Clothing people wore in ancient Greece

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Greek baby, from Hellenistic Egypt

Greek baby, from Hellenistic Egypt

Like Egyptian or Mesopotamian babies, 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.

marble statue of a man in a tunic carrying a basket

A working man’s tunic (see the basket he is carrying?)

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.

Boy in Macedonian hat, cape, and boots (ca. 300 BC)

Boy in Macedonian hat, cape, and boots (ca. 300 BC)

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

Aphrodite and Eros

Aphrodite and Eros

Greek women, like women in Iran or Indiaat 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.

Girl wearing a long dress wrapped around her

Girl wearing a long dress wrapped around her

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
More about wool cloth

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Greek clothing:

Today, men and women wear modern clothing in the form of fraternity and sorority Greek clothing. These organizations, typically at colleges and universities, wear Greek clothing for philanthropic events, social events, and recruitment events. The pieces of clothing usually will encompass the fraternity or sorority symbol or mascot, with the organization’s colors. Greek shirts are the main items that show sorority/fraternity pride across college campuses nationwide.

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Ancient Greece
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By | 2017-07-05T05:38:37+00:00 July 5th, 2017|Clothing, Greeks|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Clothing people wore in ancient Greece. Quatr.us Study Guides, July 5, 2017. Web. December 12, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

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, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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