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Tradition, innovation and splendour - women's dress in Greece

— February 2014

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Examples of tradtional Greek women's dress, on show at 'Patterns of Magnificence' at London's Hellenic Centre

Patterns of Magnificence

Tradition and Reinvention in Greek Women's Costume

The multiform traditions of Greek women’s dress are among the richest and most splendid in the world. This exhibition brings together over 40 superb originals from the 18th to the early 20th century, many of which will be on display in London for the first time. They include the monumental dress from the tiny island of Psara, seen above on the left, of which very few examples survive and which is very rarely exhibited, a richly embroidered costume from Astypalaia in the Dodecanese, an astonishing assembly of fabrics, colours and jewellery from Stefanoviki in Thessaly and a sumptuously brocaded dress from Janina in Epirus.

The exhibition will also illustrate the interplay of native tradition and Western aesthetic by displaying the court dress of the first queen of the independent Greek state, Amalia of Oldenburg, and that of her successor at the end of the 19th century, Olga, the Russian-born consort of George I. These costumes represent a synthesis that is emblematic of 19th-century nation building. Along with these costumes the exhibition will display for the first time in public two original dolls from a series commissioned by Queen Olga to form a miniature gallery of local costumes.

All but two of the costumes come from the superb collection of the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundationin Nafplio. The other two are being lent by the Benaki Museumof Athens and the dolls by the Lyceum Club of Greek Women, Athens. The curator of the exhibition is the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation’s founder and renowned expert, Ioanna Papantoniou. The designer is Stamatis Zannos.

In response to the exhibition the British Museum is showing textiles from its permanent collection. These will be exhibited in the Parthenon Galleries where, in the frieze, Athena’s invention of weaving is famously celebrated. A Gallery Talk  will be given in the Parthenon Galleries on 12 February.

A fully illustrated catalogue with seven essays by specialists in the field will be available for sale as will a variety of exciting design items created specially for the exhibition.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Koula Lemos who contributed a great deal to the Hellenic Centre.

Visit the exhibition

4 February–2 March 2014

The Hellenic Centre
16–18 Paddington St


Open daily:
Monday – Friday 10a.m.– 5p.m.
Saturday–Sunday 12 noon– 6p.m.

Guided tours by the curator on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon

Admission free

See also the following articles with a Greek theme in Cassone: The International Online Magazine of Art and Art Books

‘Let’s Dance – the art and craft of traditional Greek musical instruments’,  November 2013

‘The Peloponnese: A cradle of artistic heritage’, August 2013

‘Piranesi’s revolutionary drawings of Paestum’, June 2013

‘No grand designs – a Greek tragedy’, July 2012 

‘Picasso’s homage to Classical Greek art – the Vollard Suite’, June 2012

‘Treasures from Alexander’s royal palace’, June 2011

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