Thursday, 15 September 2011

Roman Fashion

Looms and their effect on clothing
In general, individual clothes were woven on vertical looms during antiquity. This contrasts with the medieval period when cloth was produced on foot-powered horizontal looms that later was made into clothes by tailors. Evidence for the transition between these two distinct systems, from Egypt, suggests that it had begun by 298 AD but it is likely that it was very gradual. The weaver sat at the horizontal loom producing rectangular lengths of cloth which never were wider than the weaver's two arms could reach with the shuttle. Conversely, a weaver who stood at a vertical loom could weave cloth of a greater width than was possible sitting down, including the toga, which could, and did, have a complex shape.

Women's clothing
After the 2nd century BC, besides tunics, women wore a simple garment known as a stola and usually followed the fashions of their Greek contemporaries. Stolae typically consisted of two rectangular segments of cloth joined at the side by fibulae and buttons in a manner that allowed the garment to drape freely over the front of the wearer. Over the stola women often wore the palla, a sort of shawl made of an oblong piece of material that could be worn as a coat, with or without hood, or draped over the left shoulder, under the right arm, and then over the left arm.

Girls' clothing
Roman girls often wore nothing more than a tunic hanging below the knees or lower, belted at the waist and very simply decorated, most often white. When a girl went out she sometimes wore another tunic, longer than the first, sometimes to the ankles or even the feet. Girls also wore an amulet called a bulla, a leather or gold heart hung around the neck, until they married. The bulla was meant to be a lucky charm to protect a girl until marriage. Afterwards it was no longer needed, so the bulla was burned.

The basic garment for both sexes, often worn beneath one or more additional layers, was the tunica or tunic. This was a simple rectangle sewn into a tubular shape and pinned around the shoulders like a Greek chiton. Women might also wear a strophium or breast cloth. Garments to cover the loins, known as subligacula or subligaria, might also be worn, especially by soldiers. The Vindolanda tablets found in Great Britain confirm this fashion at the time of the Roman Empire, when a subligaculum might be made of leather. Farm workers wore loincloths wrapped like diapers.

Official clothing
The dress code of the day was complex and had to reflect one's position accurately in the social order, one's gender, and one's language.

Main article: Toga
The variations of clothing worn in Rome were similar to the clothing worn in Greece at the same time, with the exception of the traditionally Roman toga. Until the 2nd century BC, the toga was worn by both genders and bore no distinction of rank - after that, a woman wearing a toga was marked out as a prostitute. The differentiation between rich and poor was made through the quality of the material; the upper-classes wore thin, naturally colored, wool togas while the lower-classes wore coarse material or thin felt. They also differentiated by colours used:

the toga praetextata, with a purple border, worn by male children and magistrates during official ceremonies
the toga picta or toga palmata, with a gold border, used by generals in their triumphs
trabea' - toga entirely in purple, worn by statues of deities and emperors
saffron toga - worn by augurs and priestesses, white with a purple band, also worn by consuls on public festivals and equites during a transvectio
Red Borders - worn by men and women for festivals Blue Borders -

Religious ceremonies
laena - worn by the king and the flamens at sacrifices
crocota - saffron robe worn by women during ceremonies to Cybele
Roman clothing of Late Antiquity (after 284 AD)
Roman fashions underwent very gradual change from the late Republic to the end of the Western empire 600 years later. In the later empire after Diocletian's reforms, clothing worn by soldiers and non-military government bureaucrats became highly decorated, with woven or embellished strips, clavi, and circular roundels, orbiculi, added to tunics and cloaks. These decorative elements usually consisted of geometrical patterns and stylised plant motifs, but could include human or animal figures.The use of silk also increased steadily and most courtiers in late antiquity wore elaborate silk robes. Heavy military-style belts were worn by bureaucrats as well as soldiers, revealing the general militarization of late Roman government. Trousers — considered barbarous garments worn by Germans and Persians — achieved only limited popularity in the latter days of the empire, and were regarded by conservatives as a sign of cultural decay. In early medieval Europe, kings and aristocrats dressed like late Roman generals, not like the older toga-clad senatorial tradition.

Roman Women - Dress
As ever, Roman women's dresses were a little different from the men's tunics. For example, they were often pale rose, or aqua.
The female equivalent of the male Subacula (under tunic), was the Intusium, a sleeveless under-tunic. Women also wore a bust bodice called strophium (much like a sari bodice).
The stola was worn by married women. It was a full-length, tunic worn by the women from their wedding day onwards. This was not a fashionable garment, more an everyday dress, which signified that the woman was married. Being full in length, the stola covered the feet, and had a lower border called the instita. Fashion changes in female Roman dress came in the form of a change of coloured Stola, and many a stola had a fancy border on the hem. Even Roman women loved to ring the changes! There were also accessories such as brooches.
As well as being fashion conscious, it seems that the Roman women were practical and wore several layers of tunic in the colder weather. For going out of doors a woman covered up with a long cloak and this made her appear more modest. The cloak was a simple long length of cloth that could be wrapped as she liked.
The costume plate shown above right illustrates a Romanised British lady in a stola and cloak wrap and to the centre is a Romanised British woman. The lady has an ornate trim around her cloak wrap, wears a snake bangle cuff piece of jewellery on her arm and holds bronze mirror or fan. Her hairstyle is similar to those shown below. Raid grandma's jewellery box for a large distinctive brooch to use as a cloak clasp.
This page is an original Roman Costume History and Fancy Dress Tips article by Pauline Weston Thomas 2008

Alma Tadema paintings

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