So it occurred to me today that I have been fudging the clothing of my characters in HELEN for approximately 120,000 words now, and it was about time that I did some research to at least make sure my fudged approach was something that I could get away with, and not totally, completely beyond wrong. Nobody wants to get called out on historical accuracy over a dress, after all.
I do actually have a couple of textbooks on the Aegean Bronze Age (Christmas presents from my parents!), but for some reason they don't seem to have a lot of good pictures. This is probably because there aren't a lot of good pictures to be had, and black and white never does a fresco justice. I've talked about it a little bit before-- if not here, at least on GeekaChicas during the Not-yet-of-Troy series letters
-- but we suffer from a real lack of evidence when it comes to this period. Primarily the only information we have is about palace life. There is little if any evidence regarding the common person or daily life for anyone outside of the palace, and the evidence we have for the palace itself is less about the daily life and more about societal structure. Very fortunate for me that Helen was a princess, and not some street girl. On the other hand, Sparta isn't one of the cities known for its Mycenaean Palace of Awesome
. (Welcome to the clash between history and myth, our next stop will be clothing... Also, you REALLY do want to click that link, because that rendering of the palace at Pylos will blow your mind.)
As far as clothing goes, we pretty much have frescoes. Jewelry is another story--grave goods and the like have been found and preserved, probably because metal doesn't decompose. There's a good image of men's clothing in a fresco
(definitely click this first link!) on this website
, and a great description of both men's
fashions (of which I make no guarantees about the source, but it SOUNDS right to me).
Basically, men wore belted, short dress-like outfits, sometimes with short pant-like bottoms instead, which gave them freedom of movement. Common people probably went without a shirt altogether, and ran around in just a skirt or shorts. They don't seem to be all that fancy, except for detailing around the edges (image from wikimedia commons
). This isn't all that different from Minoan dress-- Mycenae really kind of ripped off a lot of culture from Crete-- but in general, Mycenaean's were a little bit more conservative in style. This is more apparent in women's dress.
Contrary to later styles, Mycenaean's and Minoans wore fitted clothing. Women especially. The image to the right is from a fresco, supposedly of a Mycenaean woman. (from wikimedia commons
) You can see the detailing and complicated design of the skirt (do those look like pants to anyone else?) and the top. Minoan women, as far as we know, went bare breasted. Mycenaean women did not ALWAYS follow this convention, but as you can see, it wasn't unheard of. They usually wore a belt, to emphasize the waist and the skirt was kept full and flowing. Don't ask me how that kind of a shirt is practical at all, however. It seems like it would be a pain to keep on. The image to the right gives you an idea of what a top that covered the breasts would look like (from wikimedia commons
For the purposes of my book, I would expect that Helen dressed as conservatively as she was able-- being the most beautiful woman in the world would probably invite enough attention without showing off her breasts as well. Theseus is another issue altogether. (
and if you're wondering, no, Athens didn't have a Mycenaean
) Palace of Awesome,
.) He was, by all accounts, a very successful king for Athens (until he got thrown out after the underworld debacle). I expect when he shows up somewhere, he does it in style to show off the wealth of his city and by association, his power as its king.
Has my fudging been at all accurate? Well, yes and no. I'll probably need to go back through and tweak a few things. But honestly, there is no real way to write about the mythology of the Trojan war while maintaining BOTH historical and mythological accuracy (more on this in a future post, probably). What about you? Has there ever been an aspect of your book that you fudged, only to research and find out that you had it totally wrong?
Also, am I the only one who looked at that rendering of the Megaron of Pylos and went WHOA? Talk about opulence!