History of Greek Costume
"The adornment round my head of luxurious gold, and the robe I wear of richly embroidered cloth, were not offerings from the house of Achilles and Peleus, but were presented to me along with many wedding gifts by my father Menelaus of the Laconian land of Sparta." Euripides: Andromache, c415 B.C. .

ur only sources of information about the earliest Greek costumes are pictorial, mostly from wall-paintings found in Crete, Santorini and Mycenae. They were depicted as ornate with geometric designs, wide hems, narrow waists and uncovered breasts. Hair was intricately combed and the body liberally adorned with jewellery.
At around 550 B.C. the classical form of Greek dress that we would all recognise was worn. It employed a simple, single length of cloth of linen or fine wool, often with a border woven in. The chiton, as it was called, would be draped around the body, elegantly arranged and held with metal clasps at the shoulders.

In the Hellenistic period that followed, Greek style of dress spread throughout the Mediterranean urban classes. The tunic was a Roman invention which comprised one piece of textile woven in the shape of a cross with a slit for the head and folded over the shoulders forming a pair of sleeves. This simple dress, with the addition of side panels, served as an elememt of Greek costume in the form of an undergarment or chemise.

The Byzantine ecclesiastical and lay tradition of dressing in luxurious garments was influenced mainly by the south and east, from where the skill of textile design had already reached Europe through the Arabs in the Middle Ages. The Persian style of delicate and elaborate decoration was also greatly admired. Garments of a similar kind eventually reached European ports, where they were adapted and modified. But it was western costume that left its mark, displacing Byzantium as the dominating influence over the dress worn in mainland coastal cities of Greece and on the Aegean islands.
Greek dress had reached its most sumptuous and most elegant form throughout the land during the Byzantine era. This was followed by four centuries of Turkish occupation, when the privations suffered by the Greek people meant that they could ill afford to concern themselves to any great extent with dress. However, from the second half of the 18th century, when both land and sea trade started to flourish, a great diversity of folk costume was gradually accomplished. The use of gold embroidery and expensive silk cloth was widespread by the late 19th century. Stylish clothes began to be worn by all levels of society, not just the wealthy. Rural populations in poor areas developed very beautiful and elaborate local costumes that bore no relation to their means or standard of living. People were prepared to incur debt which might take years to pay off, even sacrificing a small piece of land in order for a daughter to be correctly dressed. Each costume was the result of many different crafts and skills: weaving, dyeing, embroidery, bullion embroidery, gold and silver jewellery, and leatherwork. All artisans gave the best they had to offer, because the items of dress were commissioned for individuals, each with particular preferences and requirements.

The arrival in Greece in 1837 of Amalia, first queen of the new sovereign nation, was another milestone. She realised that her own attire ought to reflect that of her oddly dressed people. So she created a romantic folk court dress which became the national Greek costume known as the Amalia dress. It consisted of a silk gathered skirt, a blouse and a richly embroidered jacket topped off with a fez. This dress became the usual attire for all townswomen in Turkish occupied as well as newly liberated parts of Greece. Local costume held its own in the mountains and coastal areas such as the flogata of zagori in epirus until the second wave of western fashion which was far more powerful. The Industrial Revolution, in the case of clothing, brought sewing machines, fashion periodicals and schools teaching dressmaking skills. At this point, the evolution of Greek folk costume gradually began to cease.
After the Second World War even the last women who still wore their traditional costume eventually ceased to do so, leaving a handful of old ladies to preserve the custom until it finally went to the grave with them.

"The beautiful Greek girls are the most striking ornament of Scio...They wear short petticoats, reaching only to their knees, with white silk or cotton hose. Their head-dress, which is peculiar to the island, is a kind of turban, the linen so white and thin it seemed snow. Their slippers are chiefly yellow, with a knot of red fringe at the heel. Some wore them fastened with a thong. Their garments were of silk of various colours; and their whole appearance so fantastic and lively as to afford us much entertainment." Richard Chandler: Travels in Asia Minor, 1775.