>> No, I haven’t done a runner and gone off to a Greek island to boycott fashion week.  I am already in New York (please stop asking me how I’m handling the snow – more than familiar with concept) but just before I left, right by the beautiful Mouki bolthole of a store, in the Hellenic Centre, designer Marios Schwab together with curator Ioanna Papantoniou, walked us through an exhibition called Patterns of Magnificence: Tradition and Reinvention of Greek Women’s Costume. We’re more than familiar with the chitons and peplos that the women and goddesses of Ancient Greece have been depicted wearing. Fast forward a few thousand years and you have yourself some of the richest examples of traditional dress. Costumes from different parts of Greece from the 18th to 20th century are hard to sum up in a handy nutshell. They vary because of the scattered physical geography of Greece but also because of its political structure when the Ottomans left in 1821 and modern Western European attire slowly infiltrated its way into the language of Greece’s national dress.

The short of it is that whether you’re fascinated by the ins and outs of Greek folkloric attire or not, these forty (often rare) ensembles on display are undeniably beautiful.  Unlike Schwab, who went around recalling fond memories of seeing similar ensembles in his childhood in Greece, I had no personal reference and instead thought of fabrics, techniques and motifs from Western Europe, Central Asia and Middle Eastern 18th-20th century dress, coming together in an often unexpected way.

Ancient Greece’s penchant for simple lines and unadorned costume lingers in the opening passage of simple chemises and cotton dresses, embroidered intricately.  They’re pieces that look covetable still, even in their yellowed state.  Then comes a group of bridal costumes, some with hundreds and hundreds of pleats creating an empire line silhouette that flares out from the bust.  They’re built up into a riot of European brocades mixed with elaborate feathered headdresses and silver bells jangling at the back for dancing.  Both John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier have also paid homage to these elaborate traditional Greek costumes, drawn to their intensely ornate decoration.

Then we arrive at the point where the Ottoman empire have left and Greece as a modern state comes together after lands like Dodecanese islands, the Aegean islands and Thessaly are integrated back into the nation.  The country also gets a figurehead to look up to in Queen Amalia of Oldenburg, whose penchant for cropped tight fitting velvet jackets are incorporated with traditional dress.  Same goes for her successor Queen Olga, who brings in elements of her native Russia.  This portion of Greek women’s traditional costume is by no means an easy history of dress to understand but the process of assimilation and integration is an interesting one – one that keeps giving, with every look and even more so if you pick up the very comprehensive accompanying catalogue.

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Comments (29)

  1. Ana says:

    I love all the Balkans-under-Ottomans traditional costumes.
    (The fitted jackets are my favourite, too.)

    Have you seen the Macedonian ensemble from the Met?
    The Albanian coat?
    Or, indeed, the Turkish fitted jackets?

    I want to cry when, during fairs, I see the beauty our embroiderers create.

  2. Deporian says:

    Wow! The prints mixed with the simple/neutral colors was very exciting! We would love to see these with a contemporary spin, it would be gorgeous!

  3. WOWS says:

    Cool and interesting historic post!

    Kisses from http://www.withorwithoutshoes.com

    Today I bring you a Casual outfit with very eye-catching Floral print Neoprene Pants!!

  4. Kiri says:

    Thanks for sharing these lovely photos. The photos at the beginning are lovely with their rich embroidery on simple woven fabrics. Reminds me of traditional Ukrainian costume in that sense.

    You can clearly see the progression in technology and therefore fabrics and embroidery in your photos. I especially like the red bolero/jacket with all the lovely detail towards the end….

    Good luck at NYFW.
    X
    Kiri
    http://www.fashionblender.com.au
    http://www.facebook.com/FashionBlender

  5. wow..how interesting! thank you for sharing this amazing post!
    http://simonaroxanahuidiu.blogspot.ro

  6. Dominique says:

    this is amazing !
    xxxx
    http://www.dominiquecandido.com

  7. Great post! Rich and interesting content, this is why this is my favourite fashion blog. The photographs are amazing, pure art, pure fashion and pure detail hiden in these ancient clothes. However, I haven´t see any ancient bags, were there any?

  8. md says:

    Una excelente exposición que me encantaría ver.
    Saludos y buen día.

  9. SO WONDERFUL, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
    I would wear the belts and all the jewellery inmediatelly.
    The embroidery, patterns and prints are so inspiring to me being a embroidery lover myself.
    Love and sunshine weekend, dear Susie guapa.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  10. Arachne says:

    Wonderful! There is so much colours, textures and embroideries! I like the most, red dress with a yellow headscarf. – I would wear it with pleasure! Mostly I love their belts.

  11. sasa says:

    Love the pictures as always! Have fun in New York<3

    http://www.shallwesasa.com

  12. Zhanna says:

    Such beautiful creations! This is amazing what human minds and hands are capable of. Such elaborate and exquisite pieces, with crafted embroidery accompanied by a master’s eye for detail. Thank you so much for introducing the followers to the folklore excursion. Zhanna, http://www.stylehenge.com

  13. Such a nice article with so many informations and photos of our traditional clothes and history here in Greece. This made me feel so proud!!! Thank you.

    Redhead Illusion

  14. Amazing textures and embroidery, love the way you talk about such a range of fashion influences.

    http://www.lexilikes.com/

  15. The corner of my eye says:

    Great, informative post! And indeed very similar to a russian national costume.

    BTW if any of you guys interested to participate in a market research dedicated to “made in russia”, visit this post:

    http://thecornerome.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/made-in-russia.html

    results will be followed up in a couple of weeks.

  16. Muskaan says:

    Really interesting post, textures and embroidery are amazing as like on the Rajasthani dress in INDIA

  17. Ingibiru says:

    Love this!
    I really see the resamblance with norwegian traditional folk costumes called “bunad”

  18. veeeery proud and veeeery impressed! I have to go and check them on my own too..thanks for sharing..

    CDR

  19. debbie says:

    The mix of print and colour is so amazing, All the belts are out of this world I can totally wear it and the ancient Greece attire pictures reminded me of the children bible I read while growing up, even though it’s Egyptian but it kinda brought it back. What a beautiful opulence fashion it is. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. Raftery says:

    Interesting Read

  22. Ram says:

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  23. Super blog..!!

    such a lovely images.

    Visit this link for more mehndi designs images.

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  24. sujit says:

    It’s awesome designs.Simply nice.

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  25. i love this designs alot . Thanks

  26. web design says:

    Simply awesome design mate. Good to share this

  27. Nice and awesome design mate ,Thanks a lot

  28. The mix of print and colour is so amazing, All the belts are out of this world I can totally wear it and the ancient Greece attire pictures reminded me

  29. Ethnic designs like this are the sould of our history..a language of time long gone. I’m glad with posts like these we can keep these designs alive.

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