Unlike Ancient China, the Greeks were not fussy about their
clothing in ancient time. One of the many aspects is the materials they donned.
It was usual for ancient Greeks to exercise full body nudity in public but they
also donned clothes like other civilizations. Generally speaking, ancient
Greeks wore clothes of long rectangular linen or wool fabric. They also mainly
donned two primary garments, namely a himation (served as a cloak) and chiton
or peplum (served as a tunic worn underneath). They wore light clothes because
the climate was hot for the most part of the year. Their garments mainly
consisted of two pieces: a cloak (himation) and a tunic (either a chiton or a
Despite its seemingly basic nature, the clothes donned by ancient Greeks were made of exquisite silk, aside from wool and linen material. Linen, however, was the most famous material due to the typical hot climate in Greece. Clothes were generally expensive and those who couldn’t afford them simply opt for nudity. This was because the production process took a long time and very tedious. However, the clothing of Ancient Greek encompasses so much more than those. Take a look at the famous Ancient Greek clothesbelow!
Let’s start off with what the children wore in Greece during ancient time. Because Greek clothing seemed to be basic as a whole, this also applies to children as well, maybe too basic when it comes to children. Young girls and boys occasionally wore no clothing at all when the weather was mild. Children were always naked when they were in the house. Babies, on the contrary, were a whole different story. They often wore cloth diapers for sanitary purposes. Surviving statuary confirmed this theory. Then, when it was cold outside, the fabric would be draped over babies and children. Wearing full clothes for children as adults did was a very rare sight. They rarely wear footwears or fabric like a chiton. Ancient Greek children might don a cloth wrapped around their middles which might be similar to shorts that left their torso completely bare. Both genders dressed in such a way. Boys often spent a lot of time naked when engaging in athletic training. Only when children reached an proper age for teaching and schooling would they begin to don a regular piece of clothing. They would don tunics or another piece of materials and more often than not the choice of material was heavily affected by the kind of social class they were identified as.
The shawl in ancient Greece was called epiblema and it didn’t look quite similar to the modern-day equivalent. The Greeks donned epiblema over their Chiton or Peplos during Ancient Greece time. This piece of clothing was sewn in not only one color but pretty much all existing colors at that time. If you presume that Epiblema was mostly donned by the Greek females then it would have been more of a lucky guess. There were no surviving materials that confirmed the previous statement but luckily, the statuary in Greek museums can be relied on.
Men rarely wore this piece of fabric. Meanwhile, Greek female population in ancient time especially donned Epiblema when they were about to go outside. The women often donned this piece of clothing during the fall. It’s also perceptible that Greeks who were in the government donned epiblema. The Greek men also donned Epiblema, especially those of higher-ranking officials and senators.
It might surprise you that veil does deserve to be mentioned as one of the famous Ancient Greek clothes. The custom of wearing a veil on the face/head in public is conventionally known to have originated from civilizations with eastern influences. However, the women in ancient Greece donned the veil on a regular basis. It’s quite ironic that the ancient Greeks who were famously associated with the civic openness in the past are also discovered to have carried the norms similar to that of eastern civilization’s seclusion for the females.
Surviving statues from the Hellenistic along with Classical Greek periods often provide some evidence that the Greek women indeed covered their face and head covered with the veil. A popular historian wrote a very detailed book about popular clothing in ancient Greece and claimed that it was indeed a very common thing for ancient Greek women to cover both their face and hair in public, particularly those with higher status.
Belts were a common piece of attire during the ancient time in Greece. As a matter of fact, it became a preferred fashion choice to wear a belt for tucking the fabric of the chiton. These belts were also called breast-bands as they helped offer support to the chest. These breast-band or breast-belt were called the trophies. They would also wear the strophion by wrapping it across the breast and tying it between the shoulder blades. This piece of clothing was made of linen or a wide band of wool. There are also some instances where the Greeks would fasten around a loose-fitted chiton or fabric that looked like a chiton. The latter is especially true when the strophion was worn around the chest area or the waist. Strophion was very popular among the Greek females.
In a sense, the strophion could be considered as the ancient Greek version of the contemporary brassiere. The only difference is that the ancient Greeks donned it on the outside, as opposed to how modern women use it today as underwear.
When it comes to footwear, ancient Greece didn’t invent them. As a matter of fact, sandals and other footwear have existed far preceding the lives of this particular civilization. Men and women tended to go barefoot when they were home despite the fact that there were many options which were stylish and versatile that began to come into the picture in the late Middle Ages. Even when ancient Greeks donned the shoes, they were primarily utilitarian. They would only make use of their leather sandals (referred to as carbine) when they had to go outside. Even this habit was limited to those who could afford them. Many slaves and children didn’t don them. Add to that the Spartans even prided themselves of never donning any footwear to show their toughness. A standard and typical sandal had a piece of leather which was fixed with laces to the sole of the foot. This would pull the tops of the shoes when tied. The toes then would be exposed. Carbatine enjoyed its existence until about 1,000 A.D.
Aside from the leather sandals, they also donned Cothurnus which looked awfully similar to modern boots. Leather was also the main material to make Cothurnus. There were red straps that pop out in the front. The fact that it was shaped like a boot made it able to shelter the entire foot. These boots also came with thicker soles. There was also footwear that was made of wood or smooth cloth. The Greeks were responsible for introducing the process of taking in which they cure the softer hides of goats, sheep or calves in order to produce the finest shoes.
Nudity is indeed one of the famous Ancient Greek ‘clothes’. Ancient Greeks never really put much thought into their clothes. It can be seen in how simple the clothes they wore. Besides, they mostly made their clothes at home. However, despite the fact that wearing clothes had become common among the people in Ancient Greek, but they also encouraged nudity. It might surprise you to know that it was encouraged to go out naked for both men and women during many ancient Greek festivals. Actually, nudity was a norm in ancient Greek. Going outside naked was especially encouraged in order to make the citizens virtuous and able. Nevertheless, the whole nudity thing also depended on certain places and occasion. The early Spartans, for instance, had rigorous code for exercising and training nude. Both Spartan men and women were nude in public processions. The Olympics also witnessed nude men took part in many games.
Somewhere around the 6th-century B.C.E, particular clothing called Himation came into the picture among the Ancient Greeks. This piece of fabric was worn by both genders. Similar to Chlamys, Himation was donned over chitons and had the same function as the modern day cloak. The Greeks would also use it like a warm blanket. Himation was made up of wool. There were intricate details that graced the fabric that was either painted on the garment or woven into it. Plus, they were also dyed bright colors. The people in ancient Greeks wore himations when they were about to go away.
Greek men typically donned this particular garment with nothing underneath or atop it. However, some of them also wore chiton underneath himation. Ancient Greek males made sure that the edges of the himation didn’t drag on the ground otherwise they would be regarded poorly. The men would also wrap the himation around their left shoulders to avoid showing skin because such an act was considered as barbarism. Greek women, on the other hand, had a lot of ways to style their himation. They would mostly wear the himation in a symmetrical design and use it as an additional, bigger veil. Did you know that when the Greeks were overwhelmed with shame or other emotions, they would pull their himation over their head to cover their face?
The Peplos (also known as peplum) was the most worn of all the famous Ancient Greek clothes. The peplos existed first before the himation did. Peplum was a type of tunic and became the most popular piece of clothing in among the Greeks in the past. The Peplos was typically tubular, long and made from a very heavy wool material and reached its peak of popularity somewhere around 500 B.C. The Greeks never made such a big deal when it comes to clothes, even women. Did you know that the word peplum carries a meaning of “tunic” in the Greek language?
The peplos was also sometimes coupled with chiton (worn underneath). The Greek women during ancient times also sometimes wore a himation over their peplos. Despite the seemingly accepted nudity among the Greeks in ancient times, but they weren’t allowed to wear a revealing garment. That’s why the people was donned as a full-length piece of clothing. The Greeks in ancient time would also perform rituals in which they choose a group of girls. They would be given a massive amount of raw fabric and make peplum out of it. This ritual would easily last nine months and the newly made fabric was considered sacred.
Both Greek females and males in ancient time were commonly seen donning Chiton. As a matter of fact, a discussion about ancient Greek clothing wouldn’t be complete if chiton is left out of the conversation. This particular piece of clothing looked like a shirt without sleeves. This rectangular piece of linen lasted from the Archaic Period all the way to the Hellenistic period. There was quite a lot of variety that the ancient Greek people used to drape this fabric. The most prevalent style is one in which the fabric was kept in place on the shoulders by the help of fibulae. It was also kept at the waist by slapping on a belt. Men’s chiton tended to be shorter than their female counterpart, especially when they had to be outside. The men also sometimes would don the himation without a chiton. The himation would be draped similar to that of a Roman toga.
There were two types of Chiton, namely the Ionic and the Doric kind. The Ionic one was wider than its Doric counterpart but it was thinner and way more elegant. Unlike Doric, it was decorated with a design imitating a scroll. Ionic was mostly donned by the Eastern Greeks and the islands. It was pinned, buttoned or sewn from the neck all the way to the wrists. The superfluous fabric was either girdled at the waist or gathered by the zone. Did you know that the fabric for Chiton was extremely expensive at that time? That’s why this piece of clothing was made from one piece only. Nevertheless, this style was very common by the time it reached the last Archaic period, especially when it comes to the male population. The sleeves chiton were much more popularly donned by actors and priests. The Doric style was made much earlier than the Ionic one. The Doric style was plain, sturdy and was the top (capital). It was much simpler and smaller. It came with no sleeves and was typically sewn, buttoned or pinned at the shoulder. The Doric style was donned by mainland Greece as well as colonies in Sicily and southern Italy.
Lastly, the most famous Ancient Greek clothesalso include Chlamys. Ever since the Greeks in ancient time began to wear chlamys, they had made a lot of modifications in a gradual way. At first, the Greeks would wrap it around the waist which made it look awfully similar to a loincloth but then as time passed, the chlamys eventually was donned by draping it on the elbows. This particular garment was donned by the ancient Greeks and was regarded as cloaks at that time. In order to make one, they made use of one-piece square woolen rectangle material and was typically bordered. They also used fibulae to pin the chlamys on the right side of the shoulder. They also found another way of donning this piece of clothing in which another piece of fabric was worn over underneath.
This piece of clothing enjoyed its popularity well over the Byzantine era took over. More often than not it became the only thing worn by the Greeks for messengers and young soldiers. Those who went hunting also donned their chalmys material. A brooch or button served as the fastener at the right shoulder. This was one of the very few pieces of clothing that were donned mostly by the male population in ancient Greek. By the time it was the fifth-century B.C.E, it was a common sight for the ancient Greek military to don chlamys. The army wrapped their arm with chlamys. They even sometimes used it as a light armor kind of way in the battlefield.
Despite its seemingly basic nature of clothing of ancient Greek, but the making cloth was also regarded as a major job at the time. It took a lot of work of the wife of a Greek family. To make wool from sheep, they spin the fibers of wool with a spindle in order to achieve fine threads. Then they would weave the threads by using a wooden loom. These famous Ancient Greek clotheswere not as fancy as those donned by the Chinese in ancient time. However, they sure were functional and built to last. Its influence is noticeable today like that of the columnar style of the tunic, like the women’s peplos, is a common style to be worn by women in the modern day.