Because of the warm weather and outdoor lifestyle, garments in ancient Greece were remarkably simple, consisting of handmade linen or wool fabric. Clothes for both genders included two basic garments: a tunic (chiton for men and peplos for women) and a cloak called a himation. A young Greek man sported a short cloak, called a chlamys, for outdoor activities like riding. Both men and women wore sandals or other modest footwear when outdoors; around the house, though, they typically went barefoot.
A tunic worn by Greek men, the chiton was usually made of a rectangular piece of lightweight linen fabric. Designed for comfort and ease of movement, a chiton could be draped over one shoulder easily and tied around the waist. Worn in this over-the-shoulder fashion, it became known as an exomie. Sometimes sleeve openings were cut or sewn into a chiton. If the garment was wide enough for sleeves, they were ordinarily fastened along the seams using buttons or pins.
Like the men’s chiton, a peplos consisted of one piece of linen or wool material and it was a garment worn exclusively by women. Slightly longer than a chiton, a peplos generally covered a woman’s body down to her knees or even ankles. It could be secured at the shoulders using a decorative pin or other ornament; it could also be belted or tied at the waist. Although made from just a rectangular length of fabric, a peplos might be folded, draped or fastened in different ways to exhibit the wearer’s individual style.
In the cool weather months, ancient Greeks wore an outer garment called a himation, a type of cloak. The himation would be worn on top of any other clothing, not unlike an overcoat. Both men and women wore this outerwear garment. Similar to the tunic-style apparel, the himation was made from a single rectangular piece of wool. Its length and width allowed it to double easily as a blanket, which was a convenient use for soldiers or other men exposed to the elements.
A short cloak designed for men, the chlamys was another one-piece costume made of wool material. Roughly the size of a blanket, frequently bordered, the chlamys served as an ancient Greek military uniform. In addition to clothing a soldier, it could be folded around his arm as a basic shield during combat. Centuries after the ancient Greeks, Roman emperors and soldiers still found the chlamys useful and wore similar garments.
Sandals and Other Footwear
In ancient Greece, both genders regularly wore leather sandals or slip-on flat shoes outdoors. Men sometimes wore boots. When at home, however, they usually went without shoes and it was not unusual for Greeks to spend much of their time barefoot.