Clothing in ancient Greece

Clothing in ancient Greece primarily consisted of the chiton, peplos, himation, and chlamys. Ancient Greek men and women typically wore two pieces of clothing draped about the body: an undergarment (chiton or peplos) and a cloak (himation or chlamys).[1] Ancient Greek clothing was mainly based on necessity, function, materials, and protection rather than identity. Thus, clothes were quite simple, draped, loose-fitting and free flowing. Customarily, clothing was homemade and cut to various lengths of rectangular linen or wool fabric with minimal cutting or sewing, and secured with ornamental clasps or pins, and a belt, or girdle (zone). Pieces were generally interchangeable between men and women.[2] However, women usually wore their robes to their ankles while men generally wore theirs to their knees depending on the occasion and circumstance.

While no clothes have survived from this period, descriptions exist in contemporary accounts and artistic depictions. Clothes were mainly homemade or locally made. Additionally, clothing often served many purposes (such as bedding).[3] All ancient Greek clothing was made out of natural fibers. Linen was the most common fabric due to the hot climate which lasted most of the year. On the rare occasion of colder weather, ancient Greeks wore wool. Common clothing of the time was plain white, or neutral coloured, sometimes incorporating decorative borders.[2] There is evidence of elaborate design and bright colours, but these were less common among lower class citizens.[2] However, noble citizens wore bright colours to express their wealth as dyed clothing was more expensive. The clothing for both men and women generally consisted of two main parts: a tunic and a cloak.

The Greeks had a great appreciation for the human body, and it was shown in their fashion. The fabric was expertly draped around the body, and the cloth could be slightly transparent. Males had no problem with nudity, while women could only be naked in the public bath.

Delos House of Cleopatra
Statues at the "House of Cleopatra" in Delos, Greece. Man and woman wearing the himation
Caryatid Erechtheion BM Sc407
Caryatid from the Erechtheion wearing a peplos. The blousing, or kolpos, is atop zone

History and types


Greek travelling costume
Greek travelling costume, incorporating a chiton, a chlamys, sandals, and a petasos hat hanging in the back.

The chiton was a simple tunic garment of lighter linen and usually pleated that was worn by both sexes and all ages. It consisted of a wide, rectangular tube of material secured along the shoulders and lower arms by a series of fasteners.[4] Chitons typically fell to the ankles of the wearer, but shorter chitons were sometimes worn during vigorous activities by athletes, warriors or slaves.[5]

Often excess fabric would be pulled over a girdle, or belt, which was fastened around the waist (see kolpos).[1] To deal with the bulk sometimes a strap, or anamaschalister was worn around the neck, brought under the armpits, crossed in the back and tied in the front.[1] A himation, or cloak, could be worn over-top of the chiton.

There are two types of chitons – Doric and Ionic, named for their similarities to the Doric and Ionic columns. The Doric chiton is "sleeveless", as sleeve technology had not really been created yet. Much like that on the caryatid to the right, the Doric chiton has a fold over at the top or apoptygma, is attached with fibulae at the shoulders, and is belted at the waist. Unlike the Doric Chiton, the Ionic chiton doesn't have an apoptygma, and is a long enough rectangle of fabric that when folded in half can complete a wingspan. Before shaped sleeve patterns existed the Greeks attached fibulae (ancient Greek safety pins) all the way up both arms to join the front and back top edges of the fabric. The Ionic chiton was also belted at the waist. The Doric chiton was usually made of linen and the Ionic chiton was usually made of wool.


A predecessor to the himation, the peplos was a square piece of cloth that was originally worn over the chiton by women.[4] The top third of the cloth was folded over and pinned at both shoulders, leaving the cloth open down one side.[3] This upper part of the peplos which is folded down to the waist, forms an apotygma. Sometimes the peplos was worn alone as an alternative form of chiton.[2] As with the chiton, often a girdle or belt would be used to fasten the folds at the waist.[1]


The himation was a simple outer garment worn over the peplos or chiton. It consisted of a heavy rectangular material, passing under the left arm and secured at the right shoulder. The cloak would be twisted around a strap that also passed under the left arm and over the right shoulder. A more voluminous himation was worn in cold weather.[1]

The himation could be pulled up over the head to cover the wearer when they were overcome by emotion or shame.[1]


The chlamys was a seamless rectangle of woolen material worn by men for military or hunting purposes.[1] It was worn as a cloak and fastened at the right shoulder with a brooch or button.

The chlamys was typical Greek military attire from the 5th to the 3rd century BC.[3]


Villa Romana del Casale Bikini Maedchen modified
Detail of a mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily, featuring a woman in a strophion.

Women often wore a strophion, the bra of the time, under their garments and around the mid-portion of their body. The strophion was a wide band of wool or linen wrapped across the breasts and tied between the shoulder blades.[1] Women could also wear a shawl called an epiblema.

Men and women sometimes wore triangular loincloths, called perizoma, as underwear.[1]

Fasteners and buttons

Since clothing was rarely cut or sewn, fasteners and buttons were often used to keep garments in place. Small buttons, pins and brooches were used.

Large pins, called peronai or fibulae, were worn at the shoulders, facing down, to hold the chiton or peplos in place.[1]

Belts, sashes, or girdles were also worn at the waist sometimes replacing fasteners/buttons.


Women and men typically wore slippers, sandals, soft shoes, or boots.[3] At home they usually went barefoot.[3]


Ornamentation in the form of jewellery, elaborate hairstyles and make-up was common for women. Small gold ornaments would be sewn onto their clothing and would glitter as they moved.[1] The Greeks had rings, wreaths, diadems, bracelets, armbands, pins, pendants, necklaces, and earrings. Popular earring designs included: flying gods and goddesses, like Eros, Nike, and Ganymede. Patterns such as the meander symbolizing eternity was also commonly engraved into jewellery. Gold and silver were the most common mediums for jewellery, however jewellery from this time could also have pearls, gems, and semiprecious stones used as decoration. Jewellery was commonly passed down from generation to generation or made as an offering to the gods.


Ancient Greek clothing was made with silk, linen and wool. However, linen was the most common fiber due to the hot climate. The production of fabric was a long and tedious process; making ready-made clothing was expensive. It was socially accepted that textile making was primarily women's responsibility, and the production of high quality textiles was regarded as an accomplishment for women of high status. The most expensive textile was finely woven linen and very soft wool. The linen was almost transparent, as the Greeks had no problem showing off their body. Less expensive and more commonly used was the linen cloth woven from the flax plant soaked in olive oil. Peasants wore coarse wool. Once made, the cloth was rarely cut. The seamless rectangles of fabric were draped on the body in various ways with little sewing involved. The fabric could be crinkled or pleated to give the garment more fullness, as the more fabric one wore, the wealthier they appeared. Another way of showing wealth was to dye their fabrics. People used to think the Greeks wore only white because the recovered statues from this time showed white drapery. However, they later discovered that the artwork had probably been painted and that the garments the Greeks wore were actually quite colourful. Wealthy aristocrats had purple clothes as purple dye was the most difficult to get. Yellow was a common dye for the average citizen, and warriors wore red- so as not to see blood when wounded. Peasants usually dyed their clothes greens, browns, and grays as it was cheaper but mostly stuck to whites and natural colours.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Alden, Maureen (January 2003), "Ancient Greek Dress", Costume, 37.1: 1–16
  2. ^ a b c d Adkins, Lesley, and Roy Adkins. Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece. New York: Facts On File, 1997. Print.
  3. ^ a b c d e Ancient Greek Dress Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b Garland, Robert. Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.
  5. ^ Johnson, Marie, Ethel B. Abrahams, and Maria M. L. Evans. Ancient Greek Dress. Chicago: Argonaut, 1964. Print.

External links

Biblical clothing

The clothing of the people in Biblical times was made from wool, linen, animal skins, and perhaps silk. Most events in the Old and New Testament take place in ancient Israel, and thus most Biblical clothing is ancient Hebrew clothing. They wore underwear and cloth skirts.

Complete descriptions of the styles of dress among the people of the Bible is impossible because the material at hand is insufficient. Assyrian and Egyptian artists portrayed what is believed to be the clothing of the time, but there are few depictions of Israelite garb. One of the few available sources on Israelite clothing is the Bible.

Chiton (costume)

A chiton (Greek: χιτών, khitōn) was a form of clothing.

There are two forms of chiton, the Doric chiton and the later Ionic chiton.


The chlamys (Ancient Greek: χλαμύς, gen.: χλαμύδος) was a type of an ancient Greek cloak. By the time of the Byzantine Empire it was, although in a much larger form, part of the state costume of the emperor and high officials. It survived as such until at least the 12th century AD.

The ephaptis (Ancient Greek: ἐφαπτίς) was a similar garment, typically worn by infantrymen.

Clothing in ancient Rome

Clothing in ancient Rome generally comprised a short-sleeved or sleeveless, knee-length tunic for men and boys, and a longer, usually sleeved tunic for women and girls. On formal occasions, adult male citizens could wear a woolen toga, draped over their tunic, and married citizen women wore a woolen mantle, known as a palla, over a stola, a simple, long-sleeved, voluminous garment that hung to midstep. Clothing, footwear and accoutrements identified gender, status, rank and social class, and thus offered a means of social control. This was probably most apparent in the segregation of seating tiers at public theatres, games and festivals, and in the distinctive, privileged official dress of magistrates, priesthoods and the military.

The toga was considered Rome's "national costume" but for day-to-day activities, most Romans preferred more casual, practical and comfortable clothing; the tunic, in various forms, was the basic garment for all classes, both sexes and most occupations. It was usually made of linen, and was augmented as necessary with underwear, or with various kinds of cold-or-wet weather wear, such as knee-breeches for men, and cloaks, coats and hats. In colder parts of the empire, full length trousers were worn. Most urban Romans wore shoes, slippers, boots or sandals of various types; in the countryside, some wore clogs.

Most clothing was simple in structure and basic form, and its production required minimal cutting and tailoring, but all was produced by hand and every process required skill, knowledge and time. Spinning and weaving were thought virtuous, frugal occupations for Roman women of all classes. Wealthy matrons, including Augustus' wife Livia, might show their traditionalist values by producing home-spun clothing, but most men and women who could afford it bought their clothing from specialist artisans. Relative to the overall basic cost of living, even simple clothing was expensive, and was recycled many times down the social scale.

Rome's governing elite produced laws designed to limit public displays of personal wealth and luxury. None were particularly successful, as the same wealthy elite had an appetite for luxurious and fashionable clothing. Exotic fabrics were available, at a price; silk damasks, translucent gauzes, cloth of gold, and intricate embroideries; and vivid, expensive dyes such as saffron yellow or Tyrian purple. Not all dyes were costly, however, and most Romans wore colourful clothing. Clean, bright clothing was a mark of respectability and status among all social classes. The fastenings and brooches used to secure garments such as cloaks provided further opportunities for personal embellishment and display.

Clothing in the ancient world

The preservation of fabric fibers and leathers allows for insights into the attire of ancient societies. The clothing used in the ancient world reflects the technologies that these peoples mastered. In many cultures, clothing indicated the social status of various members of society.

The development of attire and fashion is an exclusively human characteristic and is a feature of most human societies. Clothing made of materials such as animal skins and vegetation was initially used by early humans to protect their bodies from the elements. The usage of clothing and textiles across the ages reflects the varying development of civilizations and technologies. Sources available for the study of clothing and textiles include material remains discovered via archaeology; representation of textiles and their manufacture in art; and documents concerning the manufacture, acquisition, use, and trade of fabrics, tools, and finished garments.

Fibula (brooch)

A fibula (/ˈfɪbjʊlə/, plural fibulae /ˈfɪbjʊli/) is a brooch or pin for fastening garments, typically at the right shoulder. The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. Technically, the Latin term, fibulae, refers to Roman brooches; however, the term is widely used to refer to brooches from the entire ancient and early medieval world that continue Roman forms. Nevertheless, its use in English is more restricted than in other languages, and in particular post-Roman brooches from the British Isles are just called brooches (for example, the penannular brooches), where in German they would probably be fibulae.

Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae were not only decorative; they originally served a practical function: to fasten clothing, such as cloaks. Fibulae replaced straight pins that were used to fasten clothing in the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. In turn, fibulae were replaced as clothing fasteners by buttons in the Middle Ages. Their descendant, the modern safety pin, remains in use today. In ancient Rome and other places where Latin was used, the same word denoted both a brooch and the fibula bone because a popular form for brooches and the shape of the bone were thought to resemble one another. Some fibulae were also sometimes used as votive gifts for gods.There are hundreds of different types of fibulae. They are usually divided into families that are based upon historical periods, geography, and/or cultures. Fibulae are also divided into classes that are based upon their general forms.

Lost fibulae, usually fragments, are frequently dug up by amateur coin and relic hunters using metal detectors.

Greco-Roman hairstyle

In the earliest times the Greeks wore their hair kome (long), and thus Homer constantly calls them karekomoontes.

This ancient practice was preserved by the Spartans for many centuries. The Spartan boys always had their hair cut quite short (en chroi keirontes); but as soon as they reached the age of puberty, they let it grow long. They prided themselves upon their hair, calling it the cheapest of ornaments (kosmon adapanotatos), and before going to battle they combed and dressed it with especial care, in which act Leonidas and his followers were discovered by the Persian spy before the battle of Thermopylae. It seems that both Spartan men and women tied their hair in a knot over the crown of the head. At a later time the Spartans abandoned this ancient custom, and wore their hair short, and hence some writers erroneously attribute this practice to an earlier period.The custom of the Athenians was different. They wore their hair long in childhood, and cut it off when they reached the age of puberty. The cutting off of the hair, which was always done when a boy became an ephebus, was a solemn act, attended with religious ceremonies. A libation was first offered to Heracles, which was called oinisteria or oinesteria; and the hair after being cut off was dedicated to some deity, usually a river-god. It was a very ancient practice to go to Delphi to perform this ceremony, and Theseus is said to have done so.The ephebi are always represented on works of art with their hair quite short, in which manner it was also worn by the athletes. When the Athenians passed into the age of manhood, they again let their hair grow. In ancient times at Athens the hair was rolled up into a kind of knot on the crown of the head, and fastened with golden clasps in the shape of grasshoppers. This fashion of wearing the hair, which was called krobylos, had gone out just before the time of Thucydides. The Athenian females also wore their hair in the same fashion, which was in their case called korymbos.On vases, the heads of females were most frequently shown covered with a kind of band or a coif of net-work. Of these coiffures one was called kredemnos, which was a broad band across the forehead, sometimes made of metal, and sometimes of leather, adorned with gold; to this the name of stlengis was also given, and it appears to have been much the same as the ampyx. But the most common kind of head-dress for females was called by the general name of cecryphalus, and this was divided into the three species of cecryphalus, saccus, and mitra. The kekryphalos, in its narrower sense, was a caul or coif of net-work, corresponding to the Latin reticulum. It was worn during the day as well as the night, and has continued in use from the most ancient times to the present day. It is mentioned by Homer, and is still worn in Italy and Spain.

These hairnets were frequently made of gold threads, sometimes of silk, or the Elean byssus, and probably of other materials, which are not mentioned by ancient writers. The persons who made these nets were called kekryphaloplokoi. Females with this kind of head-dress frequently occur in paintings found at Pompeii, from one of which the preceding cut is taken, representing a woman wearing a Coa Vestis (Coan cloth).The sakkos and the mitra were, on the contrary, made of close materials. The sakos covered the head entirely like a sack or bag; it was made of various materials, such as silk, byssus, and wool. Some times, at least among the Romans, a bladder was used to answer the same purpose. The mitra was a broad band of cloth of different colours, which was wound round the hair, and was worn in various ways. It was originally an Eastern head-dress, and may, therefore, be compared to the modern turban. It is sometimes spoken of as characteristic of the Phrygians. It was, however, also worn by the Greeks, and Polygnotus is said to have been the first who painted Greek women with mitrae. The Roman calantica or calvatica is said by Servius to have been the same as the mitra, but in a passage in the Digest they are mentioned as if they were distinct.

Regarding the Romans besides the generic coma we also find the following words signifying the hair: capillus, caesaries, crines, cincinnus and cirrus, the two last words being used to signify curled hair. In early times the Romans wore their hair long, as was represented in the oldest statues in the age of Varro, and hence the Romans of the Augustan age designated their ancestors intonsi and capillati. But after the introduction of barbers into Italy, it became the practice to wear their hair short. The women too originally dressed their hair with great simplicity, but in the Augustan period a variety of different head-dresses came into fashion, many of which are described by Ovid. Sometimes these head-dresses were raised to a great height by rows of false curls.The dressing of the hair of a Roman lady at this period was a most important affair. So much attention did the Roman ladies devote to it, that they kept slaves especially for this purpose, called ornatrices, and had them instructed by a master in the art. Most of the Greek head-dresses mentioned above were also worn by the Roman ladies; but the mitrae appear to have been confined to prostitutes. One of the simplest modes of wearing the hair was allowing it to fall down in tresses behind, and only confining it by a band encircling the head. Another favourite plan was plaiting the hair, and then fastening it behind with a large pin.

False hair or wigs were worn both by Greeks and Romans. Among both peoples in ancient times the hair was cut close in mourning (funus); and among both the slaves had their hair cut close as a mark of servitude.

Greek dress

Greek dress refers to the clothing of the Greek people and citizens of Greece from the antiquity to the modern times.


A himation (Ancient Greek: ἱμάτιον) was a type of clothing, a mantle or wrap worn by ancient Greek men and women from the Archaic through the Hellenistic periods (c. 750–30 BC).

It was usually worn over a chiton and/or peplos, but was made of heavier drape and played the role of a cloak or shawl. When the himation was used alone (without a chiton), and served both as a chiton and as a cloak, it was called an achiton. The himation was markedly less voluminous than the Roman toga. It was usually a large rectangular piece of woollen cloth. Many vase paintings depict women wearing a himation as a veil covering their faces.The himation continued into the Byzantine era as "iconographic dress" used in art, worn by Christ, the Virgin Mary, and biblical figures.

Index of fashion articles

This is a list of existing articles related to fashion and clothing.

For individual designers, see List of fashion designers


The kausia (Ancient Greek: καυσία) was an ancient Macedonian flat hat.

It was worn during the Hellenistic period but perhaps even before the time of Alexander the Great and was later used as a protection against the sun by the poorer classes in Rome.

Depictions of the kausia can be found on a variety of coins and statues found from the Mediterranean to the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and the Indo-Greeks in northwestern India. The Persians referred to both the Greeks and Macedonians as "Yauna" (Ionians), but made a distinction between "Yauna by the sea" and those "with hats that look like shields" (yauna takabara), probably referring to the Macedonian kausia hat. According to Bonnie Kingsley the kausia may have came to the Mediterranean as a campaign hat worn by Alexander and veterans of his campaigns in India but according to Ernst Fredricksmeyer the kausia was too established a staple of the Macedonian wardrobe for it to have been imported from Asia to Macedonia.A modern descendant of the hat may be the Pakol: the familiar and remarkably similar men's hat from Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The kolpos (Greek: κόλποις κόλπον κόλπῳ, a gulf, bay or creek) is the blousing of a peplos, chiton or tunic in Ancient Greek clothing, whereby excess length of the material hangs folded over a zone (a narrow girdle).

The fabric of the garment was typically cut longer than the shoulder-to-floor measurement of the women or man wearing it. The excess length was dealt with at the waist (creating the kolpos) and optionally the top edge (creating the apoptygma). To create the kolpos, a zone was tied around the body below the breast (high-girdled) or at the waist (low-girdled) and excess fabric was pulled up over it. The fabric fell over the girdle so as to hide it, and was often pulled longer in back than in front. This fold was the kolpos. A second (visible) zone could be tied over the kolpos to redefine the waist, high or low. This might be hidden again by the apoptygma, the loose, folded down top of the peplos.


A peplos (Greek: ὁ πέπλος) is a body-length garment established as typical attire for women in ancient Greece by 500 BC (the Classical period). It was a long, tubular cloth with the top edge folded down about halfway, so that what was the top of the tube was now draped below the waist, and the bottom of the tube was at the ankle. The garment was then gathered about the waist and the folded top edge pinned over the shoulders. The folded-down top of the tube provided the appearance of a second piece of clothing. (The Caryatid statues show a typical drapery.)The peplos was draped and open on one side of the body, like the Doric chiton. It should not be confused with the Ionic chiton, which was a piece of fabric folded over and sewn together along the longer side to form a tube. The Classical garment is represented in Greek vase painting from the 5th century BC and in the metopes of temples in Doric order.

Spartan women continued to wear the peplos much later in history than other Greek cultures. It was also shorter and with slits on the side causing other Greeks to call them phainomērídes (φαινομηρίδες) the "thigh-showers".


A petasos or petasus (Greek: πέτασος) is a sun hat of Thessalian origin worn by ancient Greeks, Macedonians, Thracians and Etruscans, often in combination with the chlamys cape. It was usually made of wool felt, leather or straw, with a broad, floppy brim. It was worn primarily by farmers and travellers, and was considered characteristic of rural people. As a winged hat, it became the symbol of Hermes, the Greek mythological messenger god.

A type of metal helmet worn by Athenian cavalry was made in the shape of a petasos. Some examples have holes around the outer edge of the brim, presumably so a fabric cover could be attached. These are known from reliefs and vase paintings, with at least one archaeological example found in an Athenian tomb.

Roman hairstyles

Hairstyle fashion in Rome was ever changing, and particularly in the Roman Imperial Period there were a number of different ways to style hair. As with clothes, there were several hairstyles that were limited to certain people in ancient society. Styles are so distinctive they allow scholars today to create a chronology of Roman portraiture and art; we are able to date pictures of the empresses on coins, or identify busts depending on their hairstyles.

Zone (vestment)

The Zone (Greek: ζώνη, zonē) is a form of girdle or belt common in the ancient eastern Mediterranean. The term occurs in Homer, for instance, as (Greek: ζώνην, zonēn) girdle and can also refer to the waist itself. Classical Greek had a verb (Greek: ζώννυσθαι, zonusthai) put a girdle around the loins, or "gird one's self."

In modern Greek and Church Slavonic the zone or (Поясъ, poyas - belt) is a liturgical belt worn as a vestment by priests and bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches and Eastern Catholic Churches. It is made of brocade with an embroidered or appliquéd cross in the center, with long ribbons at the ends for tying around the waist. It is worn over the sticharion and the epitrachelion and keeps them in place as the priest performs the Divine Liturgy. In this regard it is similar to the cincture of the Roman Catholic Church.

The zone is not worn for services when the priest is not fully vested, e.g. vespers or matins.

The zone worn by priests of the Old Believers of the Russian Tradition, have a unique design, with four pendant strips, two on each hip. This was the result of legislation passed under Empress Catherine the Great, mandating that the vestments of Old Believer clergy be sufficiently different from those of clergy belonging to the State Church, in order to avoid confusion.

Zoster (costume)

A zoster (Greek: ζωστήρ) was a form of girdle or belt worn by men and perhaps later by women in ancient Greece, from the Archaic period (c. 750–c. 500 BC) to the Hellenistic period (323–30 BC).

The word occurs in Homer, where it appears to refer to a warrior's belt of leather, possibly covered in bronze plates. Later references in the late Archaic and early Classical periods show it used as a belt or cloth girdle with men's clothes, especially the shorter chiton.

By the Hellenistic period, it had become synonymous with "zone" and was used for women's clothes as well as men's.The zoster was also worn and is still worn by Greeks when wearing traditional costumes (regional clothing).

Middle Ages
1500s–1820s Western fashion
1830s–1910s Western fashion
1920s–1980s Western fashion

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