This morning I visited the Karelias collection of Greek traditional costumes, which was brilliant. The beautiful costumes – some of them absolutely sumptuous – were very well displayed, with plenty of information about them.
For women, a long chemise was the base layer. Over this may be laid a segouni (a long waistcoat) or a tsoukna (sleeveless dress) or a frock coat (kavadi). On top of that you add an apron (podia), necklaces of coins, chains, a belt, clasps, brooches . . . it must all have weighed a ton. One bridal outfit required up to 10 undergarments to show off the embroidered, pleated silk skirt as much as possible. I can’t imagine how heavy, stiff and hot some of the felted wool costumes must have been.
There’s much to ponder on the position of the women who originally wore these clothes: display cabinets for family wealth, trussed up in clothes that hampered their movements? Also fascinating was the influence of western fashions and fabric in those regions with strong trading links to the rest of Europe. But I didn’t bother my head too much about that in the face of such beautiful embroidery and work[wo]manship.
I learned about the Amalia costume, named after the first (German) queen of Greece in the 1830s. She introduced a hybrid style for the women of her court: a European silhouette of a narrow waist and full skirt, with wide Greek sleeves and a kontogouni (short, tight jacket), the whole topped with a fez with a braid.