cl-Romans-art - 8/8/14
"Basic Roman Clothing" by Despotes Halfdan 'Two Bears' Ôzurrson.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This article was first published in the February 2014 issue of "The Dragon Tale", Barony of Selviergard, Principality of Oertha in the Kingdom of the West.
Basic Roman Clothing
by Despotes Halfdan 'Two Bears' Ozurrson
Roman fashion changed very little from late antiquity to the fall of the Western empire. The basics of Roman clothing, then, can be applied to the majority of the time frame in which the Society for Creative Anachronism is commonly explored. This is good news for those that may be interested in creating clothing from this little-represented culture.
Roman clothing is simple; an under layer, an outer layer, and any accessories that may be desired. Roman clothing would have been commonly made of linen and wool; materials that were abundant throughout the Empire. Additionally, attributes such as color, weight of the fabric, and even other types of decoration would have been a direct relationship to the wearer's social status within the Empire.
It would have been inappropriate to wear a toga or a stola without an undergarment called a tunica intima. Both men and women wore an undergarment that was usually undecorated or in some cases decorated with vertical stripes of color over the shoulders called clavi. The tunica intima was made of a rectangular cloth sewn into a tube and pinned around the shoulders. The tunica intima was commonly a sleeveless garment that reached to anywhere from above or at the knees in men or floor length for women.
The toga is, perhaps, the most distinctive garment of Ancient Rome. Worn only by citizens of the Empire, and then only by men after the 2nd century BCE, the toga is an over garment of status and pride. Togas were crafted of wool or even linen depending on the status of the wearer.
Toga colors had different meanings and are important to understand. The three common types of togas were: plain white togas, toga pura, were worn by worn by men of legal age, bleached white togas, or toga candida, reserved for candidates for public office and the toga praetexta, with a broad purple or crimson stripe on the back, used by youth, high ranking officials, and some priests. Other colors had special meaning within Roman society; purple was used strictly for the gods or in some cases emperors, black was used for mourners or during public anxiety, and yellow was only for certain members of the priesthood and the augers.
There are many misconceptions about the toga. Contrary to popular belief, the red border on the toga was worn in times of festivals and not specifically used as a sign of rank. Also, the shape of a toga is not rectangular as is commonly believed, but has a semicircular outline. The toga would be worn by holding the toga under the right arm, half behind, half in front. The back part is folded over the left shoulder, and the front part is then folded over the left shoulder as well, creating the well-known draping effect commonly associated with this article of clothing.
The stola is for women what the toga is for men; an over garment. The stola was less restricted in color than the toga, and usually found in a wide variety of solid colors and made of linen, wool, and sometimes silk. The stola is created by sewing two rectangles of cloth together and was buttoned or pinned at the top, allowing the arms and head to be free. The effect was a long, pleated dress that reached to the ankles.
While the stola was of a solid color, it could also be decorated with ribbon, pearls, or other types of decoration that would communicate the status of the wearer. Of course, the higher the status, the more intricate the decoration. The stola would also have been belted twice with narrow belt directly under the breasts and a wider one around the waist, although some depictions show a belt only around the waist.
Another overdress accessory for women was the palla, a rectangle of cloth that was worn as protection against the elements. The palla can be seen as a shawl or mantle used by Roman women. The color of the palla could be of almost any color with the exception of purple which was reserved, and similar to the stola, could be decorated or not.
The shape of the palla is rectangular, and large enough to be wrapped around the body, as seen in the picture above. It was wrapped similar to a toga but with enough differences to not be mistaken as one. The palla can be worn in any way, though it was common to hang one end of the palla over the left shoulder and wrap it around the back to bring the other end across the left forearm or back over the left shoulder. This allowed the back of the cloth to be placed over the back of the head, which allowed the wearer to uphold the Roman tradition that well-bred women should cover their head in public. Additionally, the palla could be draped around the shoulders, as in the modern shawl, or even around the hips.
A Note on Pants
Pants in the Roman Empire only gained relative popularity towards the end of the Western Empire. Pants were seen as something that only barbarians wore, such as the German tribes and the Persians. Even in later years, conservative Romans considered the use of pants as a sign of the cultural decay.
Roman clothing was meant to reveal the social status of the wearer in a society that considered such things very important. The more important or distinguished the person was, the more the clothing was decorated accordingly. It is important to remember that when creating Roman clothing we are all considered nobility in the Society for Creative Anachronism; so you shouldn't feel that you need to stick with simple clothing or decoration.
You will want to think about adding other items to complete your Roman clothing. These other items include: jewelry, shoes, and headwear.
Roman clothing can easily be utilized for some of our hotter summer days or to take part in a Roman themed event. Or, you may even find Roman clothing so comfortable that you will want to wear it all the time at events.
Because Roman clothing is relatively easy to create, it is definitely an option for those just starting out creating clothing for themselves. Additionally, Roman clothing is a viable option for those people who would like to just stand out from the crowd at events in something that is truly exceptional with a wide range of possibilities.
Copyright 2014 by Travis Abe-Thomas, PO Box 2254, Palmer, AK 99645. Thomassorngrym at yahoo.com. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.