Archaic Period
c. 600-480 BCE


The female counterpart of the kouros is the kore, the draped standing female figure. The kore explores the relationship between garment and body, moving from complete obscuring of anatomy through hints of the body beneath, to daring revelations of limbs, in some late archaic korai. Paradoxically, the more opportunities for rendering drapery folds ornamentally in varied textures, patterns, and colors, the more visible the body became.

As with the kouroi the functions of the korai were both votive and commemorative. The kore does not appear until a generation or so after the appearance of the kouroi, which is baffling. Examples continue to the end of the Archaic period, with a specially striking late Archaic series coming from the Athenian Acropolis. It seems that rich dedications to Athena were popular at the court of Peisistratos and his sons.

With korai the changes throughout the period are measured more in terms of the rendering of the drapery than of the anatomy. Female dress apparently depended on three major garments, the peplos,the chiton, and the himation or mantle, all of which amounted to little more than rectangles of cloth, buttoned or pinned, and arranged in different ways.

    The peplos, often of wool, was folded down from the neck, and worn with a belt. Secured at the shoulder with pins, it was sleeveless and sometimes worn over a chiton.

    The chiton, often of linen, was like the peplos, a rectangle of cloth. It was buttoned along the upper edge in two sections to allow holes for head and arms and was sleeved and belted.

    The himation, or mantle, was a smaller oblong of cloth, buttoned along one long side, in such a way that it could be worn over the right shoulder and under the left arm. This was most often worn on top of the chiton.

Sculptors throve on the multiplicity of patterns offered by the drapery, and on the ornamental qualities provided by creases, folds, and tucks of different textures of cloth. Sometimes they were so carried away by the richness of the patterns that the logic and reality of actual garments is lost.

Berlin Kore
from Keratea, Attica
Height 6 feet 3 inches
c. 570-560 BCE
(Staatliche Museen, Berlin)

Peplos Kore
from Athens
Height 4 feet
c. 530 BCE
(The Acropolis Museum, Athens)

Kore No. 674
from Athens
Height 3 feet
c. 500 BCE
(The Acropolis Museum, Athens)

© Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe