clothing was primarily wool, very finely woven. Linen is
also acceptable, partly for comfort since most modern people are
not acclimated to wearing wool in hot weather, and partly
because the modern textile industry does not produce wool that
resembles the ancient fabric. Modern wools are fine for
clothing meant for cooler weather. Use only 100% linen and
wool, no blends, no cotton, and certainly no synthetics.
Internal seams may be done by machine, but all exposed stitching
should be done by hand. Optimally, there shouldn't *be*
much in the way of hems to sew, since fabric was woven to the
size needed for the garment, but again, with today's choices we
are often forced to cut the fabric to size. For linen
especially, this means hemming is probably needed. Good
wools are tightly woven enough that a cut edge can often be left
raw and unhemmed without raveling. Burlap, vinyl, and fake
fur are forbidden. Modern trims should be avoided since
these are generally synthetic or cotton at best, so
unfortunately that means not using the "Greek key" trim commonly
found at fabric stores. (These guidelines are basically
the "minimum standard" for practically any era of
On the "up" side, Greek
clothing was basically just made from large rectangles, so no
patterns are needed.
Since most public sites will frown on heroic nudity,
clothing is recommended. The basic garment is a
tunic called the chiton, or chitoniskos in its shorter
version. It is simply two LARGE rectangles of wool
or linen sewn together at the sides (top to bottom), or
one piece folded at one side and sewn up the other, and
connected at two or more points along the top edge to
leave gaps for the head and arms. The key
word is LARGE. When unbelted, the chiton should
reach from elbow to elbow and should hang below your
knees, though the chitoniskos will hang only to the
thighs. Tie the chiton at the waist with a simple
cord, or a tie belt made from a folded and sewn strip of
fabric, and blouse the extra length up over the
belt. It should be voluminous and poofy!
Many reenactors have very short, narrow, skimpy tunics,
and these completely miss the whole appearance of Greek
clothing. For starters, use a plain solid color
(or white/offwhite) without decoration. Some
chitons had a narrow stripe near the bottom edge, but
decoration beyond that seems to have been rare.
It is clear from vase
paintings and other artwork that there were several
variations, though many of the details are unclear and
debated. Usually the armholes are at the TOP edge,
not at the sides--the top corners will droop down under
your arms very stylishly. The top is typically
pinned at two or more points, and although some modern
authorities maintain that no sewing was done at all, the
sides do not appear to be open. Pleating is
common, the fabric being pleated or gathered at the
pins, and in some cases it appears that the front panel
is pleated at the top but the back is not.
Sometimes the bottom edge of the chiton is straight, but
sometimes it goes up and down in a zigzag which appears
to be related to the pinning and pleating. There
is much debate on how this was done! Several
modern theories involve cutting the fabric to shape, but
I am not convinced that any cutting was done.
There are at least
a couple vase paintings that clearly show a chiton which
is *not* sewn up the side. It was simply pinned at
the top and belted in the middle. Not all of us
are that adventurous, but it is an option.
A tie belt of wool
tape is probably the best option, an inch wide or
so. I don't think there is any evidence for
patterned tie belts, but usually the belt is completely
obscured by the chiton. A soft strip of leather
would also work.
chiton is about 41" wide by 44" tall, simply a rectangle of
linen folded and sewn up one side to form the body. (A
piece of fabric 2-1/3 to 2-1/2 yards long by 45 inches wide
will do.) There are no armholes at the sides; instead,
the back is pulled forward and stitched to the front at two
places, forming the neckhole in the middle and the armholes
on either side. At first I ironed pleats into the
bottom half, though they are long gone! My tie belt is
made of a folded and stitched strip of linen.
Strictly speaking, the
chiton should most likely be pinned at the top rather than
being stitched. See below.
I discovered that the
bloused fabric of my longer chiton sticks out from under my
muscled cuirass and looks like a tutu! So I simply belted it
higher up on my torso, and the problem was solved. Then I
made a shorter chitoniskos!
recent yellow linen chitoniskos--The back is about 41" wide,
but the front is twice that. The opening for the neck,
between the inner pair of pins, is 11" along the back but
18" across the front, the extra fabric drooping for
comfort. Then at each pinning point I pleated the
front with half a dozen pleats about 3/8" wide, and stitched
them flat. I suspect such pleats would simply be pinned
cleverly by the Greeks... Since I was using a big old linen
tablecloth, there were no nice selvedges, so I did a normal
folded hem at the bottom. At the top I used a small blanket
stitch to avoid the bulk. The stripe at the bottom is
red linen tape, though on the originals this would have been
woven into the fabric.
Another variation on
the chiton has pleating around the neck opening that is apparently
secured by a fabric tape folded around the edge and sewn
down. This runs around the entire neck opening and helps
secure front panel to back panel.
the classic Ionic chiton is LARGE and voluminous, the older
Doric chiton appears to be a much narrower garment. A
body width of 24 to 28 inches seems to be about right.
It is also different from the Ionic chiton in having
armholes at the sides, comparable to a Roman tunica.
The neckhole is a straight slit. The Doric chiton is
often shown as more lavishly decorated, probably with the
patterns woven in, but for my own Archaic chiton I
embroidered a Greek key design with purple wool yarn, and
added wool fringe.
Note that the Doric
chiton *almost* disappears from artwork shortly before the
Persian Wars--I've only seen one or two images of something
similar being worn by a slave, etc. However,
Macedonian chitons are often shown as narrower than the
Ionic chiton, with armholes at the side, so it's conceivable
that the Doric chiton did survive through the Classical era
in certain fringe areas. Possibly in Sparta as well,
if one assumes the Spartans to be very conservative in their
Oh--The Greeks just don't seem to have
gone for underwear. What you wear or don't wear under your
chiton is up to you, as long as any spectators (including myself)
can't see what's there or not there. As it were. If
anyone asks, well, just check to see if any kids are around before
you respond. Please.
Pins or brooches of some
sort must have been extremely common, and must be extremely
common archeological finds these days, but none are shown in
any books or readily available sources that I've seen.
From one photo of an original pin, I made those at left plus
several more from 1/16" brass rod, basically 16-ga
wire. Start by making sure the end of the wire is
filed smooth, and shine up the wire with fine steel wool if
necessary. Bend over about 1/8" and squash it nice and flat
with plyers (I have a pair with specially smoothed jaws).
Then just below that, bend a sharp U-turn to make the hook
for the pin. Go up about a quarter-inch and make a right
angle bend, at right angles to the U-turn, to form the top
"leg" of the pin. At about the length you want, wrap the
wire one and a half times around a dowel or rod maybe 3/16"
inch in diameter, clamped in a vise. (A big nail driven into
a block of wood with the head cut off will work.) You will
find that your coiled spring actually works like a spring!
Cut the wire off just beyond the hook, and file a nice long
pointy point into the end. (I left the ends about a
quarter-inch long, which is a little too much.) Blunt
just won't work on some fabrics!
All clothing sold by
Windlass/Museum Replicas is forbidden! It is completely the
opposite of anything worn by ancient Greeks. Steer clear.
Actually, I have yet to see a
commercially-made chiton that looks decent.
Hmmm... La Wren's Nest
or Soul of the Warrior
may be willing to whip one up, but the ones they show on their sites
are not right.
bracers/vambraces/armguards are also forbidden! If you
are going for the Archaic era look and can make or buy muscled
bronze guards for the upper and lower right arm (as seen in Connolly
and Warry), terrific, otherwise leave your arms and wrists
cloak or chlamys is even simpler, just a rectangle
of wool. Mine is c. 90 inches wide (about 2-1/2 yards)
by 42 inches tall. To wear, the fabric is folded in
half, and pinned at the top edge about 14 or 15 inches from
the fold. This allows the chlamys to be put on or
taken off easily over the head without unpinning. The
pin goes at the right shoulder so that the right arm can be
left free. To expose the left arm, toss the fabric at
front dramatically over the left shoulder (as shown
above). A simple wool blanket from a thrift shop can
suffice, just be sure to remove any modern trim or stitching
on the ends. Often there was a narrow stripe near each
end, or patterned trim, but plain is "safe" and quite
common. The stripe would have been woven in, but mine
is wool tape, sewn on. I didn't even bother hemming or
finishing the cut edges of the red wool, since good wool
does not unravel easily.
In artwork you can often see a little
object at each of the two lower corners, apparently a small
bronze weight shaped almost like a fishing weight. I
have not seen any originals of these, but at right you can
see what I ground out of brass barstock. About 1-1/2"
tall by 1/2" wide.
Disc-shaped brooches seem pretty common in vase paintings,
with a domed or bossed front sort of like a shield. So
I made mine out of bronze sheet, with a pin of bronze
spring-wire soldered (sloppily) to the back.
The "Superman cape" which is gathered
and/or tied at the neck is forbidden! Such a thing never
The issue of hoplites fighting
barefoot is still hotly debated, but many folks like wearing
something on their feet, and in many places these days it is simply
sensible, or even required. And of course Greeks did wear
sandals--krepides--when not in armor! So you can find
many styles on vase paintings and other artwork. If your
activities include parades or standing on pavement, sturdy soles and
insoles of blanket wool or fleece are recommended! Iron
hobnails have been found in a 5th century BC shop in Athens,
so it's possible that some footwear was nailed together, similarly
to how Roman
caligae were made.
previous krepides were based on vase paintings and a pattern by Giannis Kadoglou,
with a seam up the back. It is clear from foot-shaped
vases that at least some sandals had no seam up the back, so
my current pattern wraps around the back of the foot and the
bottom edge is sewn or nailed between the sole layers.
The pattern is shown on a 1-inch grid, and the bit along the
bottom that gets sewn between the soles is a little
narrow--best to widen it down to that bottom line. I
used 5-oz leather for the uppers and 2 layers of 10-12 ounce
for the soles. See my Iphikratids on the page of Others and Other Greeks for
basic construction notes.
It's possible that some
sandals *did* have a back seam. On the other hand,
judging by the artwork, it's possible the entire upper was
essentially woven using one or two long thongs, strung back
and forth to form the loops. I plan to experiment with
this! Beats cutting...
Low open-toed boots are also
known, and these may be the "Iphikratids" recommended by the
Athenian general Iphikrates in his hoplite reforms after the
Peloponnesian Wars. I simply adapted my sandal pattern, adding
a reinforcing strip along the lacing holes. Construction is
otherwise the same as for sandals.
Modern sandals of any sort
are many vase paintings showing Greek men with some sort of
legging under their sandals. It comes up to about
mid-calf and is shown with several horizontal lines or
bands. Often the end of the sandal lace can be seen
rising from the top of the sandal to the top of the legging
at a steep angle. This legging might be as simple as a
wool strip (c. 3 to 4 inches wide) wrapped spirally from
calf to toe. Or it could be a tubular legging or even
a tall sock tied at intervals, though no bows or knots are
was a common felt cap, later copied in bronze as a
helmet. The felt version not only keeps the noggin
warm, but can serve as helmet padding. This is my
first attempt at making felt, using raw fleece that I got
from the local "freecycle" list. I learned a lot about
felt! And I had to reinforce a few gaps and thin spots
with wool yarn, though it hardly shows. On my next
attempt I should be able to define the "step" better.
For felt, you
need a form. I used layers of blue insulation foam,
glued together, and shaped with a wood rasp. To find
the diameter of the layers, I drew a full-size cross-section
and drew lines across it, the same
way an aspis is planned! I actually trimmed the
sides a little after this last photo, to avoid quite as much
"undercut". I also found that I should have added one
more layer to the bottom, basically to accommodate extra
length or whatever "slumped" down, which would be cut off at
started with raw fleece which had only been washed, in the
green bag. I had to pick open the denser bits and
remove as much debris as I could, making it much fluffier
(white bag). I strongly recommend buying wool
"rovings" produced for spinning (into thread or yarn), as
the fibers will be combed out neatly into long loose ropes,
and you simply pull off the pieces you need as you go.
Also, Google up some felt-making videos! Extremely
helpful. In this case, after layering up some fleece,
spraying with soapy water as I went, the black nylon netting
held it all in place for the felting process, an hour of
rubbing in circles with water and soap. I didn't do
enough at first, leading to the rather alarming result at
far right, but another concentrated session led to the final
is a sunhat commonly seen on depictions hunters and
cavalrymen, and was most likely felt. It perches on
the head and the crown is very small. I used a
circular wool felt hat blank used for 17th and 18th century
hats. The crown was a good 5" tall to start, but I cut
off the top 2" to use, and cut off an additional 2-1/2",
leaving half to 3/4" sticking up from the brim. This I
soaked and ironed flat to reduce the diameter of the hole,
which worked amazingly well. I pinned the top of the
crown over the new hole, trimming as needed to make them
match, then used fine linen thread with a small whip stitch
to sew the sections together. Originally, of course,
this would all be one piece. Then I wet the center of
the crown and poked the felt into a hole with a rounded
dowel to raise the little point on top. The chinstrap
is always shown as 2 parts, one under the chin and the other
at the back of the head, necessary to keep the hat in
place. Mine is narrow linen tape, with a simple
leather slider for adjustment. It works very
well! Plus it's extremely stylish and attractive, yes?