Ancient beauty: More than just skin deep…
We just wrapped up the latest issue of Ancient History Magazine on fashion in the ancient world. Even if you’re not a “fashionista” (and I am most certainly noting myself!) you will enjoy this issue because it delves deeper than just looking at what people in the ancient world liked to wear. Clothing did more than just keep you warm and make you look pretty. What you wore (and how you wore it) was an important source of information - so much could be discerned from your attire. Your fashion choices showed others where you came from, who you were in society at large, your political stance (because clothing IS political), and lastly, how you worshipped. This all still fairly true today - we tell stories through our style choices; so in this issue, we wanted to know what stories the ancients had to tell us through theirs.
We explore the intriguing phenomenon of Egyptomania, and how early archaeological discoveries brought about a fashion explosion from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth that romanticised ancient Egypt, while also contrasting it with what clothing actually meant to the ancient Egyptians. In the realm of political garb, we look to ancient Rome and Greece. The toga is ubiquitous with Roman life, but what did the ancient Romans really think of it? Was it necessary? What did it say about a Roman man’s identity? In Ancient Greece, we examine why, in the fifth century BC, elite Greek men suddenly took to dressing down as a fashion statement. In women’s fashion, we compare the modest styles of Athenian women to that of their more scandalously clad Spartan counterparts. Chroniclers (who of course, were all male) praised Athenian women for covering up, and were intrigued by, but quick to condemn, the perceived licentiousness of Spartan women’s attire. Last but not least, we conclude our trip around the ancient world with a visit to India. What did elite and peasant women wear? How was style dictated by whether one’s husband was away or at home? How did Indian women use fashion to convey their displeasure?
Whether you aspire to be a fashion icon, or your daily uniform consists of t-shirts, sneakers, and jeans, you will be sure to enjoy and learn from this issue.
Now, sashay away!