In the shadow of Smyrna

Traditional women’s costumes Asia Minor

100 years have passed since the heart of Hellenism stopped beating in Asia Minor. From that day of Augustth 1922, when Smyrna, the archduchess of Ionia, was engulfed in flames and thousands of Greeks from the coast of Asia Minor left their homes forever.

Where for thousands of years an important Greek civilization flourished, which withstood every invasion and absorbed every conqueror. Where once there were well-dressed men and women, in their traditional and European costumes. In Smyrna, an important commercial and economic centre of the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as in the urban centres of the coastal areas, women left early on – as early as the 19th century – the traditional costumes, which exuded an island air, to surrender themselves entirely to the refinement of European fashion. In the surrounding areas, especially in the rural areas, however, the tradition was well established.

Eritrean women, who belonged to more popular classes, wore bourgeois clothes, made with loom fabrics, while retaining certain elements of older local costumes. The traditional costume, with some variations per region, consisted in general of the shirt, the polkaki – a kind of cardigan or jacket with long sleeves that buttons in front and the half skirt – a long, wide skirt with embroidery or fringes on the hem. On the head, the older ones wore a small fez or a thin cotton scarf in various colours. Their clothes were decorated with silk bows and pitsilia (needle lace), as well as precious jewellery.

In the area of Melio in Eritrea, women wore the breeches, which were more similar to those worn by the women of Lesbos. The women of Cesme wore cloth, low shoes, embroidered with coloured threads.

The bridal costume was sewn with expensive fabrics, mainly of silk in various colours. In Silli of Iconium, the brides wore the Etektse, an impressive costume that reminded something of Byzantium. Around the bride’s hips they wrapped a square cloth, the chipa, and tied it with a belt with an elaborate buckle. They wore the fez on their heads and around it they wrapped the tsevre, a gold-embroidered headband. Upon the chevre they were fastening the veil. This costume, without the veil, was worn by married women on official occasions. The single women wore the salwaria, fine gold and silver vests, as their formal dress, and at their waist they wore a long and wide belt tied with a cord with fine tassels.

The references to the costumes of the women of Asia Minor are not limited to a few lines. Women took great care of their appearance, from their clothes to their hairstyle and that is why the traditional Asia Minor clothing consisted of many different types and accessories, depending on the social status of the woman and the region in which she lived.

Thank you to Mrs Sophie

(Foulis) Karagavriilidou, honorary member of the Asia Minor Association of New Evkarpia Thessaloniki “OUSAK” and trainer of the dance group “OUSAK”.

and the folklorist, Mrs. Soula Toska Kampa for the information they provided for the compilation of this article.

Data were also drawn from:
  • the website of the Centre for Research and Study of Asia Minor Eritrea and
  • from articles and speeches by the philologist and researcher of Asia Minor issues, Mr. Theodore Kontara.


Etecce – bridal costume from Silli of Iconium.
Photo source: Greek Dance Theatre “Dora Stratou”