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Roman Clothing Essay Research Paper ROMAN CLOTHING

Roman Clothing Essay, Research Paper


Much of Roman clothing was designed to reveal the social status of its wearer, particularly for freeborn men. You could tell from what class the person is from and sometimes what they did. The men would wear tunics. There were three basic types of tunics. See Diagram.

Production and Cleaning of Garments: Typically, Roman garments were made of wool. In the early Republic, women spun the fleece into thread and wove the cloth in the home, and doubtless many women of the less wealthy classes continued this practice throughout the history of Rome. By the late Republic, however, upper-class Roman women did not spin and weave. Instead, slaves did the work within the household or cloth was purchased commercially, and Romans could also buy cloth made of linen, cotton, or silk. Garments were cleaned by fullers using chemicals such as sulfur and especially human urine.

Undergarments: We do not know a great deal about Roman underclothes, but there is evidence that both men and women wore a simple, wrapped loincloth (subligar) at least some of the time; male laborers wore the subligar when working, but upper-class men may have worn it only when exercising. Women also sometimes wore a band of cloth or leather to support the breasts (strophium or mamillare).

Footwear: Sandals with open toes were the proper footwear for wearing indoors. There were many different designs, from the practical to elegant Shoes, which encased the foot and covered the toes. Which was considered appropriate for outdoors and were always worn with the toga; when visiting, upper class Romans removed their shoes at the door and slipped on the sandals that had been carried by their slaves. There were no dramatic gender differences in Roman footwear though upper-class males (equestrians, patricians, and senators) wore distinctive shoes that marked their status; the patrician shoes, for example, were red.

The basic item of male dress was the tunic, made of two pieces of undyed wool sewn together at the sides and shoulders and belted in such a way that the garment just covered the knees. Openings for the arms were left at the top of the garment, creating an effect of short sleeves when the tunic was belted; since tunics were usually not cut in a T-shape, this left extra material to drape under the arm. Men of the equestrian class were entitled to wear a tunic with narrow stripes, in the color the Romans called purple, extending from shoulder to hem, while broad stripes distinguished the tunics of men of the senatorial class. Working men and slaves wore the same type of tunic, usually made of coarser, darker wool, and they frequently hitched the tunic higher over their belts for freer movement. The toga was the national garment of Rome. Only male citizens were allowed to wear the toga. It was made of a large woolen cloth cut with both straight and rounded edges; it was not sewn or pinned but rather draped carefully over the body on top of the tunic. The cloth was folded lengthwise and partly pleated at the fold, which was then draped over the left side of the body, over the left shoulder, under the right arm, and back up over the left arm and shoulder. It was held in place partly by the weight of the material and partly by keeping the left arm pressed against the body. The large overfold in the front of the body was called a sinus, and part of the material under this was pulled up and draped over the sinus to form the umbo. It was difficult to put the toga on properly by oneself, and prominent Romans had slaves who were specially trained to perform this function. Togas were costly, heavy, and cumbersome to wear; the wearer looked dignified and stately but would have found it difficult to do anything very active. Citizens were supposed to wear togas for all public occasions. The color of the toga was significant, marking differences in age and status. Although women had apparently worn togas in the early years of Rome, by the middle of the Republican era the only women who wore togas were common prostitutes. Thus the toga was a mark of honor for Roman men, but for women it had become a sign of disgrace.

Jewelry: Propriety demanded that adult male citizens wear only one item of jewelry, a personalized signet ring that was used to make an impression in sealing wax in order to authorize documents. Originally made of iron, these signet rings later came to be made of gold. Before the age of manhood, Roman boys wore a bulla, a large round locket on a chain containing protective amulets.


Women wear a stola, which indicated a woman’s marital status, not her social class or wealth. In addition, except for minor variations of color or fabric, women’s clothing styles were relatively simple and unchanging, so they had to emphasize elaborate hairstyles and jewelry in order to stand out from other women. At the time of her marriage, the Roman woman would wear a stola, a long, sleeveless tunic, frequently if not always suspended at the shoulders from short straps, which was worn on top of another tunic. It is probable that the stola was typically made of undyed wool. The stola was a symbol of marriage, and by the late Republic all women married according to Roman law were entitled to wear it. Not all did, of course, since it was not a particularly fashionable or flattering garment, but wearing the stola was a way for a woman to publicly proclaim her respectability and adherence to tradition.