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Ann Poulson

The costume of ancient Greece and Rome, as represented in sculpture, frescoes and vase paintings, and often associated with the divinities of mythology, democratic ideals and powerful empires, is fundamental in the history of Western dress. Despite the fact that the Greek system of pure drapery was the polar opposite of the tailored costume that ultimately prevailed after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Greek system has been one of the greatest influences on Western fashion. Twentieth-century fashion designers, for example, have been particularly attracted to its principles and its elegant simplicity. Although not always dominant, classicism has never been completely absent from fashion.

The apogee of Greek art occurred during the Classical period (c. 500/480–323 bc) when there were three main garments: the peplos, himation and chiton (see Dress, §II, 2). The peplos, worn by women, was a single rectangle of wool woven to the proportions of the wearer. In the Classical period it was folded in half lengthwise to cover the front and back of the body and again folded down at the top, then secured at each shoulder with a fibula, or pin. One or more belts could be worn to anchor the garment to the body. The ...