Roman Clothing

The clothes of Ancient Rome were very similar to those of Ancient Greece except that the rectangular Chiton was lengthened into the crescent-shaped Toga.

The Toga
The Toga was a crescent-shaped piece of fabric, with one straight edge. It was similar to the Chiton of Greece and originally worn by Roman men and women. In the first two centuries it seems to have been their only garment. The distinguishing factor was the material from which it was made. Higher classes wore fine wool, lower classes wore coarser cloth or thin felt.

The toga went out of fashion for women, and peasants wore a shorter more practical type of garment. So the toga became the upper-class mans garment.

It could be worn in several ways, as can be seen from these 2 pictures. Usually a nobleman needed the help of his man-servant to get the folds just right.

 

Borders of the Toga
The calvi was a small border around the toga, which defined the status of the wearer. Purple was for Royalty (After Augustus only Emperors could wear purple.) Black for the lower classes Red for the military Red and black for the Senate.

Tunica
This was a sleeved garment straight to mid-thigh, often tied at the waist with a belt or thread. In its earliest form, tunicas were always white and were known as TUNICA ALBA. Later on different colours were used, usually pale yellow, fawn or shades of brown. Soldiers wore rust red tunicas. The tunica (or colobium) could be worn by itself, or with a cloak (pallum) or under a toga. Sometimes several tunicas were worn. The Emperor Octavius, who was particularly sensitive to the cold, was known to wear four tunicas under his toga. When several were worn, the innermost was known as the SUBACULA and the upper ones TUNICA EXTERIODUM.


In the first century AD members of the Equestrian order on horseback, wore purple strips down the sides of their tunicas. These stripes were known as the Augustus Clavus and were a badge of rank. For meals at home, Romans wore a SYNTHESIS, a garment which combined the simplicity of the tunica above and the fullness of the Toga below the waist. In earlier times an embroidered tunic was worn alone called a TUNICA PALMATA. By about 200 AD Romans were wearing a long tunica down to the ankles known as a CARACALLA.

Palla
This was a cloak very similar to the Greek Himation. It was tied at one shoulder by a brooch, and could be worn over a toga or a tunica. It was made of light wool and was rectangular in shape.
Lecerna
Was a palla with a fitted hood, usually longer up to knee length and worn open and loose. Paenula This was a palla with hood, but made of thicker woollen cloth, usually used in bad weather. It was tight fitting and closed at the front.

Subligaculum
This was an under garment, like a loin cloth, worn below all other clothing. It was made of wool or linen, and tied with a knot. The gladiators wore only this garment, covered by their armour. Roman

Womens Clothing
Under garments Women wore a breast band called a STROPHIUM , and a fitted underwear called a ZONA. Over this they wore a woollen or linen Subucula, an under-tunic. Here we see a picture of a mosaic showing the first Bikini, from Roman times.

Tunica
Noble Roman women wore a short tunic of luxurious silk, decorated with gold fringes, or a short outer garment called a SAPPARUM with short sleeves, made of linen. Matrons often wore a long TALARIS dress, with sleeves, lengthened by a pleated train.

Stolla
This was a kind of Greek chiton worn only be women in Roman times. It was worn over the tunic and held on the hips with a wide, flat belt called a SUCCINETA. Another girdle was tied just below the bust called the CINGULAM. This was the women's Toga, and it could be tied in several ways.

Palla
The cloak, similar to menswear, could be worn so as to cover the head and shoulders for warmth or a decorative garment over a plainer tunic or stolla. Roman ladies decorated one or all of these three garments, in many different ways to achieve the best effect.