The predominance of Greek, Roman, and Minoan fashion proves obvious in the amount of flowing draped gowns that walk down any given red carpet at any given event. Just check the Grecian goddesses and Roman togas of this week’s Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vogue’s biggest party of the year. From Karlie Kloss’ Jason Wu wrapped sheer number to Amy Adams’ couture Giambattista toga to Anja Rubik’s hello hipbone Anthony Vaccarello moment, it’s obvious what time period fashion favors for easy high glamour.
During Ancient Greece, the women produced clothing at home. The Dark Ages forced styles to stay simpler, and most fabric was woven to size to eradicate cutting and sewing. The chiton was a major garment during this era and appeared in two different styles. The Doric style was simpler and pinned (sometimes sewn) only at the shoulder; the Ionic style, in contrast, required wider fabric and was enclosed from the neck to the wrist with excess fabric overflowing a belted or girdled waist. Chitiskons, shorter versions of the chiton, were worn by men for practicality in hunting, farming, and fighting in war (worn underneath armor). Another popular piece in Ancient Greek fashion was the petasos, a wide brimmed hat. Most of these styles seem familiar and still exist in modern fashion. The wide brimmed hat that appears on red-figure painted Greek vases and pottery looks eerily similar to classic fashion photographs by Irving Penn. The wide brim hat currently makes the rounds through the Summer must-have floppy hat and on menswear runways at Dior Homme.
The time for the toga, Roman fashion depended on the distinctive large cloth garment, worn over either a tunic or loincloth. There were a myriad of styles from the classic white of Toga Pura to the mourning robe of the Toga Pulla. The toga was worn during formal occasions and was soon phased out by the more wearable tunic popular with Greeks and Etruscans. The toga is regarded as a sign of because, due to its heaviness and lack of practicality in war, warriors could not wear togas during battle. A band of color, called a clavus, on the toga’s fabric can distinguish status of the wearer. The young sons and daughters of nobility wore a purple bordered Toga Praetexta. In terms of outerwear, the heavy semi-circular Paenula cloak looks eerily similar to modern Burberry wool capes. Accessories during the Roman period included the vitta, a headdress worn by married women, and the bulla, an amulet/locket given to male children nine days after birth that warded off evil spirits. The vitta was a ribbon headband worn on top of the hair in an equatorial fashion, similar to the style popularized by Princess Diana in the 80s, that random obsession with them again in 2009/10, and blogger-favorite chain headdresses.
In contrast to the Dark Ages during the Greek era, the Minoan people enjoyed prosperity on the Island of Crete, navigating the sea and trading with Egypt, Sicily, Spain, and Syria. Women were placed at a higher place in Minoan society compared to traditional lower class status in the past. A major trend in Minoan fashion was the advent of complex weaving which led to brighter colors and bolder patterns that were valuable in trade. Loin cloths were worn by both men and women, instead of solely men like in Greek fashion. Tighter, more fitted clothing became the popular choice of silhouette and the waist became much more emphasized, young boys of 12 to 14 years old began wearing belts. Phillip Lim experimented with a belted waist for his Fall/Winter 2012 menswear collection shown in January. Skirts were long and flared with horizontal bands of color, various ruffles, and layered underneath a U-shaped apron. Bright stripes at Prada’s baroque minimal Spring/Summer 2010 show and extravagant ruffles signature to the Lanvin aesthetic demonstrate the pervasiveness of these Minoan trends. Often, no other garment paired with the long skirts and there was a major trend in bearing breasts. The 1960s also experimented with topless fashion with the revolutionary Monokini designed by Australian-American designer, Rudi Gernreich.
Greek, Roman, and Minoan fashion have a substantial influence of today’s looks that walk both the runway and the street, from the Greek Key and Medusa that are emblematic of the House of Versace to the Italian roots that Riccardo Tisci brings to Givenchy’s menswear. These fashions aren’t just for the Italians though. The minimal signature of a total white Hermès look that has graced the runway for a couple seasons now has obvious roots in Roman togas. Even Chloe’s striped white tent dresses hark back to the classical folds of Roman fashion. Where architecture still fashions Roman columns onto modern buildings, it’s obvious that the influence of the draped silhouettes of the Greek, Roman, and Minoan time periods would still manifest themselves in modern fashion. From Artemis to Anja.