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Achieving The Minoan/Mycenaean Look

Halloween is coming.  Some of you out there may yearn to try something different in historical costume, but aren't daring enough to attempt the bare-breasted Minoan Snake Goddess look.  That's okay.  It isn't what Minoan or Mycenaean women wore everyday, anyway.

What's the difference between Minoan and Mycenaean fashion?  There really isn't any difference.

Illustration by Nanno Marinatos on the basic components of the Minoan/Mycenaean costume.

The shift has three pieces (sleeves are not patterned, cut, or sewn separately, but are part of the body of the garment). It should reach to the thighs. Once finished, close the shift to reveal as much or as little cleavage as you like, and belt with a sash before donning the skirt. The trim should be wide linen, cotton, or wool banding. Do not use anything anachronistic like silk, grosgrain, etc. You may want to wear something underneath if the fabric is too thin.

The body of the wraparound skirt is a rectangle about 3 feet long; the flounces are attached separately. Do not use anachronistic ruffles or lace. Pictorial evidence suggest some of the flounces may have been fringes. Use cotton or wool if you can for an authentic look.

Go with period-appropriate textiles like lightweight wool and linen. If you have a sewing machine, it probably won't take you that long to put this outfit together.

A word on hair, makeup, and jewelry:

Hair: Unless you have long dark hair that you can curl and twist into the appropriate hairstyle, you will have to get a wig.  Keep in mind that synthetic fiber wigs might not work as well as the more expensive human hair ones.  The Minoans and Mycenaeans had a variety of hairstyles, from the very elaborate to the very simple.  Check my previous posts for fresco images of women from the period.

Makeup: Ancient women used a white foundation of white lead oxide and lipstick of red ocher mixed with goose fat.  Unless you're dressing as a priestess, in which case you will need the appropriate priestess headgear, it isn't necessary for you to paint yourself chalk white.  Minoan and Mycenaean noblewomen couldn't have used that stuff every day, anyway, as it would have killed them.  Some natural foundation is fine, as is a good black liquid eyeliner.  Eyeshadow did exist back then, but the color palette was limited.  Go with a malachite green or galena gray.  A basic red lipstick will work just fine.

Jewelry: Strands of semiprecious stones like amethyst and carnelian were popular, as were gold bangles and enormous seal rings.  Some modest gold hoops would work for the ears.  See my previous posts for images of actual Minoan and Mycenaean jewelry.

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