|Left: Reproduction of the Ladies in Blue fresco from Knossos. Center: Priest King fresco restored. Right: reproduction of a woman carrying an ivory pyxis from Tiryns|
|Minoan male and female dress, from mir-kostuma.com|
The most spectacular scenes of the daily lives of Minoans is seen in their fresco art. Many frescoes are so vivid and full of energy that you can't help but feel an affinity for them. From these scenes we are given accurate and colorful depictions of how the Minoans viewed themselves. It is truly remarkable that such woven works of art survived, as any and all elaborate dresses seen in frescoes have long since disintegrated. One great example of fashion, class, and culture is the Theran Naval Fresco. Nobles are shown in robes, commoners in tunics, and rustics in sheepskin, alluding to three general occupation based groups in society. Whoever could afford bronze or copper razors used them, and tweezers were used as well. Minoan fashion was in a constant state of flux, constantly changing year to year through a localized version of our now global fashion industry. Long hair was common: men, woman, nobles, and bull keepers wore it, whereas those who kept short hair were either soldiers or those who needed it for practical reasons due to their work. Everyone wore jewelry, if they could afford it. Depictions of the lower classes are surprisingly common, and while details of their clothing are not seen so visibly in frescoes, metalworkers made statuettes of everyday worshipers to be left at religious sites. These metal depictions of commoners were a very frequent item found at such sites. Commoners are also seen in seals and in frescoes occasionally, and generally the most common clothing of the period for most people was wool.
|Modern illustration of Minoan male and female dress|
|An example of a warp-weighted loom seen in Minoan frescoes|
|Leaf shaped bronze razor from funerary building 3 in Arkhanes Crete, made around 1,400 BCE|
|Bronze razor from Phylos, made around 1,200 BCE|
|Bronze tweezers from Crete, made between 3,000-1,000 BCE|
|A diagram of Minoan cosmetic tools|
Frescoes unintentionally show the artist's ideal self-image through their own aesthetic lens. Because of this, other Minoans are seen with their attractive features elaborated: straight noses, almond eyes, popping eyebrows, long black hair, tan and athletic bodies, and slim waists and legs. Both men and women are portrayed as beautifully perfect, but of course the world is never so kind. Minoan art excludes those who do not adhere to this stereotype, and most people may not have had the money to wear colored cloth with exquisite and complex designs. While the majority of clothing are left out of the picture, the clothing which is seen was manufactured by master craftsmen. Some designs are too complex to be woven, and were probably block printed, embroidered, appliqueed, or put on using a mixture of methods.
|The Queen's fresco, reminiscent of the ideal female aesthetic found in classical period art|
Clothing then as now was gendered, and women's clothing was much more elaborate than men's. Women wore dress tops designed similarly to modern t-shirts, but with a long slit from the neck to the navel. This long opening left women two options, one was to have the breasts covered and the other to have them exposed. Women with their breasts exposed is commonly seen in ritual contexts, and presumably it had some uncommon significance. It is presumed that reciprocally then to have the flaps covering yourself was the normal practice, although it should be said that there is no hard evidence detailing the norms, religious customs, or if there was even a difference between the two styles. Women also wore wide belts and embroidered aprons but only in a ritual context, thus these pieces of clothing suffer too from a lack of any information on their actual usage. It was standard for women to wear hats, whereas men would not, and by 1,700 BCE it was fashionable for women to wear tall pointed hats. By this period, men would also wear such hats but only in a ritual context.
|Woman from the Procession of Ladies fresco at Akrotiri|
|The Saffron Gatherer fresco|
|Detail of the Xeste 3 fresco at Akrotiri|
|A woman in a fresco from the House of the Ladies|
|“Le Parisienne” Minoan fresco from Sanctuary Hall at the Piano Nobile in the palace of Knossos, 1,450-1,350 BCE|
|Reconstruction of part of relief fresco of an elaborate dress from Pseira, Found in Yphantiki kai Yphantres sto Proistoriko Aigaio, Crete University Press, pg 229|
|Detail of the arm of that dress from the same source|
|Detail of the lower section of that dress from the same source|
|Pre-Temple (2,400-2,100 BCE) female Minoan fashion, by Tadarida|
|Old Temple (2,100-1,600 BCE) female Minoan fashion, by Tadarida|
|Late Minoan (1,600-1,000 BCE) female Minoan fashion, by Tadarida|
|Mycenaean (1,400-1,250 BCE) female fashion, by Tadarida|
|A diagram of women's hair styles from frescoes at Knossos, Thera, and Tiryntha|
Male gendered clothing was intentionally skimpy, and during the MM and LM periods different variations of loincloths were all the rage. Presumably in the early MM period men would wear codpieces held up with a belt, which throughout the MM period slowly changed as people wrapped cloth around their upper thighs, turning their loincloths into a simple kilt. Eventually, certainly by the LM period, men would sew the middle of the kilt together to create shorts, and throughout the LM period men's shorts were elaborately patterned and included a decorated tassel hung from a sporran (a pouch tied around the waist used as a pocket). Also during the LM period men would forgo the kilt altogether and only wear a codpiece.
|Detail from the Stiersprung fresco of a bull leaper, 1,600-1,450 BCE|
|Prince of the Lillies fresco|
|Painting of two male servants at Knossos|
|Servant with a blue vessel fresco at Knossos|
|EM (codpiece) and MM (kilt/shorts) male fashion, by Tadarida|
|A diagram of Minoan male loincloth styles|
|A man from Knossos wearing hat, made around 1,400 BCE or earlier, now at Herakion Museum, from pg 69 of The Arts in Prehistoric Greece by Sinclair Hood|
The most brilliant example of male fashion from Crete is not actually from the island proper. It is a painting on the wall of a tomb in Egypt. It shows various Minoans bearing gifts for the Pharaoh in celebration of the recently departed Egyptian adviser Rekhmire. He had died around 1,450 BCE and was the Grand Vizier to multiple Pharaohs, he was well liked and respected among the local aristocracy. The fact that foreign Cretans felt obliged to celebrate the life of a Grand Vizier is testament to the connection between Egyptian aristocracy and Minoan aristocracy. The Egyptian artist or artists who were tasked with painting the procession scene were put in a serious bind: they had to paint those gift bearing Minoans presumably before they had even arrived, and the artist/s had not seen a Minoan in some time. The artist/s made a professional decision and painted Minoans as they had remembered them: wearing cod pieces with a particular hem line. When the Minoans actually arrived, their fashion had changed! Kilts had become all the rage and no one wore cod pieces anymore. The Egyptian artist/s were able to quickly fix this mistake before the tomb was sealed, simply painting kilts over top of the old cod piece.
|Reconstruction of the frescoes from the tomb of User on the left, and Rekhmire on the right, depicting Cretan envoys and their clothing|
|Minoans bringing tribute to Egypt, in the tomb of Rekhmire. It is interesting to note their typical Cretan style done in an Egyptian manner. Also note the fantastically elaborate shoes|
|Various styles of Minoan shoes, all of which are Minoan except for B which is Hittite|
|The procession from Keftiu at the tomb of Rekhmire, by A. R. Burns|
|The procession from Keftiu continued, at the tomb of Rekhmire, by A. R. Burns|
|The recording of gifts from Keftiu by the Egyptian officals, at the tomb of Rekhmire, by A. R. Burns|
The Minoans, by Rodney Castleden http://amzn.to/1EaVS2X