Ekaterina’s Costume from Ios

On January 25th 1884, Theodore and Mabel Bent arrived in Ios armed with a letter of introduction to the demarch, Michalis Lorentziadis. The Bents wrote warmly of the Lorentziadis family and the hospitality afforded them.

. . . never in all our wanderings did we meet with a family so genial and gay as the Lorenziades. One brother was demarch, another ex-demarch, and a third the schoolmaster; and the ex-demarch had three charming daughters — Marousa, Ekaterina, and Callirhoë — who administered tenderly to our wants, and saw to the fitting up of an empty house where we were to sleep during our stay, whilst meals were provided for us at the ex-demarch’s house.

After dinner one night, a ‘woman of surpassing beauty’ appeared, dressed in the magnificent costume of the island.

Ekaterina's costume
Ekaterina’s costume

That evening, after a sociable dinner, at which fowls did duty in every form, a lovely surprise was prepared for us: a woman of surpassing beauty entered in the costume of Ios; a costume which is, alas ! rare nowadays.

Ekaterina's headdressThe headgear was a veil bespattered with gold, with streamers which hung down behind; in front of it was a sort of crown (kourlí);

The dress of green and brocadethe dress was of green and brocade.

Ekaterina's esokardiaOver her heart was what we should call a stomacher, but the Greeks, in more polite parlance, an esokárdia;

Ekaterina's shoeher feet were in dainty little shoes (kountouris)

. . . but it was not till next morning that we identified our host’s daughter Ekaterina as the original of this beautiful apparition.

The costume worn by Ekaterina can be seen today at the National Historical Museum in Athens. The exhibit is labelled simply ‘Ios / Festive Costume’ (ΙΟΣ / ΓΙΟΡΤΙΝΗ ΦΟΡΕΣΙΑ) and currently makes no mention of its provenance.

The story of how the costume was discovered is a case of an amazing series of fortunate events and the keen eye and subsequent investigation by Spyros (Spyrodon) Lorentziadis. The history of the Lorentziadis family is interesting in its own right. Spyros spends part of his time at the family home in Ios and is well-known on the island. There is an excellent jewellery shop in Chora called Theros, run by a long-time resident Englishman named Hugh Cave. Hugh came upon a copy of Theodore Bent’s chapter about his visit to Ios and thought that his friend Spyros would be interested in its references to his family. He gave Spyros a copy. Spyros works in Athens and is very interested in all things historical. One lunchtime, totally unconnected with the book, to escape the rigours of the office, Spyros thought that he’d make a visit to the nearby National Historical Museum. Perusing the exhibits, he came across the ‘Ios / Festive Costume’. As he studied it, something about it seemed familiar to him. He realised that it exactly fitted the description of Ekaterina’s costume in Theodore Bent’s book. Spyros made enquiries about the donor of the costume. The name of the donor family was immediately familiar to Spyros. Ekaterina’s cousin, Margaro, the daughter of Loudovikos Lorentziadis, the schoolmaster at the time of the Bents’ visit, had remained in Ios after the rest of her family emigrated to Egypt. Margaro had inherited the costume after Ekaterina died at a tragically young age. Margaro had married Stelios Amoiradakis, who, after her death, donated the costume to the museum, unknowingly establishing a tangible link back to two members of the British aristocracy who had written so affectionately of the family which had welcomed and cared for them in a far-off land.

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