Greek Kilts

Figure 1.--Greek dance groups often use the kilt or foustanea as part of the costuming for male dancers.

A kilt like costume was worn mainly in the central and southern regions of Greece. The costume derives its namefrom the pleated white skirt (foustanela) made of many triangular shaped pieces of cloth sewn together diagonally. The foustanela was worn by the Greek fighters of the 1821 revolution and today it serves as the official uniform of the Evzones, Greece’s Presidential Guard, who can be seen guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. The foustanela skirt consists of 400 pleats symbolizing the years during which Greece was under Ottoman rule. The remainder of the costume is composed of a white shirt with very wide flowing sleeves, an embroidered woolen vest, a sash worn around the waist, and shoes (tsarouhia) with large pompons.

The costume called Foustanela, established by Otto, the first King of Greece, as the formal courtdress in the middle of the 19th century, prevailed in the urban centers of Moreas (Peloponnese)and Roumeli (Central Greece). This dress was originally the military outfit of the Greek chieftains. The costume was soon modified by the men for holidays and other festive occasions. The outfitthat is shown here has two jackets, the inner waist coat, the yileki, and a second sleeved shortjacket, the fenneli, with the sleeves falling freely over the back. The material that was used for this version is wool. The embroidery is made of spun wool and the belt is of a fine leather work. The Foustanela has changed in the meaning of detailed work, the length of the fousta, and,sometimes, the number of jackets worn. The sleeves have become decorative, resembling wingswithout the function of sleeves. After all the changes, it has become the standard Pan-Hellenicmale costume used to the modern times.

After the liberation of Greece in the first quarter of the 19th century, all male costumes in the Peloponnese took the form of the foustanela. Extremely popular, this costume is now one of the world's most well-known traditional garment. - white cotton shirt - foustanela (white cotton pleated skirt) - boudouri (white underpants) - long knitted white leggings, secured by gonatoures (garters) tied below the knee - embroidered coat - fesi (cap) - tsarouchia (shoes) with pompons.

Figure 2.--This American boy wears the foustanea folk kilt costume for the annual Greek Day parade in New York.

Most Greeks wear Western clothing, although traditional clothing continues to be worn in somerural areas. There are two types of traditional clothing for men: on the mainland men wear a foustanela (skirt), while a type of baggy trousers called a vraka is worn on the Aegean Islandsand Crete. The traditional Grecian costumes are the male's "foustanela" and the female's "amalia." They arebeautifully handmade embellished with detailed needlework. The costumes consist of whiteblouses, vests, skirts, and even special shoes.

Personal Experiences

I was around eight or nine years old when I wore the Evzones costume or foustanela at our Greek Independence day celebration. It amounted to a short white pleated kilt. I wore white cotton tights with it. I wasn't too keen about the idea. However, there were a good number of boys my age and older also in the Evzone kilts, so I went along with it. Anyway my mother would have insisted on it even if I had objected. This was the only time I wore an Evzone costume. There were many boys and young adults wearing this costume. The young men were tall andmasculine and in the Greek traditions were fighters. Just like theScots, you didn't want to mess with them. I had to to give a poem aboutthe days when the Greeks were subjugated by the Turks of the OttomanEmpire. It was about the light of the mopn showing me the path to go toGreek school. Apparently, the Turks prohibited the schooling of childrenin Greek and their culture. The schooling was done in the evening andGreece is very mountainous and the pathways were not a paved road. I canremember the first verse, in literal translation it said: "Oh moon ohmoon, show me the pathway to school". I had to say this on a stage infront of several hundred in the auditorium. Actually that was what I was most concerned about. I was more worried about forgetting my poem which I had to say in Greek. Also, I was thinking about that big audience.

There were Greek dances,both ring and couples. The best part the celebration was the food anddeserts after the program. There were some great cooks, or better yetmaster chefs that knew their trade. That I always can remember.The only displeasure I had about wearing the foustanela was when weparked the car and had to walk about a block to the auditorium; however,I saw other older boys and young men walking in the same direction, so Iwas in good company.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Theatricals] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing kilt pages:
[Main kilt page]
[Kilt suits] [Scottish kilts] [Scottish boys clothing] [Scottish school uniform]
[Highland dance]
[Irish kilts] [Irish boys clothing] [Irish step dancing]
[Greek kilts] [Greek ethnic dress]

Created: May 9, 1998
Last updated: July 15, 1999