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by Archaeology Newsroom

A Sumptuous Dressing Ensemble from Mystras

Professor Nikolaos Drandakis excavated in 1955 a series of subterranean, built and vaulted, in their majority, tombs under the west and south stoa of Hagia Sophia in Mystras. which yielded, among other finds, remnants of a dressing ensemble.

A woman’s attire of the first half of the fifteenth century is the best preserved item of this ensemble. It consists of two silk, frilled dresses, worn the one above the other, a ribbon for supporting and decorating the hair, and a pair of leather shoes, from which only the soles have been preserved. It belongs to a young woman, who, judging from the characteristics of her clothing -the ample use of silk, frilled fabrics and the overlying dresses -, should be a member of Mystras’ aristocracy.

The remnants of a gentleman’s outfit also supply a lot of information about the dressing habits of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century in the Despotate. This item consists of a long silk, frilled dress, buttoned along its front, and, quite probably, of a similarly silk kerchief, a common accessory of an aristocrat’s wardrobe.

The rest pieces of the dressing ensemble are in a too fragmentary condition to enrich our knowledge of the clothing of the period. However, distinct among them is a woolen material, which might have been used as leggings, and some silk, decorative bands with an embroidered or woven embellishment, gilt beads or metallic yarns, which could be components of a diadem or a head-cover.

The dressing ensemble from Mystras attests the perseverance of the ruling class of Byzantium in specific clothing models, valued through time; it also substantiates the commercial relations of the Despotate of Moreas with the west, mediaeval Europe and the broader cultural osmosis between East and West in sectors of everyday life, such as the garment, during the Palaeologan era (thirteenth-fifteenth cent.).