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Xenia Politou (Aegeas AMKE Curator of Modern Greek Culture, Benaki Museum), “The Costume of Women in Greece: Styles and References”
Local Greek women’s costumes are impressive because of their wide variety and large number of local variations. A more methodical analysis can bring to the surface certain common characteristics and will help the careful observer to identify from among these varieties the basic styles and main influences that contributed to their creation. The vicissitudes of history, the different rulers—mainly Ottomans and Venetians—who left their mark on a pre-existing Byzantine sartorial system, and the absence of a unified Greek territory before the 1830s explain the great diversity and variety of Greek women’s costumes. Even after the creation of the Greek state in 1832, the local style of garments still received another invasion: the invasion of a late industrial revolution and European fashion which brought new patterns and styles. Finally, the abandonment of local costumes has been progressive—obviously slower in isolated villages—throughout the 19th century until around the 1950s. This lecture attempts to present an analysis of the basic elements common to all costumes and to their classification according to their main styles, as they had been fashioned during a long period of foreign occupations.
Xenia Politou is Aegeas AMKE Curator of Modern Greek Culture, Benaki Museum. She was born in Athens and studied French and Comparative Literature in Athens and Paris. From 1993 through 2001 she worked at the Museum of the History of the Greek Costume in Athens. At the same time, she also participated in the National Archive of the Greek Traditional Costume, a research program on clothing subsided by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. Between 2002 and 2005, she worked for the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation on the organization of the “Ptychoseis = Folds + Pleats: Drapery from Ancient Greek Dress to 21st Century Fashion” exhibition, the first international fashion exhibition in Greece. Since March 2005, she has been working at the Benaki Museum, first in the Exhibition Department, and since September 2010 she has been Curator of its Modern Greek Culture Department. Her research interests include the study of Greek local costumes and Greek embroideries. She is a member of the ICOM Costume Committee and founding member and Chair of the Hellenic Costume Society.
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