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Greek Embroidered Chemises

Greek chemise, 19th - early 20th century Greek chemise, 19th - early 20th century Copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. C.I.53.21.7.

A chemise is an undergarment that has the form of a dress. It was worn for centuries by women throughout Europe, both urban and rural. But the widespread use of chemises had virtually died out in Europe, including in the Greek mainland and islands (they were called poukamiso in Greek, by the latter half of the twentieth century.

Although the function of a chemise is that of an underdress and it was literally worn under a dress or a top/skirt combination, there was the intention that certain parts of the garment would be visible, notably the hem, neckline and all or part of the sleeves. The visible parts were often embellished with embroidery and in some cultures with lace of some kind as well.

Normally a Greek woman would have two types of chemise, a simple form for every day and a more elaborate one for Sundays and festivals. The second type was often the chemise that was first worn by the woman when she was a bride.

Normally a Greek chemise was made from linen, but sometimes cotton versions were made. There were various forms of chemise in Greece, with each region having its own characteristic cut, appearance and embroidery. Some of the most spectacular chemises came from the Dodecanese (see for example, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 43.399 [Astypalaia]; Victoria and Albert Museum 331-1887 [Kalymnos]; Victoria and Albert Museum 346-1886 [Karpathos]; Victoria and Albert Museum T.679-1950 [Rhodes]; Victoria and Albert Museum T.677-950 [Tilos]).

Sources:

  • JOHNSON, Pauline (1972). A Guide to Greek Island Embroidery, London: Victoria and Albert Museum/HMSO.
  • MACMILLAN, Susan L. (no date). Greek Island Embroideries, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts.
  • WELTERS, Linda (1994). 'Embroidery on Greek women’s chemises in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,' The Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, vol. 67, no. 1, pp. 4-47.

Digital source (retrieved 10 July 2015).

Metropolitan Museum of Art online catalogue (retrieved 8 July 2016).

GVE

Last modified on Monday, 03 October 2016 18:32