Greek Body Decorations

The early Greeks were very concerned about their physical appearance and celebrated the human form. The depictions of Minoans living on the Greek island of Crete and Mycenaeans living on the Greek mainland from 3000 to 1200 B.C.E. indicate these cultures idealized the human figure. Both men and women are drawn with slim figures, tiny waists encircled by metal girdles, and flowing black hair. With the exception of the tiny waists, ancients Greeks living from 800 to 146 B.C.E. held the human body in similar esteem. Greeks, especially those living in the state of Sparta, in central Greece, exercised regularly to keep their minds and bodies fit.

To prepare the body for dress, Greeks bathed every day, scrubbing with pumice stones to remove unwanted hair and make the skin smooth. Both men and women also rubbed perfumed oil over their skin to make their skin gleam.

To complement their elaborately wrapped garments and carefully styled hair, Greek women adorned themselves with rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and hair ornaments made of precious metals and decorated with gemstones. Women also used white lead or chalk to hide imperfections on their faces, brushed rouge, or a reddish powder, on their cheeks, and outlined their eyes with eye paint. Men did not wear makeup but wore rings and used decorative fibulae (pins) to clasp their cloaks and chitons (tunics).


Chisholm, Jane, Lisa Miles, and Struan Reid. The Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. London, England: Usborne Publishing, 1999.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume: From Ancient Mesopotamia Through the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Symons, David J. Costume of Ancient Greece. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Cameo and Intaglio
Metal Girdles

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