The First Shaped Garments

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When we think of ancient clothing, we think of loose draped fabric with not a whole lot of shape. This is mostly true, but not completely true. While Ancient Greece and Rome may have had the elegance of draped fabric, Ancient Crete and Mycenae were the true fashion pioneers, predicting the direction fashion would take in the Western world.

Crete and Mycenaean cities had a lot of contact, trading with each other and picking up artistic styles and religion. Subsequently the clothing of Mycenaean women was greatly influenced by Cretan fashion.

Cretan snake goddess figurine, 1700-1550 BC.

This statue shows a snake goddess wearing a tightly fitted bodice with three quarter length sleeves and an extremely low square neckline showing the breasts, a tightly cinched waist, and a full cone shaped skirt made up of flounces or pleats. The apron-like garment worn around the waist may be ceremonial, as existing frescoes from Crete showing more ordinary women do not feature one, but then again we have limited information about the ancient world and wearing an apron or not might have just been a fashion choice. Breasts were supported by lacing or wide belts. Garments were elaborately decorated, in Mycenae they could have gold sequins, shapes made from gold foil such as rosettes, silver, lead, and iron. Evidence also suggest that these clothes were highly colorful.

A Mycenaean fresco from Tiryns, 1375-1200 BC.

While other ancient clothing was made of simple square shapes pinned together, Ancient Cretan and Mycenaean clothing was highly shaped, and involved patterning and sewing. They conformed to and emphasized the curves of a woman's body, and created a geometric silhouette which will not be seen again until the sixteenth century when the farthingale was introduced into womens fashion, turning skirts into cones. The complex fashion worn by the women of Ancient Crete and Mycenae was centuries ahead of its time, making these civilizations the true trend setters of the Western world.

Terrible joke: When Helen of Troy ran away with Paris and started the Trojan War, she ran away from her husband and home in Mycenae. Perhaps she was not just the face that launched a thousand ships? BUH DUM CHING!!!

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