Greek Costume Dolls

As the downsizing continues at my mother-in-law’s house, I am bringing home boxes and boxes of photo albums and souvenirs to sort through.  Not only did I find these five souvenir dolls from Greece, but I found the luggage tags that my grandparents-in-law had on their luggage when they sailed from New York to Piraeus and back!

Greek Line label.

The ship that they sailed on, the Greek Line Olympia, sailed from 1955 to 1974, and I am guessing they went in the earlier part of that era.  I am not absolutely sure that the dolls were purchased on that trip, but I think it is likely.  New clues may turn up as I sort through the boxes.

The detail in the dolls’ costumes is amazing.  They have painted cloth faces, and cloth bodies.  They are wearing multiple layers and accessories, exhibiting many different craft techniques, such as felting, weaving, and embroidery.

This doll has a bunch of loose fiber in her left hand, and a distaff tucked into her belt.  There is a broken thread coming from her right hand, which leads me to believe she once held a drop spindle there.

Distaff doll.

This doll’s costume is heavily embroidered, and she is wearing a necklace of coins.  More coins are attached to the top of her scarf.

Doll with coin necklace.

This doll’s clothes are much more delicate than those of the first two.  Her green dress is made of silk taffeta.  I love her little apron, which is woven in a supplementary warp pattern.  After weaving, threads were pulled away to display a yellow fringe in the warp (lengthwise) direction, and a black fringe in the weft (crosswise) direction.  Her bodice trim and belt are made of a dark braid that I believe were originally silver.

Underneath her headscarf, her hair is dressed in the famous Princess Leia cinnamon bun style.

Delicate doll. Well, her shoes don’t look that delicate, but I think they made the dolls to be able to stand up.

Apron with two-color fringe, and braided belt.

This male doll  has a felted coat, boots, and hat, pleated trousers, and a dagger stuck in his waistband!

Embroidered lapels on a felted coat.

This doll is dressed in the ceremonial guard uniform of Athens, the fustanella.  He has on four pleated layers plus an undergarment.  He also has a short white cape, pompoms on his shoes, and a great little handwoven bag.

Traditional guard.

Close-up of the tiny handwoven bag.

Three of the dolls have this label somewhere on their clothing, but I have not been able to find out anything about this workshop.


Last year about this time, I was taking a close look at the costumes on Greek stamps that I bought as a souvenir in Athens.  And a few months ago, I came upon this huge 2-volume set of books on Greek costume, published in 1984 by the Benaki museum.  (It was sitting on a clearance shelf, right at eye level as I came through the door of a used book store.  Three bucks.  Sometimes they just about jump up and down on the shelf and shout your name.  You can tell they are just so relieved that you finally got there to rescue them.)

Greek Folk Costume by Angeliki Hatzimichali. 80 years of Greek costume research packed into 900 pages of photographs, antique and modern.

Even though it is full of amazing pictures like these —

Costume of Paramythia, from Greek Folk Costume. (This model apparently does not know how to spin. You’d think someone could have put some yarn on that spindle for her.)

Costume of Hassia, from Greek Folk Costume

— I couldn’t find any that I thought matched the costumes on these dolls.   So I am not sure if the dolls were dressed to represent any certain district.  But I am so glad I got to take a close look at their craftsmanship.

On another note, as far as the very tattered quilts I recently brought home, my husband remembered that when he was little, his parents would go to auctions, and he is pretty sure that these quilts were included just as packing material.  That would explain why they are all so different, and why they are in such bad condition.  I have always known his family as great caretakers of their things so I am glad to know how they got these quilts.