As I was glancing (quickly) through some of the fashion and clothing blog posts from Wendy B, Heather Cherry, and others for as long as I could manage without losing my man card, or becoming distracted by squirrels, I was starting to wonder exactly what it was the ancient Romans used to wear.
Sure, I had seen thousands of ancient women and men shown in statue, mosaic, fresco, and relief forms. But the most thought I had given it was, 'yes, they are wearing clothes of some kind.' Or, 'oh wow (oh gross), she (he) is not wearing clothes of any kind.' Well that, and it all seemed to be cotton or wool, since polyester and rayon were out of style a few thousand years ago.
There is more to it all than just togas. Women who wore togas were apparently advertising that they were 'working girls'. So anyone reading this should bear that in mind for the next frat party on the todo list.
The women had a few clothing options. One way to go was with something called a chiton, which is my favorite thing for ancient women to wear. It is a super thin fine fabric sewn above the shoulders and draped low, but usually belted. Here is an example expertly carved onto the Venus-Genetrix.
As an option with the chiton, the girls might have put a rectangular sheet of wool (called a himation or the heavier diplax) over this for a bit of controllable modesty.
All this extra rectangular sheetage was typically draped forward over the left shoulder, then wrapped behind and around. Evidence shows wearing it on the right side signaled that you listened to lame music. Typically, they would fasten all these wrapped sheets together over a shoulder with a pin (fibulae). Also pulling part of it over the back of your head indicated chastity and/or reverence.
Another option for the girls was to start with a base tunic (long shirt gown thing down to the ankles for women), and add over that a long sleeveless dress called a stola. Then if the weather was a little iffy or if they were worried about looking too brazenly promiscuous, it was topped off with a palla (yet another wrap around rectangular sheet).
Or as a last option, the girls could wear just the regular ankle length tunic if hanging out around home or if it was casual friday at the office.
The men would wear a toga at least when conducting business or in the forum. Togas themselves are actually elongated octagons and not the rectagular bedsheets that most college kids fold up (more accurately called a himation).
In a more casual setting, the men could wear a tunic (calf length shirt belted), or a himation (rectangular sheet draped and wrapped, then pinned). Or if you were a general or soldier, a tunic with appropriate armor. Here is a himation example.
So go hit the fabric store, and buy that blue leopard print wool blend, because now you have a few more options for the next costume party you might attend. Or, if you are really fun, wear one of these to a non-costume party.
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