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Classics Society Stages Toga Fashion Show

Fashion Show3
Jackie Davidson wearing the women's long chiton, the most basic Greek women's garment.

November 22, 2000
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

by Emily Drew '04

Photos by Eron Earley-Thiele '04

Though he conceded that in ancient Greece, "the dress of men at times consisted mainly of undress," classics professor Dirk French found enough material to work with to present a fashion show of ancient Greek and ancient Roman attire recently.

The event was held in Phi Hall following an induction ceremony for new members of Eta Sigma Phi, the national honorary fraternity for classical studies.

Using volunteer students, French presented the styles of dress and scrupulous dressing process of the ancient Mediterranean world. Sophomore Peter Leese, who modeled a Greek male slave's garment, assisted French in meticulously adjusting the folds of the clothes as they were draped on the models' bodies.

Fashion Show2
(Back, l-r) Matt Hurley wearing the Greek men's himation, Matt Paramore wearing a Roman toga draped over the left shoulder, Michael Clifton wearing the Greek men's long chiton. (Front, l-r) Jarrett Welsh wearing a Roman toga draped alternatively over the right shoulder, and Peter Leese wearing the Greek men's short chiton.

Greek styles, usually of either linen or wool, were presented first. Slaves costumes consisted of one piece of folded fabric pinned together over one shoulder to make a sleeve. "Safety pins," said French, "are one of the most ancient inventions. In the ancient world, you might find a fibula six inches long."

He explained that slaves outfits were usually worn very short and loosely for coolness in the hot Greek climate.

French described the Greek gentleman's outfit next--a long sheet of fabric called a himation wrapped around the body with only friction to hold it up. He noted that ancient gentlemen took great pride in their appearance, and were even concerned about the pattern of the folds on their sleeve. "It entailed a tremendous amount of effort to clothe one person," he said.

He also explained the painstaking fabric-making process. "The last thing a Greek man wanted to do was tear his himation," said French. "That meant his sister, mother, or wife would be stuck at a loom for days."

Fashion Show4
Rachel Wippold wearing the standard Archaic Greek women's dress­­a long chiton, worn as undergarment, with a himation (cloak) worn draped over the shoulder over a concealed cord.

Greek women also wore the himation, along with another wrap, sometimes of vibrant colors. For women, however, the trick was to carry the wrap in an attractive way. "It might have taken as long as two hours, and the help of several slaves, to put one on properly," said French.

With belts and layers, a woman's clothes were more stable than the loose men's ware.

In Sparta, women wore an extra layer of clothing over the chest to promote a more modest look of femininity.

Because of a cooler climate, clothes were worn more thickly in ancient Rome. Togas, the himation of the Roman world, were hot and cumbersome, instead of light and airy. But the Romans still took great care in their dress, and developed creative ways to clothe themselves. Because of its fold along the back, a toga also provided a hood for men. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans also wore underwear, in the form of a loincloth. Roman clothes, instead of being pinned on, were usually sewn.

After the presentation, some of the models said they were impressed with the care that the ancients took in their appearance. Others enjoyed the freedom and comfort that the clothes offered. Junior Caroline Little, however, looked at her elegant garment and smiled, "I'd rather wear pants!"

Fashion Show1
Peter Leese helping Professor French drape Matt Paramore in a Roman gentleman's toga. At the left Michael Clifton models the Greek men's long chiton, worn long for extra warmth by traveler's and charioteers.

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