Ancient Rome Clothing and Fashion

What materials did they use?

Most of the clothing worn in Ancient Rome was made of wool. Wool was made throughout Italy and much of the Roman Empire both in the home and commercially. Sometimes clothes were made from rare materials such as linen from Egypt, cotton from India, and silk from China.

Did they use bright colors?

Men generally wore white or off-white colored clothing. There were certain colors or markings that showed the status of a man. Women wore white clothing until they were married. Once married, they wore clothing in a variety of colors.

Men’s Clothing

Men’s Clothing in Ancient Rome Source: Costumes of All Nations by Albert Kretschme

Tunic – The most common type of clothing for men was the tunic. The tunic was like a long shirt. It varied in length from just above the knees to the ankles. A belt was used about the waist to keep it tight.

Toga – The toga was worn by upper class men outside the home or at official occasions. The toga was a large piece of cloth around 18 feet long and 6 feet wide. It was wrapped and draped around the wearer according to the latest style. Togas were very heavy and uncomfortable.

Cloaks – Roman men also wore a wide variety of cloaks to stay warm in bad weather. Examples of cloaks include the lacerna, the paenula, the birrus, and the pallium.

Underclothes – Roman men also wore underclothes such as a loincloth or a light under-tunic.

Women’s Clothing

Women’s Clothing in Ancient Rome Source: Costumes of All Nations by Albert Kretschmer

Tunic – The most common form of clothing for women was the tunic. It was the primary garment worn by peasants and unmarried women. The women’s tunic was typically longer than the men’s.

Stola – The stola was the traditional form of clothing worn by married Roman women. The stola was a long pleated dress held on by belts. It could be decorated with ribbons and colors.

Cloaks – Like the men, women wore cloaks on top of their clothes in cold or bad weather. The palla was a typical cloak worn over the stola and fastened with broaches.

Underclothes – The typical underclothes worn by a woman was a closely fitted light tunic.

Shoes

Most Romans wore open sandals made from leather. Other types of shoes included closed boots called calcei and open shoes (sort of between a sandal and shoe) called crepida.

Hairstyles

Hairstyles changed throughout the history of Ancient Rome. Typical artwork from the middle to late stages of the Roman Republic shows men having fairly short hair and being clean shaven. This changed somewhat during the Roman Empire when beards and curly hair were in fashion.

Women’s hairstyles varied widely. Wealthy women had their hair curled, pinned into place, plaited in the back, or put into a bun. Hairstyles became much more elaborate during the peak of the Roman Empire.

Jewelry

Jewelry was mostly worn by women. Wealthy women wore a wide variety of jewelry including earrings, necklaces, tiaras, and bracelets. Men usually only wore rings.

Interesting Facts About the Clothing of Ancient Rome

  • The exomis was a type of tunic used by working men that only went over one shoulder.
  • Children often wore an amulet called a bulla to protect them from evil spirits.
  • Ancient Romans also wore makeup to enhance their eyes and cheeks, and to cover skin blemishes.
  • The “toga praetexta” had a wide purple border. It was only worn by senators and magistrates. The width of the stripes indicated the status of the official.
  • Dark clothing was worn during times of mourning.
  • Candidates running for political office wore a special kind of pure white toga called a “toga candida.”
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