Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Ancient Greek Dress

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In antiquity, clothing was usually homemade and the same piece of homespun fabric could serve as a garment, shroud, or blanket. Greek vase painting and traces of paint on ancient sculptures indicate that fabrics were brightly colored and generally decorated with elaborate designs. Clothing for both women and men consisted of two main garments—a tunic (either a peplos or chiton) and a cloak (himation). The peplos was simply a large rectangle of heavy fabric, usually wool, folded over along the upper edge so that the overfold (apoptygma) would reach to the waist. It was placed around the body and fastened at the shoulders with a pin or brooch. Openings for armholes were left on each side, and the open side of the garment was either left that way, or pinned or sewn to form a seam. The peplos might not be secured at the waist with a belt or girdle. The chiton was made of a much lighter material, usually imported linen. It was a very long and very wide rectangle of fabric sewn up at the sides, pinned or sewn at the shoulders, and usually girded around the waist. Often the chiton was wide enough to allow for sleeves that were fastened along the upper arms with pins or buttons. Both the peplos and chiton were floor-length garments that were usually long enough to be pulled over the belt, creating a pouch known as a kolpos. Under either garment, a woman might have worn a soft band, known as a strophion, around the mid-section of the body.


Greek vase painting and traces of paint on ancient sculptures indicate that fabrics were brightly colored and generally decorated with elaborate designs.

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Men in ancient Greece customarily wore a chiton similar to the one worn by women, but knee-length or shorter. An exomis, a short chiton fastened on the left shoulder, was worn for exercise, horse riding, or hard labor. The cloak (himation) worn by both women and men was essentially a rectangular piece of heavy fabric, either woolen or linen. It was draped diagonally over one shoulder or symmetrically over both shoulders, like a stole. Women sometimes wore an epiblema (shawl) over the peplos or chiton. Young men often wore a short cloak (chlamys) for riding. Greek men occasionally wore a broad-brimmed hat (petasos), and on rare occasions, Greek women donned a flat-brimmed one with a high peaked crown. Both women and men wore sandals, slippers, soft shoes, or boots, although at home they usually went barefoot.


Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art