The stola was the staple garment of the married woman in ancient Rome. It was a long gown, generally sleeveless, that hung nearly to the feet. The stola was generally worn over a tunica intima, a light inner shirt. It was often fastened at the shoulders by small clasps called fibulae. The stola was typically worn with two belts: one fastened just below the breasts, creating blousy folds, and another wider belt fastened around the waist. The stola could have several forms of decoration. A stola worn by a wealthier woman might have a limbus, a separate piece of fabric with many folds that was sewn into the hem, making it appear that another gown was worn beneath. Simpler stolas had a band of color or a pattern at the hem and many stolas had a band of color near the neckline. Stolas appeared to have been made in a variety of colors, from bleached white to red, yellow, and blue. Stolas were generally made of wool or cotton, but wealthy women might wear a stola made of silk.
As well as being a functional piece of clothing, the stola served an important social function. In ancient Rome the position that people occupied in society was very important, and clothes were used as symbols of social position or status. The stola was a sign that the woman wearing it was married. Single women or divorced women were forbidden from wearing the stola.
Like most of women's clothing in ancient Rome, the stola changed very little over time. Statues dating from early in the Roman Republic (509-27 b.c.e.) to late in the Roman Empire (27 b.c.e.-476 c.e.) all show women garbed in a similar, traditional stola, usually accompanied by the other staple women's garment, the palla, a large wrap.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Symons, David J. Costume ofAncient Rome. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
[See also Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Palla; Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Tunica]
A form of underwear worn by both men and women in ancient Rome, the subligaculum was one of the most basic garments. It was very similar to the perizoma, a tight-fitting pair of shirt pants, worn by the Etruscans, a pre-Roman society that inhabited the central part of present-day Italy, and the Etruscans in turn appear to have adapted the garment from examples worn by ancient Greeks and Egyptians. A basic loincloth, the main purpose of the subligac-ulum was to cover the genitals. Like other loin coverings worn in ancient times, the subligaculum came in a number of forms. At its simplest, it might consist of a belt with a piece of fabric stretching from front to back between the legs. More substantial subligacu-lums might cover all of the buttocks and tie at the sides.
Most people wore the subligaculum under other garments. For example, men wore the garment under the tunica (shirt) or the toga, and women wore it under the stola, a long gown. But others wore the subligaculum alone. Common workers often labored wearing only a subligaculum, and Roman gladiators, warriors who fought for entertainment in Rome, usually fought wearing just a subligaculum.
Our knowledge of Roman costume generally comes from the many statues, bas-reliefs, wall carvings, and paintings that have been recovered by archeologists, scientists who study the physical remains of past cultures. Yet these statues and paintings don't reveal what was worn beneath the outer garments. Historians aren't sure what Romans were wearing underneath their flowing togas and stolas, but their best guess is that it was a subligaculum.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Symons, David J. Costume of Ancient Rome. New York: Chelsea House,
Was this article helpful?
Rock your personality in a dress you made yourself that reflects who you are, not what a department store thinks you want. Discover The Beginners Guide to Making Your Own Dress. You do not have to wear off the rack dresses any longer. You can make your own fashion statement on the world.