The tunica was the dress of soldiers and workmen. dignitaries wore tunica
under their toga.
Men wore a leather belt over a tunica which was made from two pieces of cloth,
to which separate short sleeves were added. In Latin, nouns end in
either 'a' or 'um', thus the word tunic is an Anglo-Saxon derivation of
When British Romans wore two tunics, the one next to the skin, which we
would call an undergarment, the Romans called a Subacula.
The outer garment was called the Tunica exteriodum and was knee
Perhaps it was the colder northern climates, or perhaps Romans
had fashion fads too, either way the tunica exteriodum reached the ankles by 100 AD.
Furthermore this Roman Tunic gained a new name, the
Caracalla. From 200 AD almost everyone wore the caracalla.
The line drawing shown right shows a Roman slave in a short tunic perfect
for working easily. The dark tunic in the corner was to become the
foundation garment of basic clothing for hundreds of years.
These two men are a coloured illustration of soldier dress from costume drawings
from an old fashion booklet of the 1920s. Above right - To the near right is a depiction of a Roman soldier in Britain. On the
right is a Romanised Briton in the dress of a Roman General.
In colder countries like Britain, a thick woollen floor length cloak with
a hole at the neckline was a necessity.
For socialising in town, or at meetings, Roman men of higher status might add
a toga over the tunica. The early Roman Toga was very voluminous, required huge skill in draping
it and made really active pursuits difficult. Essentially this made it a
garment mostly of the upper classes such as senators.
The Roman toga was made from fine wool and was worn by placing it over the left shoulder with part of it
hanging in the front. This was then passed round the back from the shoulder
and under the right arm and finally thrown over the left shoulder. Hats were not normally worn with the
Roman toga. Togas could be made from several shapes as shown in my illustration
Dignitaries had the privilege of wearing a Roman toga with a stripe creating a
purple border band that flowed around the body with the draping.
My illustration should give you an idea how important the contrast band
is in wear.
For modesty purposes, and to achieve the correct look, wear a simple
tunic or white plain T-shirt underneath. Naturally, white or flesh
tone underwear is
best with a Roman Toga. Use a
clasp or brooch for extra security to hold the wrapping firmly in position.
Anyone going to a fancy dress party for Halloween or New Year may be
thinking the easiest solution to making a Roman toga would be to wrap a sheet around them and go as
an ancient Roman. But you can improve your toga if you pay a little
attention to these couture versions shown above!
The dimensions of these two toga patterns shown
further above would be similar to
the half circle above and probably measure some 18 feet across. Note
double the measurement of C to D above. Clearly in pattern 1 and 2, there is at least 4
feet of fabric above the man's head before the fabric is folded over for
For fancy dress purposes trial and error is essential and these
patterns are only toga shape guides.
You could experiment with fabric lengths to create best effects.
Trialling the shape with a single sheet or two and on a smaller person such
as a child, might also be useful.
For an adult two large king size bed sheets sewn together might be a good
start and might provide sufficient fabric for a superior fancy dress Roman
along one long edge, or
sew deep coloured ribbon or braid to see see how effective a contrast
border might look.
476 AD saw the end of the Western Roman Empire. Great Romans include Gaius Marius, Gaius Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, Maximus, Augustus - The first Emperor, Nero - The Madman of Rome, Trajan,
Constantine the Great, and Justinian - The last 'Great' Emperor.
Justinian and his Court is shown in this image above which was taken from a mosaic at
Ravenna. This later dress is more typical of clothing of the Byzantine
era also shown below right. As the Roman empire had expanded so the
seat of government had also moved.
The new Roman capital on the Bosphorus (present day Istanbul strait of
Turkey), founded in AD 330, was called Byzantium. But when the western
(Roman) empire fell in AD 476 the new government capital became cut off.
Slowly the people of Byzantium adopted more elaborate dress suffused with
oriental influences from China (image right) and later from
Assyria and Persia.
As the centuries progressed Byzantine costume became more and more
orientalised. Brilliant fringes, brighter colours, richly patterned
embroidery, gold tissue fabrics and tassels soon adorned the most simple
The coloured image below of a Byzantine Empress and princess shows this
ornate Byzantine look very clearly.
Look carefully at
all the Byzantine images and immediately notice the ecclesiastical appearance of these robes.
The Emperor of the
day by this time acted as a priest-king and called councils of church and
whilst he did not serve mass, he did waft incense at the alter. He was
totally involved in the formal procedures of daily ecclesiastical reverence.
The dress the Emperor and his attendant individuals wore, was strictly laid
down as hierarchical. The rank and function of individuals became more
important than either utility or the principle of seduction in dress. The
robes were regulated by liturgical specifications all heavily imbued with
meaning and ritual.
Byzantine dress left a strong legacy and many
churches today still wear vestments based on robes and elements of dress
from the costume of this era. Byzantine dress is now the basis of
dress used in many religions.
Many examples of icon art triptychs or Byzantine mosaics showing costume
worn in this period can easily be found in art books and museums.
Numerous illustrations of
Byzantine dress such as this image above left and from the Braun and
Schneider Victorian magazine provide a rich source of costume
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