The Grecian Formula-How to dress like a goddess

The mystery and allure of ancient culture has been the inspiration for countless 20th century designers. Consider the Paisley motif that originated over 2000 years ago out of Persia, once a Victorian favorite and still being reinterpreted today. In 1922 the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb sparked a frenzy for Egyptian inspired fashion. The aesthetics of the ancients provide rich design inspiration and none more so than the styles of Classical Greece where typical costume consisted of a sheath style garment, artfully joined and gathered at the shoulders then girdled at the waist. It fell in soft folds and was left open at the sides. Over this was draped some form of mantle or cloak. The only surviving examples we have of these garments are those depicted in the artwork of the day… stone statues, painted pottery and murals.

These works of art intrigued many of the great designers. Paul Poiret, with his gathered column dresses that abandoned the corseted silhouette of his day,  Madeleine Vionnet, Jean Desses and Madame Grès…all design geniuses, spent entire careers engineering their own unique art of the drape, producing signature creations fit for a Goddess.

1930s Vionnet Grecian style gown

1930s Vionnet Grecian style gown

Image source My Stilletos

White jersey Grecian gown by Madame Gres-1963 Vogue

White jersey Grecian gown by Madame Gres-1963 Vogue

Grecian gown Lelong 1935

Grecian gown by LeLong-Harper’s Bazaar 1935

Image source Devodotcom

In the 1950s the Aphrodite look took a more stylized turn since the fashion du jour was more about hourglass curves.  It was a time of unbridled glamour and femininity. Ancient Greek influence remained popular but was reinterpreted to fit the preferred silhouette of structured bodices, nipped in waists and skirts that were full and voluminous or body hugging and narrow. Ancient inspiration manifested in details of controlled folds and strategically placed panels.

The following images are Grecian inspired dresses by Frank Starr Originals in 1956.  Innovative treatments were employed. They used filmy fabrics to create sweeping cowls which added drama to the back of the dress. Bustlines were highlighted with draped pleats and swags were used to adorn narrow skirts. These elements captured the essence of Hellenic times in a thoroughly contemporary way.

Red chiffon Frank Starr gown- Photographer John Engstead

1956 Red chiffon Frank Starr gown- Photographer John Engstead

Frank Starr Originals blue chiffon draped back cocktail dress-1956

Frank Starr Originals blue chiffon draped back cocktail dress-1956

To this day we are still see reinterpretations of the Grecian style. So, what are the key elements to look for when shopping for this ever flattering timeless silhouette?

• Dresses that have  drapes and folds, which are ideal for enhancing feminine curves in a most flattering way.
•Column versions which elongate the body with a slimming effect.
•Strategically placed sashes and swags can hide body imperfections or provide cover without sacrificing sensuality.
•Fabrics like jersey or chiffon that are draped in interesting ways.
•One shoulder bodice styles are also an iconic look attributed to the Greeks, though back then it was men who sported the one shoulder look, as women were not allowed to bare any skin.

Few of us could ever hope to wear a genuine M. Grès or a Vionnet, they are as rare as hens teeth and would cost a kings ransom. However there are many affordable Mid Century and later Grecian style dresses available today.  If you search for terms like vintage goddess dress or vintage Grecian style dress you will find plenty to choose from. So with holiday party time fast approaching, consider celebrating in glamorous goddess style!

Have a glamorous day!

By | 2015-01-04T12:04:37-04:00 December 4th, 2014|Fashion|Comments Off on The Grecian Formula-How to dress like a goddess

About the Author:

Melody Fortier
Since the early 1990s I have been selling stylish, fine quality womens' vintage clothing and accessories at various venues, including the Sturbridge Textile Show and the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, as well as my own website Tangerine Boutique . I also love sharing my thoughts on vintage fashion on my blog A Vintage Ramble And my book The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping offers a wealth of information for people who are interested in buying, collecting and wearing vintage clothing. My background as a custom dress and hat maker led to my appreciation and love of vintage fashion. And my extensive experience as a custom clothier has given me a keen eye for spotting quality construction when sourcing my vintage inventory.