History of Fashion in the Roman Period

Last updated on September 25th, 2023 at 11:42 pm

The life of the Roman Empire is commonly reckoned from 53BC to 500AD. Rome exerted a dominant influence on the manners and customs of entire known world. The city of Rome was established by Romulus. This civilization flourished for four centuries. Later, it was divided into two-East and West. As usual, there were rich and poor people and there was a difference in the clothing of the two.

History of Fashion in the Roman Period

The costumes of the poor had a single piece garment called a tunic. The rich wore tunic with a loin cloth. However, the most important garment in the Roman period was a Toga. It was the principle garment of the Romans. It was directly copied by the Greek draped costume. Togas, made in different colors had a semi-circular stylish cloth. Only the Emperor was allowed to wear the gold and purple (royal color) toga. Blue was the color for philosophy, black for theology, and green for medicine. High class citizens wore the toga of pure white wool.

The peasants were permitted one color only, officers were allowed two color garments, commanders three, and royal households could use up to seven. It was usually draped on the figure by starting at the left foot. The straight edge was taken over the shoulder and arm, passed across the back, and under the right arm. It was then carried across the chest, over the left shoulder, and the remaining portion was left hanging down the back.

The width of the material under the right arm was often turned over, giving the effect of a second drapery. The material of the straight edge of the first section, which passed over the left shoulder, was given a draped effect by being pulled out and adjusted loosely over the top part. The loose portion of the back of the right shoulder was sometimes fastened at the belt, forming a sleeve. If the ends were too long, they could be shortened by tying knots in the cloth near the ends. Sometimes the ends were allowed to sweep the ground. This was looked upon as a sign of high rank and great dignity of the wearer.

Roman period fashion

Toga Candida was dyed especially in white and was worn by persons contesting as candidates for elections. The poor and the working class wore toga of dark colored wool. Foreigners could not wear toga. Romans who wore toga were called Togatus. Tunica was the undergarment of Romans. The Romans categorized their garment in to two classes:

  • The indumenta (undergarment)
  • The amictus (outer garments)

The tunica was the Greek chiton but sewn at the shoulders. This undergarment tunica was the main garment of working class. The Roman women wore undergarment similar to the Greek Women’s. The breast band was called mamillare. It was same as Greeks. They also wore a fitted loin-cloth. Subucura was another undergarment. It was a woolen garment like the tunica. High class ladies wore the silk tunica. Outer garment, Amicuts was either a long talarus gown as stola.

Stola was a typical outer garment of Roman Woman. It was long and loose, fastened along the body with two belts. The belt or girdle was an indispensible part of the dress. It was made of various materials, suited to the rank or wealth of the wearer. Often the girdle was hidden by upper part of the stola falling over it. Roman women wore the panel called instisa. This was made of cloth and was tied from the lower belt to the ground.

Hair dressing was one of the main activities of the Roman women. The ladies of the Roman Empire frizzled and curled their hair in most elaborate fashion, adorning it with garlands of flowers, fillets, and ribbons of various colors, besides ornaments of gold, pearl and precious stones. They made curls and waves and also wore wigs. Roman man arranged his hair like emperors. The philosophers permitted the hair and beard to grow, to give them an air of gravity. If necessary, they would also curl their hair with curling irons. Then, he would perfume himself, paint his face and decorate with patches. He took bath in the evening rather than the morning.

Women particularly wore many ornaments like belts with gold and silver and precious stones. Both men and women wore many jeweled rings. The hair was tied up at the top by combs and pins. These pins and combs were made up of wood, ivory or bones. Prostitutes were made to wear yellow colored wigs or dye their hair yellow.

Roman period shoe

There was very less difference in Greek and Roman footwear. The usual outdoor shoes worn by both men and women were calscious. It was a shoe with leather sole and leather straps criss-crossing over the foot. In the house, the Romans simply wore sandals called solea. It was leather sole which was tied by cords. Women wore decorative slippers.

Cosmetics, washes, paints and perfumes were lavishly used by Roman women. White led to soften the skin and vermilion to tint. It was constantly employed by both the sexes.

In the military costumes too, the toga was worn. The soldiers wrapped it around the waist. Underneath, they wore the tunica. Like the Greek soldiers, they wore boots with thick sole and many leather straps.

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He is Abu Sayed, the founder of the blog site Textile Apex. He is a Textile Engineer having eight years plus practical experience in the Textile and Clothing industries. With a deep love for fashion and a keen eye for detail, he combines his creative flair with extensive knowledge to offer insightful and engaging content to his readers.
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