Going Greek! Part 2: Himations & Tunics

Costume Construction, Costume History, Eureka! The National Children's Museum, Fashion History, Realised Design

Yassou! Kalimera! (That’s out of our Ancient Greek script, and they mean “hello!” and “good morning!” in Greek.) Welcome to Part 2 of the Greeks, in which we explore ancient menswear.

First, the tunic! Or chitoniskos if you want to be technical about it. A chitoniskos is basically a big Ancient Greek tee shirt, as seen on vase paintings like this:

I went about constructing it based on the handy Ancient Greek costume manual that I mentioned in my last post:

The instructions didn’t give exact measurments, so it took a bit of trial and error with my ever-patient model Ben to work out exactly how long and wide the sleeves should be.(Off the top of my head, I remember that the finished length was 40″, and the sleeves were 3″ deep and 10″ long. The overall width of the garment has escaped me, sorry!).

After we had established the correct measurments, I sewed trim along the top edge of each piece before stitching them together at the shoulders. I then stitched up the sides, finished the sleeves with a zig-zag, and then hemmed and trimmed the bottom edge all in one go.

Here you can see Ben in the chitoniskos, demonstrating step 1 of How to Drape a Himation. Again, that took quite a lot of trial and error but we cracked it in the end! A himation is essentially the Greek version of a toga, but it is different as it’s a lot less complicated with fewer folds and less fabric.

Going off the manual, I made a rectangle 4.5 m long and 1.5 m wide (which also involved some cobbling together). I used some calico that we had lying around the museum and that one of the enablers, Michelle, very kindly dyed for me. I chose an orangey-rusty-terra cotta colour as it’s more interesting than white and also corresponds nicely to the cartoons of Archimedes we have around the museum, which depict him wearing orange. (Archie’s our Eureka! mascot, as that’s what he famously shouted after working out that stuff about displacement and density).

If anyone’s interested in steps 2-8 on How to Drape a Himation I can certainly post those, but as WordPress and my wireless are both being temperamental today, I’ll have to upload those another time. For now, here’s Ben looking very stately in the finished product:


EDIT 20/12/2014: How to drape a himation: a photographic step-by-step guide…

I am either missing a photo or don’t know how to count, since I have 7 photos for 8 aforementioned steps – apologies! This is not necessarily historically accurate, but it’s what we arrived at after considerable trial and error, and I think the result is pretty convincing. Good luck, and I’d love to see the results if anyone else has a go!

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