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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Greek Costume in the Dora Stratou’s Theater: Tradition or Innovation?

This article investigates the face acquired by tradition in modern Greek society, and in the material civilization in particular. Focusing our interest in the costume collection of the Dora Stratou’s theater, we argue that while tradition is common in its natural expression, it becomes individual in its fabricated dimension, The traditional practices obtain a very different form, role and position in society through an objective procedure. Using theater as a model, we observe that the excessive emphasis on “authenticity” and the “archetype” -terms that clearly separate the historical truth from innovation and novelty- has only a relevant value in a world where change is a continuous process. Dora Stratou has collected Greek costumes on the basis of their appearance and availability, while any other particular criteria used had more to do with their appropriateness to a dancing and theatrical performance than with these dresses as traditional objects. Apart from being an indispensable factor in a dancing performance, costume is the expression of cultural definition and ethnic identity. Its study should not rise questions as regards its authenticity and originality, since the standards defining these qualities are flexible and subjects to change. The criteria of “traditionalism” are fluid by definition, therefore conventional evaluations of the “traditional” often fail to render the appropriation of different elements, new or old ones. It has often been stressed that traditional life, although constantly subjected to changes, is continuously “handed down”, from one generation to the next, without ever loosing its value. From the moment it enters the realm of the conscious, massively produced and delivered, transmission that claims the ensuring of continuity, traditional life acquires various expressions and dimensions. It becomes tradition, with a capital T. Past is idealized, and civilization becomes an air-tied mass. As a result, we perceive “hellenization” beyond time and history. What is really missing is the historical and rational relation with the past.