Greek costume of the classic period has given greater inspiration than any other to the designer in the past and in the present.
In Greek costume there were two general classes of garments, the under and the outer, both of which were rectangular or square in shape and were draped on the figure rather than fitted to it. These garments varied somewhat, from time to time, in size and method of wearing. The undergarment or dress was called a chiton, the outer garment or mantle a hi motion.
There were two forms of the chiton, known as the Doric and the Ionic. The exact difference between these two forms has given rise to much discussion. It was evidently a difference in detail rather than general arrangement. The Doric was of thick material and small in size. When worn it fell in a few heavy folds and was without sleeves. The Ionic was of fine material and large; it fell in many small folds and was arranged to form sleeves.
A rectangular piece of material was used for both. The material for the Doric was about one foot longer than the wearer's height and as wide as the distance from tip to tip of the fingers with the arms outstretched. For the Ionic it was much larger, especially in width. Much of this additional width was used in forming the sleeves.
In drying, the extra length was usually turned over along the edge which was to form the top of the garment. The folded-over section was called the apotygma. The entire piece of material was then folded in the center from top to bottom edge and placed about the figure with the opening at the right side. Pins at the shoulder were used to keep it in place and form the opening for the neck and arms.
The Doric chiton was arranged by dividing the width into three fairly equal sections, the center for the neck, the others for the arms. With this arrangement only one pin at each shoulder was required. The central division of the Ionic was less than a third of the full width. The extra size was made into sleeves by using pins placed at regular intervals from the shoulder along the opening near to the elbow.
After either chiton was attached at the shoulder the girdle was placed about the waist, the wearer standing with arms outstretched to draw the material up into place. The chiton was usually sufficient long to allow the material to be pushed up through the girdle to form a blouse. The arrangement of the apotygma was varied; it may hang free or be held in by the girdle. Both the chitons made exceptioningly graceful costumes. They allowed a perfect freedom of movement and gain opportunity for variety in arrangement.
The usual mantle, or himation, was a large square or rectangular piece of material, usually wool, which varied in size and in the method of arrangement according to the taste of the wearer. It was draped about the figure rather than fitted, and in many cases it served both as a mantle and a covering for the head. Like the chiton, when well draped it was a very graceful garment and lent itself to an infinite variety of arrangement.
All garments worn by the Greeks were in early times woven in one piece, a garment separate and complete in itself. Wool, linen, and silk were all used. The woolen materials were evidently the most satisfactory. Some were very heavy and firm, others thin and so loosely woven as to be almost transparent, while still others were very much like crepe. Linen and silk were in general made up into the more elaborate and luxurious garments of later periods. Cotton was used in small quantities. It was yellow in color and too expensive for the larger garments. Greek chitons were of many colors, such as purple, red, yellow. Designs of birds, beasts, flowers, or emblems were frequently distributed over the entire surface or made to form a border. In many costumes a variety of design was combined, an all-over design with two or three different borders.
The girdles, which formed an important part of the costume, were often decorated with pendent ornaments and set with gold and silver studs. Their position changed from time to time: in the Archaic period it was at the waist line; in the age of Pericles below the waist, as shown by the maidens of the Parthenon frieze. Later it was much higher, until finally it was practically under the arms.
When out-of-doors the women usually wore either sandals or soles tied on with straps, which were frequently transported part way up the leg. Soft leather boots were also used.
The manner of wearing the hair varied very little. It was usually parted and drawn into a knot at the back. Fillets and other ornaments were used in many different ways to bind it up and hold it in place.
The Grecian women were fond of jewelry and wore many different kinds-rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and brooches. The last might be considered as a necessary part of their costume. They had also a variety of hair ornaments, such as pins and metal diadems and fillets.