The Fashion-Savvy People of Keftiu
Between the beautiful frescoes that adorned palace walls and unique statuettes, we can get a solid idea of Minoan women’s fashion sense. As with most fabrics, they’ve long disintegrated; however, some linen (potentially imported from Egypt) was found in a tomb from the Pre-Palatial Period at the site of Mochlos. Speaking of Egypt, considerable evidence of Minoan attire stemmed from their detailed depictions. For instance, at Thebes (Egypt’s capital during the 18th Dynasty), there were numerous frescoes found of “Aegean foreigners” from Keftiu (what Egyptians called Crete).
What Minoan Women (and Some Men) Wore: Clothing
Three words come to mind when it comes to Minoan women’s attire: elaborate, vibrant, and multilayered. Long skirts with girdles encircling the waist and bare-breasted bodices were a staple. But due to that aforementioned multilayered nature, let’s break it down at bit:
Polychromatic, Decorative Skirts
Typically flounced (in later periods) and ankle-length, their skirts usually had pleats, ribbons, fringes—you name it. Other key features include: multi-layered, bell-shaped, and horizontal ruffles that sometimes widened on the way down. Alternatively, there were dresses with a v-shape, wrap-type style. Sheer veils were also sometimes incorporated.
Hand-woven Open Bodices
Akin to “cardigans“, the sleeves were typically short or went halfway down the arms. Their often uncovered breasts signified fertility. On occasion, you’ll see tassels dangling from the sleeves in frescoes. Also on occasion, bodices curve into a high collar behind the nape of the neck.
Exquisitely Adorned, Waist-slendering Belts
These belts remind me of the traditional Cretan costume I would wear during my Greek dance performances: wide, long, and intricately decorated. And they were tied super tight; I couldn’t wait to untie that thing after those performances.
Elegant Quilted Aprons
Worn over their long skirts on the front (or both sides), it is also similar to traditional Cretan attire. Much like the belts, the attention to detail on the aprons was evident.
Fancy Hats or Tiaras
Women in power or priestesses would wear high head-dresses, hats with various patterns, or even tiaras. Every day head pieces looked a bit like thick headbands that sometimes where tied at the top of the head.
The low-rise bloomer (anasyrida) somewhat resembled a white sack with two holes in the bottom for each leg to go through. Over that, they wore flowing shorts that are basically “athletic shorts” formed by the double-apron joining the center of the backside apron with the center of the front side.
What Minoan Women Wore: Accessories & Cosmetics
Just like their clothing, Minoan women’s jewelry was elaborate as well. The main materials used were gold, metal, precious stones, or even bone, and they were sometimes stitched on. Aesthetics were clearly of central focus in Minoan civilization and there was a lot to it, so let’s take a look at each aspect individually:
The Early “Grecian-style” Sandal
Minoan women wore fitted sandals with high straps (similar to what the later Ancient Greeks wore) and short boots. Within homes and sanctuaries, they were barefoot.
As mentioned, the Minoans crafted jewelry out of an array of high-quality, usually imported materials, including metal and precious stones (among them: gold, silver, carnelian, and amethyst). Spherical beads called psifoi were also made from faience (glazed ceramic). The kinds of jewelry seemed all-inclusive, from pendants, armbands, and necklaces, to bracelets and anklets.
With emphasis on aesthetic beauty, it’s no surprise that Minoan women took great care of their face, body, and hair. One of their hairstyles featured a bun with small curls on the forehead and curled sideburns. For a more striking look, curled pieces of hair with secured/decorated with pins, beads, and floral-shaped clips. At times, they accentuated their look with bright ribbons, stylish nets, diadems (a bejeweled crown or headband), or hats.
Many excavations point to olive oil being used topically to hydrate skin and give their tresses an unmatched sheen. This beauty “secret” is still used to this day.
Essential Oils and Perfume
Essential oils and perfume were extracted from plants like rose, nutmeg, anise, coriander, honey, and wine. Perfume-making workshops have been discovered at the several palaces, including Zakros, where excavators found amphorae with perfume residues as well as listings of aromatic plants.
Their typical look was high-contrast, with a pale face (achieved by the application of white powder) as well as red lips, blushed cheeks, and red nails. The iconic feature of their make-up regimen was painting their eyelids with black paint, which was reminiscent of the Egyptian cat-eye.
*Click here to see my attempt at a Minoan-inspired look, mostly working with what I already had. Something more elaborate (probably commissioned by a seamstress) will take a lot more time… and money.
Minoans: Peoples of the Past by J. Lesley Fitton
World History Encyclopedia: www.worldhistory.org/article/1723/beauty-in-the-bronze-age—minoan–mycenaean-fashi