Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Antiquity Called - They Want Their Clothes Back

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.


  1. Balenciaga is going to knock you off before you know it. I will testify on your behalf.

  2. would think that the the chiton would be made out of the exoskeletons of bugs.

  3. Looks good! Although probably not the most practical garments for, say, your average bricklayer, postman/woman or dog-catcher. However, I can definitely see sheet-type clothing being popular with the over 60s: breezy, comfortable, cheap and embarrassing for relatives.

  4. It's getting awfully warm up here in the Netherlands so I can see the appeal of the chiton. But if women are going to wear clinging garments that leave one breast bare, the men better be wearing this:,+ba,+cpt+006.jpg

    I hope your man card is still intact after this ordeal.

  5. Heh. I've also noticed that the ancients liked to go armless. Very stylish!

  6. Hey, a fashion post!

    I always knew toga-party attendees where whorey!
    ; )

  7. WendyB, lol, thanks I knew I could count on you.

    Mjenks, yes, sexy sexy bugs, haha...

    the girl, yes, for bricklaying, I'm pretty sure that tunics were de riguer.

    Dutch Donut Girl, who said life was fair? And, I'm not clicking on that link, I got burned last time. Yep, man card still in pocket...

    :) Heather, good point. In Italian there is an expression 'my arms are falling off' which could either mean 'I'm in a bad mood' or literally, someones arms are falling off like a statue ...if someone could remain composed enough to say that in the latter case. I would like to think they could.

    Soda, haha, just the girls that didn't get their stola and palla on...

  8. I'm going to have to use that expression sometime. What's the Italian?

  9. Man, those raunchy Romans with their lady-bit enhancing clothing. I bet they didn't wear underwear either, so much easier to join in all those orgies.

    You wrote this while draped in a bed sheet didn't you?

  10. Heather, 'far cadere mi braccia',
    *said with a glum look*, would get the point across. I hear you know Spanish pretty well, so I would wager a guess it would be easy for you to pick up this Italian language stuff. ;)

    Vegetable Assassin, haha, no, I was not wearing a bed sheet. Do with that what you will.

  11. Bring back the chiton!

  12. I would still wear some of those clothes today...even the matter what it said about me! my toga would have to be hot pink, naturally.

    that first guy outfit looks a lot like the second girl outfit.

    Guys are hot in skirts, eh? err...long dresses.

  13. Shawn, I second that, do we hear a motion to adjourn?

    Lopez, that would be cool, unless it was to boot camp!!! Yeah, they do look kind of the same.
    No, Lopez, the do not look hot...

  14. Hmm. Didn't know all that draping was actually considered everyday fashion, and not just something you do with the bedsheets when one of your boyfriend's roommates walks in on the both of you. That's only for every other day fashion.

  15. eric for some reason, your blog is impossible for me to comment on from my bb, so it takes forever till I use my pc.

    question for ya - did the roman babes wear bras? was their some kind of bra system so that their boobs didnt sag?

  16. TishTash, when that happens, do you take the time to fold it all up correctly and drape starting over the left shoulder?

    Mr. C, I think they might have because this mosaic seems to show under-garmenty type clothing.

  17. That breast-open style is so like my interview outfit - no need for underwear!

  18. Check out my blog today : )

  19. Lulu, care to submit a resume? lol

    Soda, thanks! I'm proud to be a part of blogging history

  20. Oh, I am SO glad that I missed this fashion. The lack of a foundation garment after a "certain age" is hard to think about.

    On the other hand, you'd always have a handkerchief.


  21. Pearl, lol, a really large hankey...