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Costumes in Ancient Greek Theatre

     

There are little information on theatrical costumes. This is due to the perishable materials they have been made of. Still we have some information drawn from depictions on ancient pottery (see some pictures below).

            Costumes have been a very important factor of the production, because they could determine the characters by gender or social status. In the early productions actors have been using body painting. Little by little they started using animal skins, ears, even feathers (see Aristophanes’ Birds).

            When the poets introduced real costumes, they imitated the contemporary dressing : the “chiton” and the “hemateon”. The chiton was made of linen or silk and it was worn long. The hemateon was an exterior cloth, worn over the shoulders. It was usually made of wool. Both chiton and hemateon were decorated depending on the occasion. For theatrical use the clothes have been more decorated than usually.

            In order to play female roles, since the actors were always men, they were wearing a “prosterneda” (in front of the chest, to imitate female breasts) and “progastreda” in front of the belly.

            The actors used to put on ordinary shoes, such us loose fitting boots and laced boots. Is some scholars’ opinion, the actors used shoes with high heels (“kothornoi”). We cannot be sure about that, because we do not have a clear evidence from the pottery. In the later years (2nd century BC), it is sure that these shoes with high heels (“kothornoi”) have been introduced