Greek Costume at the Benaki

Nicholas Sperling, I said in "Vraka", was a painter who was commissioned to paint Greek costumes for the Benaki Museum in Athens. The Benaki has several subsidiary museums, but the main one, very easily findable if you know Athens, is near the junction of Koumpari Street with Avenue Vas. Sofias, and is devoted to Greek culture. Including costume.

I found some lovely photos in a blog post by "Joy": "Costumes at the Benaki" in her blog Of Stranger Sensibilities (30 June 2012) Wayback. Joy writes:

One can definitely tell that a whole assortment of foreign influences that were introduced and worked into the costumes, such as some Turkish elements for example seen here and there.

However what really drew me in were the rich details and intricacy of the embroidery. The sumptuous fabric and jewel tones of the different pieces are absolutely beautiful. I can't imagine scarcely imagine just how much time and energy it would have taken to craft each individual article of clothing, and the incredible amount taken to don the many layers. Of course, I highly doubt ordinary folk were dress as such on an everyday basis; these were likely the clothing of the elite who could all the handmaiden and servants to assist them each morning. While this makes me appreciate all the conveniences of modern sportswear and the like, there is a part of me that wonders what would have it been like to actually see people dressed as such on the streets. I guess the modern answer to this would be couture.

Do take a look at Joy's post. Even in photographs, the costumes are stunning.

One costume, less elaborate than the others, stuck in my mind because I've been writing about vraka. It has vraka with vertical blue and yellow stripes, and a purple-velvet cropped jacket with flared sleeves and gold edging over a blue waistcoat. Here's a thumbnail to entice you to look at one of the original photos linked from my post.
Mannequin wearing vraka with vertical blue and yellow stripes, and a purple-velvet cropped jacket with flared sleeves and gold edging over a blue waistcoat.
[ Image: thumbnailed from the post below, "Η Ελληνική ενδυμασία στην Αιολίδα" ]

I realised that I've seen these vraka and that jacket before. It was in another blog post: "Η Ελληνική ενδυμασία στην Αιολίδα" ("Greek costume in Aeolis") by Athanasia Stavropoulou in Ο Ελληνισμός στη Μικρασία – Küçük Asya'da Helenizm (Hellenism in Asia Minor) Wayback. It's in Greek, but Google does a surprisingly good job of translating: click here to read it in English. It's a short account of men's and women's costume in Asia Minor, mainly on Lesbos and Ayvalık on the Turkish coast, east from the northern end of Lesbos. As I said, it includes the photo from which I made the thumbnail.

Box Pleats for Warmth

In my post about vraka, I showed pairs from various parts of Greece. Some are highly pleated, the most so being this very smart pair from Crete:
Costume from Crete, showing vraka. [ Image: via Wikimedia, uploaded by user Pycckhcoz, attributed to E. A. Cavaliero ]

This interests me because most of my sarouels — baggy trousers or harem pants — are in light fabrics, so not ideal for British winters. I caught a glimpse of the Daily Star this morning, screaming about Icebox Britain; and though this may not be entirely reliable (the paper also claims that a "Secret space programme base" has been spotted in a crater on the moon), the Beast From The East could yet revisit.

This brings me back to a remark I made in "Citizen of Nowhere on a Brexit Farewell Tour". The Wikipedia article on the fustanella or Greek kilt cites the paper "Akritan Ikonography on Byzantine Pottery" by J. A. Notopoulos, which says that the fustanella evolved from the Roman toga, and that in cold climates, pleats were added for extra warmth. I was puzzled about how this works, but it makes perfect sense when you look at the diagrams in "'Military' Box Pleats" in the blog Matthew A. C. Newsome KiltmakerWayback.

These are the diagrams, which show how the pleats bend and overlap as the kilt is made wider:
Box pleat in a four-yard kilt.
Box pleat in a five-yard kilt.
Box pleat in a seven-yard kilt. [ Images: by Matthew A. C. Newsome, in his blog post "'Military' Box Pleats" ]

To see photos of the effect in kilts, visit Matthew Newsome's blog post. I've never seen harem pants designed this way: if they have pleats at all, these are for decoration and to allow the fabric to gather. But it seems an excellent idea, and makes me think I should commission a kiltmaker to design my next pair.

Vraka

Here are some more pictures of vraka, the baggy Greek trousers that I mentioned in passing on Friday. I obtained them by an image search for images of "vraka" labelled for reuse. They all turn out to be from Wikimedia, which isn't surprising because that must be one of the main public-domain sources. Below, I've captioned each with its title or region, linking this back to the original, and with attribution to its author and the user who uploaded it to Wikimedia.

The first two don't have a region given. One of them is of a soldier, Ιωαυ. Πολυξιγκης. Presumably, his first name is Ioannis. I like to think that, whatever he may have achieved militarily, he's now just famous for his trousers. The other is labelled merely as Greek costume.

Greek costume, showing vraka.
Greek costume
Unknown , Ketsocruz

Then there are a lot of pictures from Crete:

Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Perakis, Fortzakis & Cie, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Unknown, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero. La Canée, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E. A. Cavaliero, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Behaeddin, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
E.Athanasiades, Pycckhcoz
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Crete, showing vraka.
Crete
Sperling, Nepuzedin

And then there are costumes from other parts of Greece. These are all, like the final two above, attributed to Nicholas Sperling. According to The American College of Greece, Sperling was a miniaturist who was commissioned to paint Greek costumes for the Benaki Museum. Some of his watercolours are visible on the American College of Greece's Sperling page. By the way, this page shows the picture of the Cypriot as being of a woman from the Dodecanese. I'm not convinced: "he" doesn't look female, and his costume is very different from that of the women shown.

Greek costume from Corfu, showing vraka.
Corfu
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Cyprus, showing vraka.
Cyprus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Epirus, showing vraka.
Epirus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Northern Epirus, showing vraka.
Northern Epirus
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Lefkas, showing vraka.
Lefkas
Sperling, Nepuzedin
Greek costume from Skyros, showing vraka.
Skyros
Sperling, Nepuzedin

In everyday use, "βράκα" in Greece appears to refer to harem pants: an image search turns up mainly pictures of trousers for sale that may be baggy, but certainly don't look as well tailored as the traditional variety above. When I'm next in Greece, I'll have to visit some vintage shops.