cl-Rom-Brit-art - 10/17/95


"Basic Romano British Costume" by Sion Glas.


NOTE: See also the files: Roman-Wales-bib, Roman-Recipes-art, Roman-hygiene-msg, Arthur-msg, Arthur-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at:


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


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Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at



From: pp003060 at (Laurie Brandt)


Subject: Basic Romano-British Costume

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 18:16:21 -0500

Organization: the Polyhedron Group


Basic Romano British Costume


By Sion Glas


Art by

Lovenia O'Bannon





In an Era of legend and Myth, very little is known about the

Romano-British. The clothing of late Roman and Post Roman Britain is well

documented in coins, stone carvings, and written descriptions. So too is

the garb of the early Welsh, and early Saxon England. I will not go into

the attire of Ireland of the period, for others have done a far better

job, and the most of what I could say would be mearly repeating their



The focus of this class will be on three cultures, the Romano-British, the

Continental Germanic Tribes, and the Byzantines. Though there is a great

deal of overlap, as well as late Roman/Greek survivals in attire.


The Doric Chiton continues to be worn, as well as the Roman Stola, Dalmic,

and Palla. However, all of these are worn in decreasing frequency so as to

be all but gone by the end of the Romano-British Era.



The Sagum


The Sagum was a simple cloak worn by almost everybody in the period. It

was a rectangle of material approximately three meters long and 1.3 to 1.5

meters wide, made most commonly of wool, linen, or fur. The Sagum could be

just a simple piece of fabric, or a ornately decorated and lined garment.

the seeming only group not to use the garment were the Byzantine men, who

commonly wore a semicircular cloak with a pair of highly decorated panels.

The cloak is called a Paludamntum, and the panels are called Tablion. The

Paludamntum seemed to be for formal wear, but could just as easily have

been for daily wear.



British/Byzantine Men


The men of both Constantinople and Britain, seem to wear, basically the

same clothing, differing only in decoration and the cloaks they chose to


The British men wearing the sagum, and the Byzantine men wearing the



The tunics worn by came in two types, the Byzantine Dalmic, and the Coptic

Dalmic. The Byzantine Dalmicis a modified T tunic with long moderately

tight sleeves, coming at least to the wrist, and flaring at the waist,

coming to a bell shape, and falling to the mid-thigh, or to just below the

knee, depending on the preference of the wearer.


The Coptic Dalmic on the other hand was a very baggy T tunic that belted

and bloused at the waist to suit the wearer's needs and desires. Both of

these garments were usually decorated at the collar, cuffs, and hem, with

embroidery or simple bands of fabric. These tunics often had matching

strips of decoration running from both shoulders to the hem, these

decorated strips were called  Clavi and were related to the old roman

decorations of the same name.


The Pants, sometimes called Braies, Trews, Bracce, or any of a half dozen

other names, can be best described as pajama pants coming to just below

the ankle, though in western Britain, the hill tribesmen, often wore the

length to just above the knee. Also in western Britain, a type of pants

were worn that looked very much like a pair of modern dancers leg warmers.


The final mens garment is the supertunic. The supertunic is basically a

shorter version of the womans supertunic to be discussed late The coptic,

dalmic, could, and often was worn as a supertunic by Byzantine men.



Romano-British Women


The British woman had a much wider choice in clothing than her Byzantine,

Irish, or Germanic sisters. Whereas she would wear the same under tunic as

a Byzantine woman, a floor length version of the mens dalmic, with fewer

decorations, she could wear several styles of over tunic or gown.


The first style of over tunic for the British woman was a early model of

the Romanesque gown, having, short sleeves, and a hem that fell between

the mid thigh and the floor, This tunic also had a gentle bell shape,

starting just below the arms.


The next style was the Byzantine Stola, a gown very similar to the first

style, but having long sleeves that had a tapering angel-wing. This tunic

also usually came down to the ankle, and sometimes to the floor.


The third womans over tunic is a bell shaped, floor length, sleeveless

gown, with little, if any, decoration or trim of any kind.


Any of the above gowns could, and in the case of the Byzantine stola

would, be trimmed as much as any mans tunic.


The next garment a British woman could wear was... The Supertunic.


Whereas the other gowns could be made of linen, silk or in Constantinople,

cotton, the supertunic was most often made of heavy wool. the reason for

this was the primary purpose of the over tunic, WARMTH!!! In a cold and

damp climate such as Britain, this was very important! The second purpose

for the supertunic seems to be a reason that we can all understand,

conspicuous consumption.


The supertunic came in three basic styles, the gathered, the pleated, and

a version that was a combination of the first two.


The gathered supertunic is made by making a sleeveless chemise, a tube

with arm slots and a drawstring. The pleated supertunic on the other hand,

is made by making a box tunic and then pleating the "shoulders" with a odd

number of matching pleats on each side.


The third style of supertunic, I am unsure as how to make, but it should

not be too difficult to work out.


As mentioned earlier the supertunic was also worn by men, the major

difference between the way that men and women wore the supertunic was

that, women could wear it loose or belted and bloused, whereas the men

would normally wear the supertunic in the bloused style. The only other

difference was that the womans supertunic was usually longer in length.


Over all the British woman would wear the sagum.



Germanic Men


The Germanic man is the easiest to describe the costume for, being well

documented in bog finds, carvings, and literary sources. These sources

range from the writings of Julius Ceaser, the Canterbury Psalter the

carvings of Germanic prisoners of war in Rome, to the Sutton Hoo grave



In the early part of the period the average Germanic tribesman wore only

three basic garments, a simple T tunic, a pair of pants of either knee or

ankle length, and finally the near ubiquitous sagum. All of these garments

are described by Julius Ceaser as being made of leather, or fur. The bog

finds on the other hand show that while the sagum was often made of fabric

lined fur, the other garments were often made of linen or wool. It could

be that the bodies found were wearing ritual clothing, or they could have

been wearing their daily clothing. I am unsure as to which to believe, the

researchers in the field often disagree on the matter.


As time goes on, contact with outside cultures cause a change from the old

"Traditional" attire, to clothing more like that of their British enemies,

differing only in workmanship, and decoration.



Germanic Women


The Germanic Woman's clothing of the Romano-British era is very difficult

to document. The bog finds and literary reports show that Germanic women

wore only four simple garments. These garments were, a gathered wraparound

skirt, a short sleeved tunic coming just below the woman's breasts called

the camasi, a vest with a extremely plunging neckline, and a sagum of

either heavy wool, or fabric lined fur.


The carvings of captured German women in Rome however show the tribeswomen

wearing Greek style chitons, and manuscript illuminations them wearing the

latest in local fashion. The reasons for this could be that the artist had

never seen a German woman in proper attire, or that the artist had only

seen the women in the garb shown. In the case of the manuscripts however,

it was most likely that the monks thought that such clothing was sinful

and illustrated these women in more modest attire.


The camasi and vest, I feel need more comment. Though the vest was most

commonly worn by a high ranking woman, it and the camasi have in  common,

the easy access to the woman's breasts. The reasons for this could be

many, enticement, comfort, fashion, or any number of other reasons. My

personal belief is for a much more practical reason, in short, Baby must

be fed! These garments would make nursing an infant much more easy than

most other garments available to women in the period.


Once in Britain the Germanic woman, like the men, start wearing the same

clothing as the British women. Again, like the men the main difference

between Saxon and Celt is in the area of decoration. The only real

holdover is the camasi, which lengthens and becomes highly decorated.



Byzantine Women


The clothing of Byzantine women is both easiest to describe. and the

hardest. The reason for this is. while the basic garments did not change

for over one thousand years. the accessories changed on a near constant



The base clothing of the Byzantine woman is simple to describe a palla,

stola, and undertunic.


The under tunic is a simple bell shaped tunic, with close fitting overlong

sleeves. The hem of the over tunic would be long enough to reach the



The Stola is a bell shaped gown, of ankle length. with tapering angel wing

sleeves that reach to the wrist.


The palla is our old friend the sagum, but normally of a fine grade of fabric.


All of these garments are to be highly decorated. In many cases they are

trimmed in much the same way as the mens clothing, but in some cases the

stola was used to show the height of decadence. In the mosaics in Ravanna

Italy one of the attendants of the empresses Theodora is shown with  the

twelve apostles embroidered on the hem of her stola. There are also

stories of prostitutes having their specialty displayed on the cuffs and

hem of their gowns. How accurate this last story is I am unsure. because I

only found it once during a search for another subject, and was not able

to find it again.


On her head a well dressed woman would wear a decorated roll of fabric

that was worn over a light veil.



Bigelow, Mary S. Fashion in History


Boucher, Francois 20,000 Years of Fashion


Fairfax, Proudfit, Walkup Dressing the Part


Payne, Blanche History of Costume


Stibbert, Fredick Civil and Military Clothing in Europe

Plates # 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

GIFs to follow


Laurie E. W. Brandt|aka Her Ladyship, Pegasus Devona, A.o.A., G.d's.

5814 Gloucester Ln.|    Barony of Bryn Gwlad, Kingdom of Ansteorra

Austin, Tx 78723   |Gules, a pegasus rampent within a bourder argent.

                   |Society for Creative Anachronism Membership #04720



From: blktauna at (Donna Bowers)


Subject: Re: Basic Romano-British Costume

Date: 22 Apr 1995 13:58:31 GMT

Organization: Philadelphia's Complete Internet Provider


I have a bit of trouble agreeing with your comments about the Rhomanoi


The actual shape of the stola did change quite a bit over 1000 years, and

has emerged into 4 distinctive overall shapes

-the chiton

-the A line dress with bell sleeves, like Theodora's in Ravenna

-The high necked, sleeves tight to the elbow then flaring, slimmer bell

shape like Empress Irene

-The beginning of the Kaftan shape with narrower sleeves and buttons down

the front.


The accepted spots for decoration were varied over the centuries as well.

I also take exception to your use of decadence.<G> Conspicouos

consumption, a need to impress the lesser folks with the superiority of

Rome and the actual ability to pay for imperial silks do not really add

up to decadencs...


As for the cloak, yes I too find that the semi-circular cloak was more

popular in Rome, but the tablions were reserved for the Emperor and at

times members of the Imperial family alone. Very bad form for a commoner

to be wearing those...


Men's clothing also varied quite a bit over the thousand years of Rome.

Sorry for wasting the bandwidth on a long reply but this is my area of

interest. See the CA on the Eastern Roman Empire #75 I think. I wrote it...




blktauna at

<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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