Ancient Greek Clothing - What did people wear in ancient Greece?
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Ancient Greek Clothing

Greek baby in a diaper
Greek baby, from
Hellenistic Egypt

August 2016 - Greek babies often wore nothing at all, but sometimes, as in this picture, they wore cloth diapers. If it was cold, of course, they would be more wrapped up. Children also often wore only cloth wrapped around their middles like wrap skirts or shorts.

man in a tunic covering only one shoulder

Greek men mostly wore a tunic, a sort of knee-length t-shirt made of wool or linen, tied with a belt at the waist. Men used the fold of cloth over their belt as a pocket. Often, as in this statuette, they wore their tunic only over one shoulder, as a himation.

Over the tunic men wore a wool cloak if it was cold out, which they could also use as a blanket if they needed to (for instance if they were off somewhere fighting a war). Their legs were bare, and they wore leather sandals when they weren't barefoot. But many men went barefoot their whole lives.

boy wearing hat, cape, and boots
Boy in Macedonian hat, cape, and
boots (ca. 300 BC)
seated woman holding her baby
Aphrodite and Eros

Greek women, like women in Iran or India at this time, generally wore one large piece of wool or linen, wrapped around them and pinned in various ways to make it stay. The ways of pinning it changed over time. One way was to fold the cloth in half, and put it so that the fold in the cloth came under your right armpit and down your right side. Then pull up on the front and the back of the cloth so they meet over your right shoulder and pin the front and the back together with a big safety pin. Then pull more of the front up over your left shoulder, and pin it to the back in the same way. Finally you will notice that your dress is still open all along your left side: tie a belt around your dress at the waist to keep your dress closed. These dresses came down to their ankles, even for younger girls.

When it was cold, women also had long wool cloaks/blankets to keep them warm.

woman with a shawl

Even when it wasn't cold, most Greek women who weren't slaves wore a shawl or a veil over their dress whenever they left the house. Some women wore their veil loose, and some used it to cover their hair, or their face. Women who were enslaved had to wear their hair cut short, while free women had long, complicated hairstyles.

But for running, hunting, or working, Greek women could also wear short tunics like the ones men wore, as this Spartan girl does to run.

Learn by doing: dress up like a person from ancient Greece
More about linen cloth

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Greek clothing:

Greek and Roman Fashions, by Tom Tierney (2001). Coloring book.

Ancient Greek Costumes Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney (1999). For teens. "An invaluable aid to designing an historically accurate costume for my 6th grader's 'Greek Festival'", says a reviewer on Amazon.

Costumes of the Greeks and Romans, by Thomas Hope (19th century, reprinted 1986). More advanced illustrations, for teachers and professional costumers.

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber (1995). Not so easy to read, but an interested high schooler could read it. Fascinating ideas about the way people made cloth in ancient times, and why it was that way.

More about Spinning
Dressing up like the Ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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