Costume History Series: Ancient World: Minoan (#6)

The Minoans lived on the Island of Crete at the beginning of the Bronze Age, most prominently 1900 – 1750sh BC. The name of the people and culture is from the mythical King Minos. This was a fairly advanced society, they were the first in Europe to have paved roads, running water: elaborate indoor pipe systems and “facilities” in their 3 and 4 story palaces. These palaces were a place for concentrated political and economic power, artistic activity, and possibly the center for redistribution of agriculture commodities. These were a large trades people, not only export but import. Exported items include timber, foodstuffs, cloth, olive oil, and fine handcrafted luxury items. They imported such things as tin, copper, silver, emery, fine stones, ivory, and manufactured objects.

Sheep wool was the main fabric in textiles. Linen from flax was less common but could be imported from Egypt and potentially grown locally. There has not been any evidence of silk (it could have been used, but highly unlikely).

Like many cultures there is a difference in the costume men and women wore. This is evidenced in the recovered archeological items that depict people. Men and women were often both seen wearing a belt or garter to provide what we would call the “wasp” waist, a very small waist. Men wore loincloths, long robes or kilts.

Women wore long dresses (sometimes a tunic) with short sleeves and layered, flounced skirts with a wide hem. They were often fitted bodices and open at the waist, sometimes strapless. Women’s breasts were covered unless it was a priestess or for ritualistic reasons. As, with today, women are clothes to emphasize their sexual characteristics. As the theme continues, in the beginning costume was worn for protection from the elements and as time moved on and civilization began to break into castes, costume became a symbol of class and status.

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