Draping the chiton - Printable Version

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Draping the chiton - Giannis K. Hoplite - 10-14-2009

Hello All.
I decided to start this thread to make my point on chiton wearing and style.
A great number of re-enactors are interested in the period 530-450bc. In this period apears one of the many styles of chiton,but one that dominates at least in art in the above period. It is the one with curved bottom and well arranged pleats that apear universally and almost identical in all artists of the period. Also sculptures like the Arstion stele and the Aphaia temple confirm the vase painters had something specific in mind.
An example is this one: ... Munich.jpg
And also: ... gscene.jpg ... onable.jpg
However,for some reason almost no re-enactor has payed attention in their style of chiton and the way it should be draped or cut.
So here i demonstrate the effects that can be caused by a couple of ways to resemble what art shows.

For my chiton normally i would need about 1.6 m of matterial,using the elbow-to-elbow rule. This is what most re-enactors use,and it's half correct. You see,this should be the length of the upper hem. In reality you need much more matterial. I used three meters for my latest chiton that you will see below. I gathered it in the upper hem so it reached the desired 1,6m perimeter and stitched it there. Then you have enough matterial to drape and form as you wish.

Below i will post photos and descriptions of the different chitons i have made with different methods to produce efect similar to what art shows. Any of them could be correct and certainly there were many different styles (even in those with pleats and curved lower hem line) and this clear from the art also. Some designs would require softer matterial and more or less matterial.

Here they are in chronological order:

This chiton is linen. I stitched the pleats carefully on the shoulders,six pleats in each shoulder. The bottom was cut curved with four curves,one for each side. I should mention that usually in vases the curves are four or six. Less often they can be much more and smaller. The famous Achilles vase is one of them.
Though i shouldn't,i also stitched the pleats in the waist,just for convenience. Then i ironed the pleats from the waist down and still,after i think 4-5 years they maintain their shape with a little help in draping. I also added a black silk tape on the bottom. Why silk? Because it was readily available in the size i wanted it and because i re-enact a wealthy aristocratic youth,with my elaborate corinthian and crest. And greeks at least knew of silk.Also it is more than probable that such chitons would have been worn by wealthy people. The assistance of a slave would be very useful to achieve the impression. Normally this thin line would have been woven on the fabric.
[Image: f192re2.jpg][Image: f06ere2.jpg]

Second chiton i made was wool. I wanted to try an idea that would create that buffy effect that we see some times on vases on the upper hem. I passed a thin wire through the upper hem and gathered the fabric to achieve the lenght i wanted. Again you need much more matterial. Although in the photo it doesn't look vert buffy,in real the impression i think was near the vase paintings. Or at least,they could be interpreted like that.
In this one i also cut the lower edge in six curvs this time. Three for the front and three for the back.I would like the matterial to be softer and be draped easier. In this one i didn't gather more fabric in the shoulders. Some vases clearly show gathered pleats in the shoulders or even in the middle of the neck hole (when they have more curves),and some others don't. I also didn't iron the fabric in the pleats under the waist. After all there were no specific pleats to iron.
[Image: DSC03166.jpg]

Re: Draping the chiton - Giannis K. Hoplite - 10-14-2009

This is my latest chiton,i just finished. I made it in the way i explained in the first post. With Chrstian Cameron's (Kineas) objection that they would never cut their woven in size fabric i decided to use even more matterial and produce the curves and pleats by pulling and arranging the fabric. I think it worked. It isn't easy to arrange them. They could be better,if only i had a slave to help me do it. And i didn't pay much attention in the draping from the upper half. I also didn't gather more fabric in the shoulders. So this produces this "plain" and buffy efect that make many suggest that the artists show an overgarment.
[Image: DSC03797.jpg][Image: DSC03802.jpg]
So are the cut curves false?
I am not sure. You see there are vases that show hoplites dressing with their chiton unbelted and the pleates carefully stitched in the showlders going straigh down to the curves uninterrupted. One would say that this efect of the bottom curves in unbelted chiton is produced because the favric is pulled in the shoulderes and looser under the neck hole. I object,because the cureves shown are bery deep,and because it simpply isn't produced when i tried it.

So there is always this "yes,but..." Anyway you can see and judge for yourselves,because i haven't concluded in something definite.
But by all means folks, experiment by yourselves! The chiton,like every other greek item, was not so simple and streight forward always! There certainly were simple chitons, but these are the least represented ones in the late archaic - early classical period.

And with this oportunity, let me make a mention on the chlamys. This could requre a different thread,but since the chlamys is a far simpler garment, i just wanted to mention the necessity of small weights in every corner of the fabric,and on the need of carefull measuring for each individual.
The Chlamys is a very nice piece of cloathing because it can be worn in many different ways. Later i plan to make a himation. This would also requre waights,and can also be worn in a number of specific ways. Also re-enactors very seldom use it,although it's the most frequent piece of cloathing depicted in art,even used by soldiers.
Although this length of chlamys is accurate,i would like mine about five or ten cm shorter. Don't use very heavy weights because they will be hitting to your feet when walking and they would hirt. This is also a problem with the longer versions more than the shorter. ... C03814.jpg ... C03765.jpg ... C03810.jpg


Re: Draping the chiton - Kineas - 10-15-2009

Giannis, your work is splendid, but I think you'd have to work hard to convince me that Greek clothing was ever "cut." Much less sewn...

May I post here my latest chiton? It's about double the amount of fabric you used, and it is all wool. I don't think that there's enough linen in Greece in period to make a chiton.... Smile

Re: Draping the chiton - Giannis K. Hoplite - 10-15-2009

Hello Kineas! My original intention was to use twice that much fabric indeed,and it's going to be my next project!
You may be right that they weren't cutting them,and perhaps they didn't need to sew the bottom hem as they were made to size,but still i think they were stitched in the upper hem.
But by all means,post your photos here!!! And your suggestions!

Re: Draping the chiton - Kineas - 10-31-2009

This is my latest chiton. It is one piece of woven wool, about 60 inches by 90 inches, woven to order with the stripes woven in (natural black from black sheep).

I didn't have time to pleat carefully. The style I'm wearing can be seen on this image fromt he National Arch. Museum in Athens (early 4th C. BCE) and on the Parthenon friezes.

[Image: 11862_189345206203_681611203_3824802_8085181_n.jpg]

I believe that the doubled portion on the hips isn't just a fad--it pads the armor very nicely!

[Image: 11862_189236951203_681611203_3823643_6729244_n.jpg]


[Image: 11862_189236956203_681611203_3823644_7528350_n.jpg]

Re: Draping the chiton - Kineas - 10-31-2009

And under armour...

[Image: 11862_189237006203_681611203_3823652_7476376_n.jpg]

The hips of the thorax sit exactly on the "roll" or the extra chiton material--comfortable for peace or war.

Re: Draping the chiton - John Conyard - 11-02-2009

Very interesting stuff gentlemen, not least because my wife has 5m of excellent wool washed and ready to be made up into a new chiton for me.

I always equate the chiton doubled at the waist with the Macedonians of the late 4th century B.C. For example:

[attachment=0:1zvf8elv]<!-- ia0 Prodromos.jpg<!-- ia0 [/attachment:1zvf8elv]

I tried this last winter with mixed success. I found the fold too often worked loose, especially with coarse wool.

To create sleeve garments the Macedonians are certainly cutting cloth.

But generally I suspect chitons were made to size on the loom. Although for speed you could make two at once by cutting the material along the weft and hemming the cut edge against the "string" running under the shoulders and around the neck. The selvage edge would run along the bottom hem of the chiton.

Re: Draping the chiton - Kineas - 11-02-2009

If you think of the way chitons look in arming scenes--billowing at the top, fitted at the "kilt" that's exactly what mine looks like before the "belt" goes on. And now I've learned to put it on that way under the armor--and it fits better.

Quite a few Hippeis (Athenian Cavalry) are wearing ti that way on the Parthenon frieze, too.

Re: Draping the chiton - John Conyard - 11-02-2009

"If you think of the way chitons look in arming scenes--billowing at the top, fitted at the "kilt" that's exactly what mine looks like before the "belt" goes on."

Sorry I'm not sure I understand. Are you describing the effect produced from the amount of material used?

Re: Draping the chiton - Gaius Julius Caesar - 11-02-2009

Giannis, excellent chitons. I may come to you for advice if I ever get around to starting a Greek impression! 8)

Re: Draping the chiton - Giannis K. Hoplite - 11-05-2009

Christian,veeery nice chiton. I LOVE the matterial!!! I tried to find propper wool before switching to linen for my later chiton,but of course i couldn't. Your matterial is the best one could use for a woolen one.
I don't agree on the absence of linen. Seriously,how can you think that an Athens that could import everything from all Mediterrannean and even beyond (literally and archaeological evidence for this) would not import linen? After all,linen fabric has indeed been found in greece from the mycenean era in more than one occasion. Now it's you that you have to try hard to convince me that linen was being imported (or produced) in greece from the mycenean era,but in the classical one linen was "too expensive" to be imported. Nah,i don't believ so.
I would agree though that it would have been much rarer than wool.

Can i also doubt about the amount of matterial you used? I used three meters for the last one,and you said you used the double. Can this be true? Mine looks even fuller than yours.

I have to make a small point about the style too. The doubling on the belly is indeed late 5th-4th century but by that time the curved bottom and arranges pleats are no more in fashion. These stop before 450 bc.
I have seen the doubling of the "kolpos" under short muscled cuirasses in Parthenon but haven't happened to see it under a t & y thorax.
I believe this style is a Persian one. Greeks were comming more and more in contact with persian soldiers towards the end of the 5th century,perhaps it was an adoption from them,or the Ionians.

Also,as John pointed out,cut fabric was certainly used. But even if not,i'm sure that the greeks could actually weave in a more complicated pattern than rectangles.

Byron,thanks for the comment. I'll be happy to help if you're starting a greek kit.

Re: Draping the chiton - Kineas - 11-05-2009

Thanks, Giannis. And this chiton is 60 x 90 inches.

As to cutting cloth, and using linen--I'm not saying that Athens didn't import linen. I'm just saying that I no longer see any "linen" in pictures--I see wool. The Greek ideal--from Hesiod to Xenophon's Oeconomia--is to wear what your wife weaves--and what your wife weaves should come from your own farm(s). Further, Giannis--none--and I mean none--of the garments I see hang like linen. Maybe some arguably do--see my argument below.

Hey, we can argue forever--and there's no need. This is the sort of thing that took 18th c. reenactors about 20 years to settle. Our subject was cotton. cotton existed in the 18th c. It's just--no one wore it! Reenactors wanted to use it because it is and was so much cheaper than linen--but in the end, we're mostly rid of it. It took thousands and thousands of runaway citations and other bits of evidence to kill it off.
Also remember--for linen to hang smoothly, it must be ironed or pressed. Unless very fine, it won't hang right--it "billows." And it holds pleats differently than wool. My main evidence is all the statuary I saw in Greece--that killed my views on linen.

That said, though--I'll still wear linen and so will many others. Why? WEAR! Proper wool--the weight we're getting woven in Nepal--doesn't wear very well. If it snags something, it tears or runs. Under armor, it's going to be wrecked unless the armour is smooth inside. I'm NOT saying "linen is wrong." I'm saying "linen is probably not the average--wool is the average."

That's important because, if hoplite reenactors wish to be taken seriously by historians and sites, they have to be willing to recreate--and describe--the "average" hoplite, not the richest or most ostentatious. Nor can hoplite reenactors succumb to trying to make their kit meet modern sensibilities of comfort.

It's a subtle point--not a dogma.

Cutting--well, that's a whole other subject. See--what I don't see in Greece is any of the mechanisms of sewing. Ever see a picture of women sewing? Ever see a thimble? A needle case? Scissors? (I have a pair at Sardis, from the American dig there.) I can make the whole "drape over the thighs" look without cutting anything--rather like donning a great-kilt for 1745. I don't see the technology--or the inclination--for Greeks to "sew" or "tailor." Even most Greek embroidery seems to have been done on the loom--not on cloth. A visit to john Conyer's Comitatus website and a review of his literature on the "Coptic" tunic of late-Roman times will show that this is STILL true then--they WEAVE the tunic with the decoration WOVEN IN.
Sewing is an artifact of abundant cloth, good quality thread, and cheap steel needles. Barbarian peoples--the Scyths, for instance--do the same with sinew and leather, but they don't need needles! And I find it interesting that the only article I've been able to find on Greek leather work says that they sewed ALL their leather with sinew--ie, they did NOT USE NEEDLES.

Hey--again, I'm not actually pedantic about this. More "questioning." I'm prepared to find evidence of sewing--in fact, I'd prefer to. I just don't see it. There's bronze needles from the digs at Sardis, for instance--so Greeks knew about needles. And many of the pleats I see in wool garments would more easily have been tacked in with thread--I see that too. On the other hand...

Okay, I could write a dissertation. Let's just agree to disagree, and keep making chitons! I think yours are beautiful--and at this stage in recreation, having them look good and wear well is about all we can hope for!

Re: Draping the chiton - Nikic031 - 11-06-2009

Good stuff all.Great reading material.

Re: Draping the chiton - John Conyard - 12-01-2009

This is a relatively loose weave wool, 45 inches by 90 inches.
[attachment=1:3tnhbond]<!-- ia1 chitoniskos 1.JPG<!-- ia1 [/attachment:3tnhbond]
It's fastened at the shoulders using toggles, which can be arranged in differring ways.
[attachment=0:3tnhbond]<!-- ia0 chitoniskos 2.JPG<!-- ia0 [/attachment:3tnhbond]

It is sewn down the side, which is advisable today, and perhaps an alternative to pins which seem rare in the archaeological record.

Re: Draping the chiton - Kineas - 12-01-2009

Nice chiton, John.