Roman clothing and jewelry always revealed the social status of the wearer in rank and authority. It showed, for example, who was an Emperor, senator, soldier, Roman citizen, slave, wife or vestal (Roman priestess) and of course, who was gladiator. However, in general, Roman clothing was pretty easy.
They wore about two to three garments and – not all – sandals. The materials used varied. There was little change or even something like trends in fashion and style during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.
Contact with the Greeks in the south and with the Etruscans in the north gave the Roman taste for beauty,and showed a certain expression in their “flowing robes”.
Men in ancient Rome wore Togas and Tunics. The tunic was a kind of undergarment, while the toga was worn as a wrapped outer garment (Amictus).
There were many different types of Toga and each had its own purpose or symbolism. Roman “sumptuary laws” dictated what clothes could or had to be worn by whom: The materials and fabrics, the style of clothing, and even the color. For example only the emperor was allowed to carry a fully purple colored toga.
Were there differences of Roman clothing?
Clothing for men and women was very similar. At young ages boys and girls wore the togas that were very alike. Married women wore a robe, called a Stole. This had a wide hem up to the ankles. Prostitutes and women who were convicted of adultery, were not allowed to wear a stole. In contrast to the toga, the stole did not mediate rank and name, but only the marital status of the woman. Publicly she was a symbol of marriage and stood for integrity, loyalty and adherence to tradition.
Materials, colors and fabrics for Roman clothing
The manufacture of clothing and the materials and fabrics used changed over time and was influenced by other cultures. Luxury materials were imported from Roman provinces or from distant lands. For example, fabrics came from Egypt, fine linen cotton from India or silk from China, which at that time was very rare and extremely expensive. The range of colors for dresses was enriched by extravagant dyeing process. Also, the colorants were partly imported from a distance and were very expensive to purchase and process. The most expensive color was purple taupe. Therefore, this color was reserved for the clothes of the emperor. Colors, materials and fabrics that was worn by the Romans, were dictated by the “sumptuary laws”. A so-called vestio – outfitter – was appointed with the manufacture of clothing.
The toga was a loose outer clothing of the Romans without sleeves and generally composed of a wool fabric that was draped gracefully and was wrapped precisely around the body. Normally, the Toga was white. In bereavement a black or dark toga was also worn. Only Roman citizens were allowed to wear the toga. For exiled people, this was prohibited. The toga was a semi-circular woolen vest without sleeves, open from the waist up, and closed from there down to about half of the lower leg. The upper part of the vest was drawn under the right arm, passing over the left shoulder. There it was fixed in a recogida with a knot, where it fell in folds over the chest. This type of valve was stuck in the belt and the cavity thus formed served many as a bag or as a cover for the head. The Romans took great attention to detail when wrapping the toga to fit properly and create a dignified cape.
The Toga palmata was named after the embroidered palm leaves, a triumphal march implemented into the garment. The Toga picta adorned rich embroidery. Young men wore it up to age 18, a dress with a purple border, called the Toga praetexta. After they received the Toga virilis.
The toga picta or toga palmata had a gold colored collar and could only be worn by generals during their triumphs. The toga also symbolized peace, because soldiers did not wear them. The Roman toga was such an important item of clothing that it has been associated with the Romans for all times. Each Roman themed party, Romans or Roman clothing is automatically called Toga Party!
The Tunic on the other hand is a white woolen vest that is worn under the toga. It reached just below the knee. Most of them were sleeveless. Tunics were fastened with a belt or strap around the waist and therefore served as a “purse” under the toga.
Both men and women wore tunics. The colored wide stripes or bands on the Roman tunic were called latus clavus. Their width and color revealed the status of the wearer.
Pants as a Roman clothing item?
Originally Romans never wore pants, socks or stockings as Roman clothing. Sometimes, however, they wrapped her legs and thighs with towels. Later this changed and at least the soldiers wore pants, especially in the colder northern provinces.
Shoes, sandals and boots
The most worn “shoes” were the calceus which covered the whole foot, or the solea, a kind of slipper or sandal that were attached under the sole with a leather strap or cords. The footwear of the senators went about to the middle of the leg, having a golden or silver crescent on the toe.
Shoes of the Roman soldiers were called caligae, boots that were sometimes shod with nails.
Roman clothing for Gladiators
The protective gear that Roman gladiators wore was designed in many different styles. For descriptions testify to their armor, including the helmet, a shield, and their weapons. If they were not in the arena, the gladiators wore mostly simple woolen tunic and robes. Gladiators that had won their battles were allowed to keep their reward and were able to buy expensive clothes that they wore in public banquets and sold them their. The most common material used for gladiator clothes was leather. They wore matching sandals. The ancient Romans were experts in tanning leather and produced not only smooth, very special durable leather. Gladiator sandals were like a kind of protective armor for the feet.
Headgear and headdresses
The ancient Romans went through life “bare head”, except on the occasion of holy rites, games, parties, traveling, or in war. In games and festivals they wore wool caps or hoods. Roman peasants wore straw hats with a wide brim for protection from the sun. The headwear for women was very simple. Once they went out, they mostly covered their face with a scarf or similar (suffibulum). Only in the hairstyles reflected wealth and luxury. The hair was anointed with perfume and sometimes dyed bright yellow.
These were adorned with gold, pearls and precious stones – with garlands or even floral wreaths!
Roman clothing for women
Fascia – a simple bra (BH) in the form of a band, which was closely tied around the breasts on the body.
Mamillare – a narrow band across the breast, which was tied over the clothing.
Tunica – Shirt
Stole – Robe
Stophium – chord or belt
Palla – Coat
Suffibulum – veil
Roman women usually wore a simple bra in the form of a band around the breasts, the Fascia. In addition they wore the tunica or subucula, which was worn like a shirt on the skin and reach to about the knee. In general, the Tunic was made of wool. Tunics were prepared in a variety of different forms, and could be worn by people of all classes are supported. They were made with or without sleeves, sewn in different lengths and made from different types of materials. The tunic of Roman women ranged sometimes even up to the ankles. A chord or belt was worn with the tunic, which supported the breasts and was named strophium. Married women wore a stole over the tunic.
The stole was an outer garment that reached to the floor. The stole was draped with a belt above the chest and broad folds around the body. The stole was also attached to the shoulder by a fibula or clasp and usually had sleeves. Above the stole Roman women wore – a long scarf called Palla -when they went out of the house. This protected them from cold and rain. Some even had hoods (cucullus). The Palla was rectangular and usually placed over the left shoulder, passed under the right arm and across the back. It was supported by the left arm or thrown over the left shoulder. The palla could also be drawn up to cover the head. In addition, there was the paenula, a simple form of a jacket which was worn by both sexes.
Capes as Roman clothing
The Roman robes were mostly like a sheath. They showed – how many other clothing items too – the status the person had wearing it. The Coat length ranged from hip-length to the ankles down. The different coats had various names:
The paenula was a simple form of coat, which was worn by both sexes. It consisted of a piece of fabric with a central hole to pull the cowl over his head. It served to protect against bad weather. The paenula was either made of leather (paenula scortae) or very heavy felt (paenula gausapina). Only slaves and laborers wore the cheapest materials and easiest colors.
According to a legend, felt was created inter alia, through the experience of Saint Christopher, who grabbed at wool during a persecution and placed it in his shoes to avoid blisters on his feet. Through movement and sweat the wool began to felt and so the so-called Feltsocks emerged. The “feltmaking” is still practiced today by nomadic peoples in Central and East Asia, where, for example, carpets, tents like the Mongolian yurt, or even clothing are produced in a long tradition. Meanwhile, a lot of it is made for the western world and thus for tourism. The felt process itself is one of the oldest techniques, to make the aforementioned clothing or generally textiles.
In the past felt was also used on the shield during the war. The earliest documented discovery is approximately in the period around 3000 BC, the science assumes that about 5,000 years earlier people had been able to implement the manufacture of felt.
Roman soldiers wore the red sagum, and the officers a scarlet coat. During the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire Members of the Roman military wore this coat over their armor. The sagum consisted of a simple rectangular fabric segment, was knee-length, open front and secured by a metal or leather clasp, similar to a safety pin, called “Fibel”. The sagum stood for a garment of war, whereas the toga symbolized peace. The shorter version of the sagums was sagutum. The sagum was worn by the ordinary soldiers and was usually dark red while the coat of senior officers was a more expensive option in Scarlet. Even brown-yellow or blue-gray coats were worn.
The lacerna was the purple coat, which was worn by Senators. It was fastened with a large brooch on the shoulder. Roman senators wore the lacerna over their toga as protection. The lacerna was removed before they began their work in the Senate.
The expensive paludamentum was used for state occasions. It was an ankle-length cape, warn only by the emperor of Rome with a gold or precious stone clasp or brooch. The paludamentum was a bright red coat. During the first period of the Roman Republic and generals, consuls and dictators had the paludamentum over the armor. The paludamentum was part of the ceremony of the inauguration at the Capitol in Rome. During the Roman Empire the paludamentum was worn as a symbol of the imperial power of the Roman emperors at state occasions. The paludamentum worn by the emperors was purple, but they also contributed to other expensive colors like red or dark blue. First, the shape of the cape was rectangular. Over time, however, the upper part was cut at the corners in order to better adapt the garment to the shoulders.
The so-called laina was a thick wool coat. The laina was doubled at the shoulders and folded with fringes. Above the toga of a flamen (priest) a clasp was fastened that he wore around his neck.
The pallium was a colorful decorated coat that the rich wore.
The delle was the coat of wealthy and aristocratic patricians. It was made of costly materials.
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