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How to dress like greek women in ancient Greece

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Though I’m happy I don’t wear the clothing from early middle ages through early 20th century, I’m still thinking that dressing today can be more simple, more basic, more economical. Like the Greek fashion, on its ancient stage. They didn’t have a style for every occasion. They didn’t have to trade work clothes for gowns when going out, and, as a matter a fact, and as far as we know today, they didn’t have to put on a pajama to go to sleep.

The dress of ancient Greek woman was really basic: few feet of material, draped, pinned and fastened around the body and that’s it. But their art was in wearing these textiles.

Irene Papas in Zorba, The Greek

Irene Papas in Zorba, The Greek

A portrait of a Greek woman

The appearance of a Greek woman that lived well before Common Era cannot be that different then of a woman of today, in the same geographical area. And that’s because the anthropological features stays with a certain group of people for millennia.

So, when I study old paintings on ceramics or as I look at the statues of Greek goddesses, made to match their human models, or the other way around, there is one image that comes to my mind: the image of Irene Papas, in the movie Zorba, the Greek.

She is a tall, slender woman, with long black hair braided around her head, covered with a vail and draped in a thin fabric that falls in ample folds around her body. This fabric she would make herself, in the long hours she had to spend indoors.

from the book "Costume & Fashion" by Bronwyn Cosgrave

from the book "Costume & Fashion" by Bronwyn Cosgrave

The social status

A woman in ancient Greek, like in other societies around, was not equal in status with a man. She was not allowed to take part in government or public affairs, she couldn’t even go to gymnasium or theaters. Though, she could stand at the door to watch some passing processions and events. When she venture beyond the walls of her house, for business like shopping or small trade, she wore a veil and was accompanied by a slave, if her family was rich enough to have one.

She married young, early in her teens, and her spouse was not a matter of choice but more a business between to familes. After becoming a wife, she fulfilled the role of the housekeeper, being in charge of raising the children and providing food and clothing for the family. Another responsibility was to bath their husbands and dress for them!

She was also educated. Girls were taught to read and write, sing, dance and play a musical instrument, weave spin and embroider.


What did she wear

A Greek woman would wear very basic, simple clothing that she made herself. Through the antique documents we know their name: chiton, peplos and hemation. That’s all. Sometimes she would wear all three pieces, other times just one, the peplos.

The peplos was the woman’s most common outfit. It consists in a piece of fabric, as long as 6 ft and as tall as one height and a half of the body. It was worn wrapped around the body, with a slit on a side, fastened with pins at the shoulders, with the rest of the material folded and draped at the top.

This peplos was worn with a cord or a belt tied around the upper part of the body, at the chest. The fabric could then be pulled up, obtaining a blouse effect.

Underneath, a woman could further wrap her body and breast with a wide fabric.

Over the peplos, sometime a chiton was added. The chiton was another piece of fabric, as long as the peplos but shorter. it was pinned to the shoulders as well. It is said that the chiton was more heavier material then the peplos and it was also worn by men.

The last piece was the hemation. This was an octagonal shawl that was worn for decoration or for extra warmth. Also, in public places, a woman had to put on a veil, to cover her face.

The most common fibers used to make this clothing was wool and linen. Silk was rare and more likely worn by noblewomen.

The fashion of the Greek women came mainly from the way they draped the fabric and the fabric itself. She liked bright color and often dyed the material in yellow or purple. The clothing was also embroidered with complicated scenery from Greek mythology and was not rare to see a peplos or a chiton telling the story of a certain Greek god.

Also, the pins and brooches were part of the fashion and showed the social rank of a lady.


evening gown, ancient Greece style


If you want to dress like a woman from ancient Greece ....

....all you need is a big piece of fabric, few pins and a nice belt and you have a peplos.
The fabric could be anything, from an old sheet to a very soft and thin blanket.

Here is how to do it:
- fold the material in half, on its length;
- wrap it loosely around your body, starting from the underarms;
- pull the edges of the fabric over one shoulder and in pin it;
- pull the edges of the fabric over the other shoulder and pin it;
- tie a belt around your waist;
- pull the up fabric, as much as you need so that it would go to your ankles, and blouse it over the belt;
- make sure you have some nice folds around the upper and the lower part of the garment. (the Greek ladies used some kind of oval weights at the hem to make the folds stay).

Why would you dress like a woman from ancient Greece?

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Because is funny and simple, though allowing to fantasise about the design of the material and also make a subtle use of nice pieces of jewelry.

Because it is a good costume for a dress up party.

Because the ancient people had inspired already some fashion designers and you can see it through today, especially in gowns made for special occasions.

Now, would you dare to go out dress like a woman from ancient Greece?


mermaid on February 05, 2018:

I cant wait to wear this for a Greek day I'm doing.

mpm on March 27, 2012:

i am going to wear this 4 an olympic fancy dress day i am going very original

cameciob (author) on March 06, 2012:

Hi Abigail, I hope your costume is going to be great. Greek women clothing are very easy to make.

abigail on March 06, 2012:

i think that this is a good web site to look for greek clothing and i will use this for making the costume for my project

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