From the Website of  LEGIO XX--The Twentieth Legion

January  1,  2001


       In general, civilian clothing and accoutrements must adhere to the same standards as for military gear.  Fabric should be 100% linen or wool, or cotton or silk with prior approval.  Any exposed stitching should be done by hand.  The following descriptions are very rudimentary, and you are strongly urged to DO SOME RESEARCH, especially on decoration and jewelry, before making your clothing.


       The TUNICA is the basic women's garment, similar to a man's tunic but longer.  It is 26" to 40+" wide and reaches to the ankles when belted.  It is generally sleeveless, and the neckline is a horizontal slit made by leaving part of the top seam unsewn.   The top can also be held with brooches instead of being sewn. When worn as an undergarment the tunica is best made of fine white linen, but otherwise can be colored linen or wool.
       The STOLA is the distinctive garment of a married Roman woman, but it is unclear exactly how it differed from the tunica.  Apparently it was pleated vertically and pinned or buttoned along the top edge.  It should be quite wide, and long enough to cover the tunica even when belted up.  There can be one belt at the waist, with the fabric bloused over it, or a second belt under the bust as well.

       Another option is the Greek PEPLOS.  It is made of 2 large rectangles, c. 45" wide by at least 60" high (or a single panel of that total size), with the top edge folded down and the folded edges pinned together at the shoulders.  If the sides are sewn closed, no armhole is left--the arms go through the "top" slit on either side of the neck opening.  The overhanging fabric can either end above the waist to show the material which is bloused over the waistbelt, or the garment can be made tall enough for the overhang to extend almost to the knees.

       The PALLA (left) is a large rectangular wrap, at least 5' by 9'.  It is roughly equivalent to a man's toga, but was always worn by a decent woman in public, and could be put on in a number of ways.   Various wraps or cloaks (see Men's section) were also worn.

       The STROPHIUM is the Roman brassiere.  It is a band of soft linen 6" to 8" wide (or a folded wider strip), long enough to go around the body at least twice.  It can be worn in several ways, for example placing the center of the band at the back and crossing the ends in front to support the breasts, then wrapping the ends around and tucking them in at the back again.  Evidence is scarce, however, and pins or ties may have been used.
       While the tunica often served as an undergarment, there are also references to the supparum, subucula, and (for matrons) indusium, which may all be slip-like garments, hanging from the waist.   Dancing girls are shown wearing "bikini briefs", and a pair of woman's panties made of leather have been found, but it is not known if these were common items of apparel.
       HAIRSTYLES were amazingly varied.  While upper-class women favored elaborate arrangements of curls and tiers, simpler hairdos involved coiled braids or a bun at the back.  Wigs were used, and those made with red or blond hair were desirably exotic.  Traditionally, girls and women tied their hair back with thin woolen bands called vittae, which were considered spiritual protection.  Mature Roman women would always cover their heads with a veil or part of the palla when out in public.


       Basic men's clothing is very simple, consisting of the tunic(s) and footwear.
       The civilian TUNIC is identical to the military one, but can be any reasonable color. The most common style seems to have been sleeveless with a slit neck opening.   Senators wore a white tunic with 2 broad (3" wide) vertical purple stripes (clavi), running from shoulder (at the end of the neck slit) to hem.  Equestrians were permitted to wear narrow (1") purple clavi.  These stripes are also seen on tunics of common people or even slaves, in colors other than purple on white.  The tunic is worn with a narrow cloth or leather belt so that it just covers the knee.

       CLOAKS include the paenula, laena, lacerna, sagum, and the Greek chlamys.  The latter 2 are rectangular, and the paenula is semicircular or oval (see the Handbook page on Cloaks), but it is impossible to say how the various types differed from one another.  The lacerna seems to have been semi-circular and pinned at the right shoulder, and laena often referred to a circular or semi-circular cloak worn by a priest, and clasped in back.   But references are confusing and contradictory, and terms might have been somewhat interchangable.  (Do you wear a coat or a jacket with your shirt and tie?)  The cucullus is hooded and made like the paenula, but reached only to the chest or waist.   It was popular with lower-class workers and slaves.  There is also the pallium, the male version of the woman's  palla; it was large and rectangular and could be colored, and was worn like a toga.

       The SUBLIGACULUM is a loincloth worn as underwear.   It can be a simple breechclout, a strip of cloth c. 6" to 12" wide passing under the crotch and hung over a belt at front and back, or it could be a rectangle with ties at the corners.  The latter style may also be called a perizoma.   Gladiators are seen wearing something like trunks or shorts with an apron-like effect at the front.  How common any form of underwear might have been is unknown.

       The TOGA is a formal garment worn only by citizens.  The toga is normally fine white wool, and will have to be made of several pieces, all sewn together by hand.  (Selvege edges can be overlapped and sewn with a blanket stitch or 2 rows of running stitch.)  The toga praetexta has a purple border (c.3") along the curved edge, and is worn by magistrates in public office, and also by citizen boys and girls under the age of adulthood.  Apparently the toga was also seen on prostitutes and adulteresses.  The toga pulla is made of dark wool and is worn for mourning.   The toga should be worn with an unbelted white or off-white tunic, with clavi if appropriate, and closed shoes--open sandals were considered improper with a toga.
       In the Republic the toga was roughly semi-circular, c. 12 feet long by 6 feet wide, but by the Empire it had become a sort of  ellipse almost twice as wide and 15 feet long or more (see below).  It is folded lengthwise into the traditional semi-circular shape before putting it on.  With the straight or folded edge upwards, it is across the wearer's back, and one end is draped over the left shoulder so that it hangs down in front to about mid-shin.  The rest of the toga is passed under the right arm and back up over the left shoulder, and the pleats and folds neatly arranged.  The Imperial toga can be partly unfolded under the right arm, and at the front part of it can be pulled out from underneath to form a pocket called the "sinus".  Generally the left hand must be held in place as shown, even gripping the diagonal edge of the toga, or it will  fall off the shoulder.  The right hand is free to gesture.


       There was a wide variety of shoes and sandals for men and women.  Most were constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole.  Many had large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc., in rows or grid-like patterns.  Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces.  Some very dainty women's and children's shoes still had thick nailed soles.

       Some shoes had a one- or two-piece upper of soft leather which enclosed the foot like a modern shoe.  The edges were nailed between the sole layers.  Traditionally, those worn by patricians, senators, and magistrates were called calcei, while common people wore perones.  But there is much confusion in terminology and most shoes which have nailed soles and are not caligae or sandals are referred to as calcei.  "Calcei senatorii" had soft leather uppers and were secured by wide straps which passed under the foot and crisscrossed up the lower leg.   They were red with small ivory crescents attached.  Equestrians are shown wearing an identical style, but apparently black in color.

       One-piece shoes called carbatinae were shaped like caligae/calcei, but had no outer or inner soles added.  Sandals were generally called soleae, and had nailed or stitched soles.  It is possible that heavy nailed shoes were for outdoor wear, while lighter sandals and carbatinae were worn "around the house".  (Also see Leatherworking Tips.)
       Besides open-work on the leather, shoes and sandals could be dyed, tooled, embossed, or even have gilded designs.

Click on this image for a basic pattern for a carbatina or calceus.  It's not full-size, sorry, but if it were your printer would probably shrink it anyway.  Enlarge it to your size  on a photocopier.  The lacing holes can be large as shown, or just large enough for the laces.
Some options for the above basic pattern, taken from surviving originals.  Solid areas can also be decorated with cut or punched patterns as described in the text.
Click on this image for the pattern for a closed shoe or calceus.  Again, it will need to be enlarged to your size, and some careful experiments with scrap leather or heavy cloth will be necessary for a good fit.
Reconstructed carbatina, dyed red.

       Socks (udones) were sewn of woven cloth, and could be worn for warmth or as decorative items.  In the latter case they would be brightly colored so as to show through the ornate open-work of the shoes, and might leave the toes and heel exposed.  Socks worn strictly for warmth were more likely fully closed and not necessarily so colorful.  Fancy shoes could also have a colorful cloth lining, eliminating the need for socks. ----------

Hit Counter