, of Phoenician origin, was worn by men and women in Greek cities in Asia Minor before it reached the Greek mainland about the 6th century B.C. It was made of two wide pieces of fabric sewn up the right side and sewn or caught along the upper edge from the neck to each wrist. The chiton, girdled in various ways, was at first long and was later shortened for younger men. The material was white linen, often gauzy or creped and sometimes patterned in purple, that fell in flowing folds or pleats, shown on vases and in statues and bas-reliefs.

The himation, worn by married women and by men, was a large woolen rectangle often patterned or embroidered, with weighted corners that allowed it to be gracefully draped around the body. Dorian men and, later, some Athenians might wear the himation only and be considered properly attired, while the chiton alone was considered informal. Other wraps included the man's chlamys, a small wool rectangle of Macedonian origin pinned at the right shoulder, sometimes his only garment.

Men's hair, originally long, later was worn shorter. Peasants and travelers wore the pilos, or Phrygian bonnet derived from the Scythians, and the broad-brimmed petasus. Women's hair was bundled up in back and bound with nets, fillets, and pins, sometimes with a diadem or a hat rising to a point. Jewelry, such as gold fibulae, was worn chiefly by women.

Both sexes went barefoot at home. Later, men wore sandals, or high boots for hunting and travel. Peasants and workers swathed their feet and legs in hide or cloth. Soldiers wore armor of hide or bronze consisting of a tight molded corselet over the chiton, a helmet, often crested, and greaves.


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      Lucy Stola 7 years ago

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