Category:Roman Clothing and Equipment

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Much of the information about military equipment is taken from the official Handbook of Legio XX and is used with their kind permission. The standards presented by this unit closely follow historical standards and should be seen as useful guidance for anyone interested in historical Roman reenactments. Civilian clothing and accoutrements must adhere to the same standards as for military gear. Fabric should be 100% linen or wool, or cotton or silk in some cases. Any exposed stitching should be done by hand.

Men's clothing

Basic men's clothing is very simple, consisting of the tunica and footwear.

The civilian tunic is identical to the military one, but can be any reasonable color. The most common style seems to have been sleeveless with a slit neck opening. Senators wore a white tunic with two broad (3" wide) verticle purple stripes (clavi) running from shoulder (at the end of the neck slit) to hem. Equestrians were permitted to wear narrow (1") purple clavi. These stripes are also seen on tunics of common people or even slaves, in colors other than purple on white. The tunic is worn with a narrow cloth or leather belt so that it just covers the knee.

The chiton is the Greek tunic, made like the woman's peplos with an overhanging fold of cloth which reaches almost to the waist.

At official events and feasts, a man, especially a politician or a businessman, would always appear in toga, the national symbol of Roman citizenship. The size and draping of the toga varied over time from a very simple and common garment to a large and uncomfortable ceremonial investiture, worn only by a few as a distinctive signifier of the power and culture of the Roman state.

Cloaks include the paenula, laena, lacerna, sagum, and the Greek himation. The latter two are rectangular, and the paenula is semicircular or oval (see the page on military cloaks), but it is impossible to say how the various types differed from one another. The lacerna seems to have been semi-circular and pinned at the right shoulder, and laena often referred to a circular or semi-circular cloak worn by a priest, and clasped in back. But references are confusing and contradictory, and terms might have been somewhat interchangable. (Do you wear a coat or a jacket with your shirt and tie?) The cucullus is hooded and made like the paenula, but reached only to the chest or waist. It was popular with lower-class workers and slaves.

The subligaculum is a loincloth worn as underwear. It can be a simple breechclout, a strip of cloth approximately 6" to 12" wide passing under the crotch and hung over a belt at front and back, or it could be a rectangle with ties at the corners. The latter style may also be called a perizoma. Gladiators are seen wearing something like trunks or shorts with an apron-like effect at the front. How common any form of underwear might have been is unknown.

Women's clothing

The tunica is also the basic woman's garment, similar to a man's tunic but longer. It is 26" to 40"+ wide and reaches to the ankles when belted. It is generally sleeveless, and the neckline is a horizontal slit made by leaving part of the top seam unsewn. The top can also be held with brooches instead of being sewn. When worn as an undergarment the tunica is best made of fine white linen, but otherwise can be colored linen or wool.

The stola is the distinctive garment of a married Roman woman, but it is unclear exactly how it differed from the tunica. Apparently it was pleated vertically and pinned or buttoned along the top edge. It should be quite wide, and long enough to cover the tunica even when belted up. There can be one belt at the waist, with the fabric bloused over it, or a second belt under the bust as well.

Another option is the Greek peplos. It is made of 2 large rectangles, approximately 45" wide by at least 60" high (or a single panel of that total size, with the top edge folded down and the folded edges pinned together at the shoulders. If the sides are sewn closed, no armhole is left; the arms go through the "top" slit on either side of the neck opening. The overhanging fabric can either end above the waist to show the material which is bloused over the waistbelt, or the garment can be made tall enough for the overhang to extend almost to the knees.

The palla is a large rectangular wrap, at least 5' by 9'. It is roughly equivalent to a man's toga, but was always worn by a decent woman in public, and could be put on in a number of ways. Various wraps or cloaks were also worn.

The strophium is the Roman brassiere. It is a band of soft linen 6" to 8" wide (or a folded wider strip), long enough to go around the body at least twice. It can be worn in several ways, for example placing the center of the band at the back and crossing the ends in front to support the breasts, then wrapping the ends around and tucking them in again. Evidence is scarce, however, and pins or ties may have been used.

While the tunica often served as an undergarment, there are also references to the supparum, subucula, and (for matrons) indusium, which may all be slip-like garments, hanging from the waist. Dancing girls are shown wearing "bikini briefs", and a pair of woman's panties made of leather have been found, but it is not known if these were common items of apparel.

Hair styles were amazingly varied. While upper-class women favored elaborate arrangements of curls and ties, simpler hairdos involved coiled braids or a bun at the back. Wigs were used, and those made with red or blond hair were desireably exotic. Traditionally, girls and women tied their hair back with thin woolen bands called vittae, which were considered spiritual protection. Mature Roman women would always cover their heads with a veil or part of the palla when out in public.


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