While the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations were flourishing in the Eastern Mediterranean, the island of Crete, farther to the west, was home to the Minoans. This people, named after a legendary king Minos, thrived from about 2900 to 1150 b.c.e. on the island of Crete. By 2100 b.c.e. the Minoans extended their influence to the mainland Greek city-state called Mycenae. After the Minoans went into decline in the period around 1400 b.c.e., the Mycenaeans gained control over Crete and the Minoans.
Archaeological evidence provides a glimpse of Mi-noan and Mycenaean dress. From wall paintings and statuettes scholars have reached some conclusions about clothing of these periods. Archaeologists have determined that both linen and wool were produced. Wall paintings show Minoan textiles with intricate patterns that required both simple and complex weaving processes, embroidery, or painting. Excavations reveal that dyestuffs were imported. And Egyptian wall paintings showing men dressed in Minoan styles lead to the conclusion that Minoan traders brought their textiles to Egypt.
Major costume forms. Minoan dress had some similarities to and some marked differences from other Mediterranean civilizations. Leaping over the horns of bulls was a sport or religious ritual in which both Mi-noan men and women participated. Wall paintings show that for this sport, both wore loincloths reinforced at the crotch for protection. Minoan men wore skirts that ranged in length from short thigh-length versions with a tassel in the front, to longer lengths that ended below the knee or at the ankle. Skirts that appear to be very similar to the Mesopotamian kaunakes garment are also seen in Minoan art.
Women, too, wore skirts, but the construction was quite different from those of men. Scholars propose three different skirt types. All are full length. One is a bell-shaped skirt fitted over the hips and flaring to the hem. Another appears to be made of a series of horizontal ruffles widening gradually until they reach the ground, and the third is shown with a line down the center that some have interpreted as depicting a culotte-like, bifurcated skirt. Others see that line as merely showing how the skirt fell. With these skirts women often wore an apronlike overgarment. Arthur Evans, an archaeologist who was one of the earliest to study Cretan sites, suggested that the apron garment was worn for religious rituals and was a vestige of a loincloth worn by men and women in earlier times.
With these skirts, the top women wore a garment unique to the Minoans: a smoothly fitted bodice that, if the art is being accurately interpreted, had to have been cut and sewn. Tightly fitted sleeves were sewn or otherwise fastened onto the bodice. It laced or fastened underneath the breasts, leaving the bosom exposed. Authorities do not agree on whether all women bared their breasts. Some believe this style was restricted to priestesses and that ordinary women covered their breasts with a layer of sheer fabric.
With skirts or loincloths both men and women wore wide, tight belts with rolled edges. They also wore tunics. Men's were short or long; women's were long. Most of the tunics, as well as bodices and skirts, seem to have had woven patterned braid trimmings covering what appear to be the seam lines or points where garments would have been sewn together.
Men and women are both depicted with long or short curly hair. A variety of headwear can be seen in Minoan art, much of which may have been used in religious rituals or to designate status. Women are often shown with their hair carefully arranged and held in place with decorative nets or fillets (bands).
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