The enduring legacy of fashion and clothing from ancient Greece


Ancient Greek fashion
A statue of the Greek goddess Artemis wearing a classic antique chiton as on display in the Louvre. Credit: Core / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

Ancient Greek fashion is a fascinating look at the daily life of Greeks thousands of years ago. It also remains relevant, even today, with parades from around the world paying homage to the dress styles favored by those who resided in ancient Athens and Sparta.

By looking at the clothes worn anytime in the past, you are bound to learn something not only about the values ​​of the society that wore them, but also about how people were to live their daily lives in this culture.

The Basics of Ancient Greek Fashion

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Talk to Greek journalist, Amanda Hallay, fashion and cultural historian, described the basics of dress styles in ancient Greece.

According to Hallay, there were three basic styles of clothing that most people wore in the ancient world.

Ancient Greek fashion
A drawing of the standard chiton worn by a woman. Credit: Pearson Scott Foresman / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

“The chiton, the peplos and the animation. The chiton was a rectangular piece of fabric wrapped around the body to create a tube – like we would with a beach wrap today – and secured to each shoulder with a fibula or clasp.

ancient greek fashion
A statue of a young girl wearing a peplos, from the sanctuary of Demeter. Credit: Carole Raddato / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

“Both men and women wore chitons, although men’s chitons were shorter than the full-length chitons worn by women. The peplos were only worn by women, over the chiton and pulled up at the waist to create – you guessed it – a peplum effect. But a peplum effect could also be created with the excess tissue of a chiton.

Ancient Greek fashion
A diagram of the animation worn by a man and a woman. Credit: Joseph meyer/ Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

“The animation was a kind of cloak; a long, rectangular piece of heavier fabric that was worn as an outer garment. The weather in ancient Greece was a bit warmer than it is today, so there was no need for thick layers or heavy textiles, ”Hallay noted.

Simple perfection

Looking at the images of ancient Greek clothing, it is obvious that the Greeks turned to a simple silhouette for most of their fashion. Hallay pointed out that the simplicity seen in these styles is one of the most distinct characteristics of ancient Greek fashion compared to the dress styles favored by other civilizations. However, she was quick to point out that this may have been partly due to function and fashion.

Compared to later eras (or parallel eras in other regions), sewing was not a feature of clothing in ancient Greece. In other words, the fabrics were rarely cut and the stitching was practically non-existent. Instead, the tissues were wrapped around the body and secured by tying them or with clips called fibulae, ”Hallay explained. This simplicity was probably a relief for the women of ancient Greece, who, according to Hallay, had to not only create textiles, but also make clothes for their entire family.

It was probably a welcome respite from the myriad of chores women had to do and also set them apart from northern European women, who should have sewn complicated clothes in addition to doing other household chores.

Another aspect of most civilizations is social class and its expression through clothing and other physical indicators of wealth. The simplicity of ancient Greek clothing may not seem conducive to class-based differentiation, but it is likely that the upper classes still found ways to show off their comfortable lifestyle.

“Not in terms of clothing, but certainly we think jewelry – and maybe even perfume – was used as indicators of wealth and status. In addition, the Greeks traded with other regions, and so we can probably imagine that exotic textiles could find their way into a fashionable woman’s wardrobe, ”Hallay noted, showing that where it is. There is a will, there is a way when it comes to fashion!

Still relevant – thousands of years later

ancient greece clothing
A recently staged Dior show in Athens featured traditional clothing inspired by ancient Greece contrasted with sportswear for an updated version of old fashion. Credit: Screenshot of the fashion show /

Clothing from ancient Greece is still so relevant today that one can be forgiven for not even noticing when the style influenced modern designers. Such a large percentage of contemporary clothing is inspired by styles created thousands of years ago that the modern eye has become so accustomed to seeing ancient Greek styles that they don’t even seem to register them!

However, Hallay observed that “whenever you see something that is draped, we can thank the ancient Greeks. The ancient Egyptians gave us folds, but it was the Greeks who gave us the glorious and elegant drape that has been a hallmark of fashion throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The other day I was watching the docudrama ‘Halston’ on Netflix and I remembered again how much the ’70s owed the ancient Greeks.

Think about it; we don’t very often see medieval surcoats, Elizabethan strawberries, 17th century saddlebags, or Victorian skirts on red carpets, but every award season we see beautiful and elegant dresses that make a direct homage to ancient Greece. And of course, if we go back to the Minoans, we have the first idea of ​​an hourglass figure, which – thanks to the Kardashians – is now back in fashion as a bodily ideal, ” she said, showing how many modern styles we have to thank ancient Greece for.

More recently, Dior made headlines for its “Cruise 2022” line, which drew heavily on ancient Greek chitons, peplos and other clothing styles of the time. The styles in this line were showcased at a gala evening fashion show in Athens just a few weeks ago.

Current Dior Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri has expressed her admiration for the clothing styles of ancient Greece and has even chosen to hold the runway of the prolific fashion house at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, incorporating her source. inspiration in today’s modern fashion world.

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