Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tribute : If it's Greek, it's Chic

A soft heat is coming from the ground. Far off, the silhouette of a woman is walking toward us on the country road, lined with ancient olive trees. She is now closer, and you can admire her extreamely gracious outfit. A silk tunic, almost diaphaneous, is emphazing her body, hooked-up at the shoulders and tightenned at the waist by a braided leather belt. The cloth is floating around her, waved by the breeze, creating the illusion of a slow dance.
This woman is not a model, nor a contemporary woman : she is a vision from Ancient Greece, the cradle of our civilization and of our fashion.
Ancient Greece’s women were already extremely found of fashion, and adored luxuous accessories to the point that their husbands, annoyed of buying them more and more expensive clothes, adopted a law, giving some magistrates the right to supervise the sumptuousness of their wifes’ toilettes !
And yet, Grecian women didn’t have much choice. Their outfits were always constituted of the same pieces.
First, the chiton, a sort of overall, fastened at the shoulders and the waist. It was usually white and really thin, nearly transparent. Then, they added the tunic, a long dress of plain colour with a strip of crimson. The himation, a shawl, or the peplos, a sort of coat, protected her from the cold, while the calyptra, a transparent veil, hid her from the sun and the looks.
And that’s was all. The only variety came from the way women draped themselves into the large cloths, which changed according to their cities or their vanity. The colors were also important : a woman with a multicoloured tunic and a golden belt was certainly a courtesan, and despised by honorable women, who prefered white colour. Younger women loved crimson, saffron or olive green tunics. The clothes were also adorned with embroderies, famous for their geometrical friezes.
Yet, a wind of modernity already blew in the ancient fashion. Spartan women invented the mini dress, while Minoan women, found of tiny waists, invented the corset.
But, almost everything, the accessories were women’s real pleasure. They always carried fans ans sunshades while walking in the streets, and even if they often went barefooted, they were the Carrie Bradshaw of the History. Indeed, they were obsessed by shoes : ankle-boots or leather sandals, every model was unique, dyed in black, red, yellow or white, and often decorated with glass pearls and pieces of metal. No suprising then, that the Spartan shoes made their comeback last year in our wardrobes.
Gold also fascinated them, and they wore enormous jewels, which would made Miranda Priestly grow pale : earrings, brooches, cameos, bangles, necklaces and tiaras, all with complex patters and fine details.
Their heads were bare, except for the Minoans, who wore a sort of conic hat, and the hair was extreamely elaborated, with headbands, numerous braids, hairpins with precious stones, hainets, curls and even wings as dyeing didn’t exist at the time. Amy Winehouse’s hairdo ? Deja-vu !
Another very important thing was the make-up. Inspired by the Middle East, Grecian women used a lot of foundation cream to lighten their skin, and often had white faces. To compensate for this paleness, they used blush on their cheeks and bold lines of khol on their eyes, which gave them a magnetic look that fascinated the artists. Though, they never used lipstick; red lips were reserved to the prostitutes and to the actors, who were playing female roles, and often mocking them. Women were forbidden of acting, but they practiced a lot of dancing and singing, and particulary take care over their appearance in these occasions.
All this almost sounds modern, doesn’t it ?
It is because Ancient Greeks have always been our models, and what we have learnt of their civilization, through their texts and their sculptures, especially the ones called Tanagras, have strongly influenced us and still are. For example, actress Rose Byrne wore a Grecian-style Gucci dress on the Emmys 2010’s red carpet : a timeless elegance.
We are, and we always will be obsessed by our appearance. And thanks to Aphrodite, goddess of the beauty, we don’t have magistrates who prevent us to have splendid outfits anymore !

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