“It’s absolutely crazy to bring all these costumes over from Greece.” That’s what Ioanna Papantoniou, founder of the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, said in 1988 about bringing a selection of folk costumes from her native Greece to the Whittier Museum in California. It was the first time costumes from the Folk Art Museum of Nafplion, Greece were displayed in the United States.
An article written in 1988 by then-Staff Writer Charles Elliott for the Whittier Tribune/News appeared in the 1988 edition of the Oli Mazi. Papantoniou’s interest in Greek folk costumes started when she was eight at the Lykeion Hellenidon in Athens. At the time, the wore original costumes, some of which were “falling to pieces.” She copied costumes for the dance group and in 1954 started traveling to Greek villages looking for authentic items for her personal collection.
The costumes in the Whittier collection were special occasion dresses. Papantoniou pointed out details.
- As early as the 10th century, in some Greek portrayals of the Madonna and child the baby is wearing one earring. That was common at the time, and meant he was an only child.
- In many areas of Greece, women wore coats to hide their curvy hips – too risqué.
- Black trim on a woman’s hat meant she was in mourning; green was for modest social standing and red was for women of the upper class (red was difficult to find, and expensive).
- Men’s anklets from times past were so slim, modern men can’t put them on.
- Wedding dresses were hard to find. That’s because women often were buried in their wedding gowns. Papantoniou said they spoke solemnly about being “dressed for the Trip.”