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Roman Clothing

· Ancient Rome ·
Toga - Tunica

·Nova Roma·
Making a toga - Making a tunic

Emperor Titus in classical Roman toga

For making and wearing a toga, see Toga (Nova Roma).


The toga developed over time from the simple, common and possibly sole garment of the Roman people to become the distinctive signifier of the power and culture of the Roman state, "...inseparable from every manifestation of their civic activity"[1] . Romans conceived of themselves as "Romans, masters of the world, the togate people"[2] .

Social meaning of the toga

Toga were sometimes given as gifts by patrons to clients. Martial complains when the price of his expected gift is spent elsewhere (book X number xxix):

Quam mihi mittebas Saturni tempore lancem,

Misisti dominae, Sextiliane, tuae;

Et quam donabas dictis a Marte Kalendis,

De nostra prasina est synthesis empta toga.

Iam constare tibi gratis coepere puellae:

Muneribus futuis, Sextiliane, meis.

Types of the toga

As far as the colouring of the wool itself, there were several types of toga:

Toga virilis (or toga pura)
The ordinary citizen's toga. It is undyed, and thus off-white or cream coloured.
Toga praetexta
The toga worn by current and former curule magistrates (and also by boys under the age of 16). It bears the purple stripe, the width of which varies according to the wearer. Senators did not wear the toga praetexta unless they held previously a curule magistracy.
Toga candida
The stark-white toga worn by candidates running for office. The English word "candidate" comes from this usage.
Toga pulla
A dark toga, either brown, dark gray, or even black, worn while in mourning.
Toga picta
A special toga worn only by military commanders being given a triumph. It is pure purple with decorations in golden thread.
Toga trabea
A multi-coloured toga, bearing purple and scarlet stripes, worn by Augurs.

Evolution of the toga

Semicircular form.

The early toga

This was the original semicircular form in the republican times until the end of the 2nd century BC, which can be seen on this statue:

Development during the 2nd-1st c. BCE

Enlargement of the toga

In the end of the 2nd century BCE, the aristocracy started to enlarge their toga to have a more impressive draping. They increased the width of the material bigger and bigger through the decades.

Now they had a very large toga draped the way seen on this statue, and a bit later, this version of draping became even more popular at the end of the republic with the sinus, seen on this statue:

The "classical" toga - theories about its shape

Modern reconstruction of the classical Roman toga
Theory 1. Classical toga with the even cutting

But having this new fashion of draping and the large measure of the material, they had a problem caused by the lots of material in the corners "x" and "y". The last end of the toga falling from the back and its first part under the visible draping downstage were getting to be very unwieldy, because, if the corners are not enough narrow, the first and last parts of the toga become too podgy that makes it very bad to drap. Also, the Roman aristocracy continued to increase the width of the toga to have a larger sinus, and it caused even more problems because of those corners with "too much material", so finally they simply started to cut down the corners:

Theory 2. Toga with the ellipsis-form

An other hypothesis says that they cut it down in a semicircular way, so they had an oval, ellipsis-like shape:

Though we don't know the final answer, the even cutting seems more likely because it is a more simple solution; anyway, the Romans now had this variant of the toga that is called "imperial", and was worn mostly during the principate. However, "classical toga" is a better name for this variant, because it is which became the most symbolic and characteristic version of the Roman toga.

In the photo at left, you can see a reconstruction of the classical toga which is made according to the "Theory 1": compare it yourselves with ones on the Roman statues, like this, or this, or this and so on...

The toga of the Late Empire

After the 2nd c. AD, a new, much more shorter fashion became popular, seen on this statue. This new variant opened the way for this type of the toga, one very characteristic of the Late Empire which existed together with several other, longer and larger variants, like this (the one at right).


  1. Carcopino, J. (1940). Daily Life in Ancient Rome. E. Lorimer trans.
  2. Aeneid I.284: Iupiter refers to the Romans as "Romanos rerum dominos gentemque togatam"


The World of Roman Costume

J.L. Sebesta, L. Bonfante. (2001). Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-13854-2
Pp. xviii, 272. Review at BMCR
Buy from Amazon: Canada UK USA

The Roman Toga

Lillian May Wilson. (June 8, 2006). Kessinger Publishing, LLC. ISBN 1428630759
Paperback, reprint, originally published 1924.
Buy from Amazon: Canada UK USA



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