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Page 4

The Dress of the Women

 

    The dress of the women is like that of the men, but differs, of course, in complexity. They also have a chiton,[4] which is more elaborately made, especially in the arrangement of the blouse; and probably there is involved a certain amount of real sewing[5]; not merely of pinning.

    Greater care is needed in the adjustment of the "zone" (girdle), and half sleeves are the rule with women, while full sleeves are not unknown. A Greek lady again cannot imitate her husband, and appear in public in her chiton only. A himation, deftly adjusted, is absolutely indispensable whenever she shows herself outside the house.

    These feminine garments are all, as a rule, more elaborately embroidered, more adorned with fringes and tassels, than those of the men. In arranging her dress the Athenian lady is not bound by the rigid precepts of fashion. Every separate toilette is an opportunity for a thousand little niceties and coquetries which she understands exceedingly well. If there is the least excuse for an expedition outside the house, her ladyship's bevy of serving maids will have a serious time of it. While their mistress cools herself with a huge peacock-feather fan, one maid is busy over her hair; a second holds the round metallic mirror before her; a third stands ready to extend the jewel box whence she can select finger rings, earrings, gold armlets, chains for her neck and hair, as well as the indispensable brooches whereon the stability of the whole costume depends. When she rises to have her himation draped around her, the directions she gives reveal her whole bent and character. A dignified and modest matron will have it folded loosely around her entire person, covering both arms and hands, and even drawing it over her head, leaving eyes and nose barely visible. Younger ladies will draw it close around the body so as to show the fine lines of their waists and shoulders. And in the summer heat the himation (for the less prudish) will become a light shawl floating loose and free over the shoulders, or only a kind of veil drawn so as to now conceal, now reveal, the face.

    Children wear miniature imitations of the dress of their elders. Boys are taught to toughen their bodies by refraining from thick garments in cold weather. In hot weather they can frequently be seen playing about with very little clothing at all!

 

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