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.
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