Greek Dress and Roman dress
(c. 600BC – 50 AD)
Illustration: Chambers Encyclopedia, 1920
Dress was a draped rectangle of cloth, falling from shoulders. The two variations were the peplos and the chiton. The peplos has a fold at the top while the chiton is in fine linen hanging from shoulders, peplos opaque. The cloak was called the himation.
Each garment was woven to size on the loom and uncut.
There was some difference between the sexes as men’s garments were shorter. Women wore veils.
Roman garments included the toga for male citizens, and the palla for women with veil.
Chiton, Drawing from John Boardman, Archaic Sculpture Pg. 68. http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/dictionary/Dict/ASP/dictionarybody.asp?name=Chiton
Mode of production
Garments were made in the home by women and slaves.
They were made through fibre spun into yarn, with the cloth wove to size and pinned into a rectangle of cloth to form garment
There was some division of labour as slaves may shear/wash the wool, mistress of house would weave on the loom. However most tasks happened under the same roof.
A loom was used to weave cloth, fibres were cotton, wool and flax (linen)
Symbolic meaning / notion of beauty
Dress was represented in Greek art in a stylised way with drapery flowing over and accentuating areas of the body in a way unlikely to be achievable in the available hand-woven coarse wool, which was not cut or sewn.
The idealised female form of the ‘goddess’ was represented through drapery clinging to the breasts and hips of the women on painted vases, revealing the body via the wet-look. This notion of beauty was based on the ‘natural’ female form, a construct which appeared later in Neo-Classical dress, and onwards in the Hollywood goddesses of the 1930s.
Artists of this time created the illusion of fabric movement in stone carvings. Stone drapery gave the human figure a solidity and gravitas. In this sense, drapery came to symbolise a connection to higher, more intellectual pursuits, with the gods and great thinkers of Greek art represented heavily draped with long vertical folds. This symbolism carried on to drapery’s use in later periods, for instance in ecclesiastical clothing and religious imagery.
Class differentiation was expressed through dress in the longer train for women and in the greater amount, width and richness of the material used.
Further reading coming soon.
Credits/Disclaimer: Outline by Alice Payne, drawing on course materials previously prepared by Tiziana Ferrero-Regis and Kathleen Cattoni. Any errors are Alice’s!