Clothing in Ancient Rome

Roman DressRoman DressRoman Dress
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Men's Clothing
Roman Men's Clothing

Although Roman clothing was very distinctive, it had roots in the clothing of Greece. Their designs can best be described as simple. Wool and linen were probably the most common materials used. Because needles were coarse, stitching was kept to a minimum. Buttonholes were unheard of and so fastenings consisted of broaches and clasps.

As an undergarment, the Roman man would wear a loin cloth knotted on each side. Their varying shapes is believed to be the reason that they have several names. These include: subligar, subligaculum, canpestre, licium, and cinctus. Undergarments were generally thought to be made of linen.

TunicsA Senators Toga
The most common garment in Ancient Rome was the tunic (tunica). The male tunic would reach the knees and did not have sleeves. A longer tunic or one with long sleeves was considered to be effeminate and styles worn mostly by women, however centuries later the style was accepted by men. Layered tunics would be worn in winter or cold weather. Different purple striping on the tunic would denote differences in social rank, and this could be either a senator or a member of the equestrian order. Tunics were fastened at the waist by a girdle or a belt, which kept it tight and often served as a purse.

The toga was a garment that was only to be worn by free Roman citizens, so foreigners could not wear a toga in public. The first Romans to wear togas wore them over a naked body, but later on it was worn over a tunic. It's design was simple as a semi-circular blanket draped over the body leaving one arm free. The measurements of a toga varied, but generally averaged 2 1/2 to 3 meters long and around 2 meters wide. Because these garments could be very awkward when moving about, sometimes lead weights were sewn into the hem of the toga to keep it in place. In general, the toga was made of wool, but there were varying qualities of wool. All togas were not created equal. Some of the different kinds were:
The toga virilis was a plain, unadorned toga made in an off-white color, and was worn by any adult male.
The toga praetexta was an off-white toga with a broad purple border. This toga was reserved for Senators and Curule Magistrates such as Consuls,and there were minor distinctions in the stripes for the various Magistrate positions.
The toga pulla was a dark toga worn strictly in times of mourning.
The toga candida was an artificially whitened toga worn by candidates for political office. The importance of white was to indicate the purity of intention of the candidate and to stand out in the crowd.
The toga picta was a special all purple toga with gold embroidery, worn by a Roman general during a victory parade. Julius Caesar later adopted it as part of his regular dress .

A Senators Toga
Senator - White toga, purple bands and boots
Knights Toga
Knight - White toga and tunic, purple bands and boots
A Magistrates Tunic
Magistrate - White tunic, purple toga, gold embroidery
High Rank Toga
High Rank - White tunic, purple toga, gold embroidery
Women's Clothing
Dress of Roman Women

Roman women had fewer laws, restrictions, customs, and traditions to limit or dictate their manner of dress. As the color for men was often to be white, women were allowed to wear almost any color. Silk clothing was available to the rich, but was only used for women's garments. Men deemed it very effeminate until the late empire, when courtiers of the 4th century dressed in elaborately embroidered silk robes.

Roman women wore a simplified version of the brassiere, which was a form of band tied tightly around the body either across the bust and under the clothing (fascia), or under the bust and over the clothing ( strophium, mammillare, cingulum).

The basic garment of Roman women was the stola. It was essentially a long tunic reaching to the ground. It could be long or short sleeved or even sleeveless. the stola was generally worn over another long tunic, the tunica interior. The stola was often shorter than the under tunic in order to show the layers of the garment, which was also a display of wealth and status. Another show of wealth could be a wide ornamental border (instita) on the lower hem of either the under tunic or the stola.

As an over garment women in the early days of theRepublic wore the ricinium, which was a simple square cloak covering the shoulders. Later on the ricinium was replaced by the palla. The palla was essentially a draped cloak similar to a toga, although smaller and less unwieldy. A palla had no specific size or shape and could range from a large garment which draped around the body to something as small as a scarf.

Stola and PallaFashion of Roman WomenStola and Palla
Children's Clothing
Clothing for children, both boys and girls, were based on the styles and designs of the clothes worn by adult men and women.

Boys Clothing
The tunic and the cloak were the main items of clothing worn by Roman boys. The tunic reached to the knees and had no sleeves. Boys also wore cloaks which were used as protection from the weather. The cloak was called a paludamentum and was fastened at the shoulder with a clasp called a fibula. The cloaks often had head coverings attached to them. Boys also wore a variety of different shoes, boots and sandals.
By Roman Law only the adult, male, Roman citizens were allowed to wear the toga virilis only upon reaching the age of political majority (seventeen). However, wealthy noble young men who were the sons of senators, from the age of fourteen until they were seventeen years of age, were allowed to wear a toga bordered with purple, called the toga praetexta.

Roman boy in toga
Roman boy in toga wearing bulla

Girls Clothing
Roman girls were not allowed to wear the stola until they were married. Althought the colors, decorations and materials used in the making of children's clothing varied, the tunic and the cloak were the main items worn by Roman girls. Girls wore a simple tunic (tunica) with a belt at the waist. when they went outside they wore a second tunic that reached their feet.
Like the boys, the girls also wore a cloak to protect them from the weather (paludamentum). The cloak was fastened at the shoulder with a clasp (fibula), and head coverings were often attached to the cloak.

Roman Triumph: The Dangers of Winning a War
Note the young girls in the front wearing tunic dresses

The Bulla
Roman children were presented with an amulet on a necklace called a bulla when they were born. The bulla worn by boys was a neck chain with a round pouch filled with protective amulets, often phallic symbols which emphasised their masculinity. Girls were given an amulet as a protection against evil and was worn on a chain, cord, or strap. Girls wore their bulla until the eve of their wedding day, when their bulla was set aside with other childhood things such as her toys.

Roman Bulla
Roman Bulla

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