One of the earliest forms of female dress, the peplos was worn by goddesses, housewives and slaves alike. The garment dates back to the 12th century B.C., and gave rise to the chiton, a dress very similar in style. Its main difference was that the apoptygma, the top overfold, was shorter (about one foot, or at least enough to cover the breasts), but the style of the peplos tended to be narrower and more accentuating than that of the chiton. Additionally, the peplos would almost invariably be embroidered around the edges, whereas the chiton was usually plain.

There were two variants of the peplos, namely the ionic and the doric. These terms pertained to the two eras/styles of Greek architecture: the Doric, which was the later and plainer style of the two, and the Ionic, the style of which was more elegant and effeminate (cf. Ionia, the collective areas of Asia Minor occupied by the Greeks). In accordance with this the ionic peplos held smaller and more graceful proportions than the doric equivalent.

The peplos consisted of one sheet1 (in contrast to the kolobus & tunic) sized for the individual, that is, usually about 6 feet across and 4 feet long. It was put on in much the same way as the chiton; folded down to create the apoptygma, and then folded again around the body at the armpit area (apoptygma outwards) and fastened at the shoulders with two pins or fibulae.

A little like this:

        _____0_____                             _0_
    ---|           |---                       ||   ||
       |___________| - apoptygma fold         ||___||
       |           |                           |   |
       |           |                           |   |
       |___________|                           |___|
            | |               ...               | |

A girdle of wool or leather would be passed around the waist to secure, and this could be tightened or loosened to create a slimmer or fuller look.

1 Later another variation of the peplos became popular, which consisted of two sheets sewn together from armpit to waist on either side. This change of style allowed for its drapes to be more carefully and attractively arranged.