Roman Dress

A tribe occupying the hills near the present city of Rome, the Romans gradually came to dominate not only the Italian peninsula, but a vast region including present-day western Europe and large parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Because much of the Mediterranean region had been under the domination of Greece, Greek influences permeated much of Roman life. Dress was no exception. As with the Etruscans, it is often difficult to distinguish between Greek and Roman styles. However, Roman dress is far more likely than Greek to include elements that identify some aspect of the status of the wearer.

Not only are there ample works of art remaining from the Roman era, but also literary works and inscriptions in Latin that can be read and understood. Even so, some aspects of Roman dress are not clearly understood. The precise meaning of certain Latin words referring to clothing may not be clear. One example is a man's garment called the synthesis.

The synthesis was a special occasion garment, worn by men for dinner parties. The traditional Roman man's garment, the toga, was cumbersome. Romans reclined to eat, and apparently it was difficult to stretch out in a toga, so the synthesis was the solution to this awkwardness. Based on what Roman texts say about the garment, scholars have concluded that it was probably a tunic worn with a shoulder wrap. But there does not appear to be any depiction of the style in Roman art.

Wool, linen, and silk were used in Rome and apparently cotton was imported from India around 190 b.c.e. or before. Silk was available only to the wealthy; cotton might be blended with wool or linen. Textiles were not produced in the family home, as in Greece. Instead they were woven by women workers on large estates or by men and women in businesses located throughout the empire. While some clothing was made in the home, ready-to-wear clothing was also available in shops.

The Roman version of the chiton was called tunica, from which the word tunic derives. Roman men's tunics ended at about the knee and were worn by all classes of society. Bands of purple that extended vertically from one hem to the other across the shoulder designated rank. Tunics of the Emperor and senators had wider bands; those of knights had narrower bands. Precise placement and width of these bands, called clavi, changed somewhat at different time periods, and after the first century c.e. all male nobles wore these bands. At this time ordinary citizens and slaves had no such insignia, but later they became more common. All male citizens were expected to wear the toga over a tunic.

The toga was the symbol of Roman citizenship. It was draped from a semicircle of white wool and placed across the shoulder, around the back, under the right arm, and pulled across the chest and over the shoulder. As previously noted it probably derived from the Etruscan tebenna. Some officials wore special togas and throughout the history of Rome the size, shape, and details of draping did change somewhat.

Various types of cloaks and capes, with or without hoods, served to provide cover outdoors. Those worn by the military often identified their rank. The sagum was a red wool cape worn by ordinary soldiers. This term entered into the lexicon of symbols, and when people talked about "putting on the sagum" they meant "going to war."

Women's dress in Rome differed only a little from that of Greek women of the Hellenic period. They wore an under tunic, not seen in public, and an over tunic very much like a Greek chiton. A palla, rather similar to a Greek himation, was draped over this. The colors of these layers varied. Opinions differ as to just what the stola with the instita was. Many costume histories use the word stola interchangeably with outer tunic. However, literary works clearly indicate that the garment was associated only with free, married women. Some sources describe the instita as a ruffle at the bottom of the stola or outer tunic. But a careful analysis by Judith Sebesta (1994) leads her to conclude that it is a special type of outer tunic suspended from sewed-on straps.

Hairstyles show marked differences from one time period to another. Men are generally bearded during the years of the Republic, clean-shaven during the Empire until the time of the Emperor Hadrian who wore a beard. Each family celebrated the occasion of the first shave for a young boy with a festival at which they placed the hairs in a special container and sacrificed them to the gods.

Women's hairstyles were relatively simple during the first century c.e., but later grew so very complicated that they required the addition of artificial hair and special curls and braids arranged into towering structures.

Literary sources speak of extensive use of makeup by both men and women. Cleanliness was valued and public baths available to all levels of society.

The children of Roman citizens dressed like adults. Both boys and girls wore a toga with a purple band around the edge (toga praetexta). Boys wore it until age fourteen to sixteen, after which they wore the citizen's toga (toga pura), and girls gave it up after puberty. Initially this garment was only for the children of noble families, but eventually became part of the dress of all children of Roman citizens. Roman male children also wore a bulla, a ball-shaped neck ornament containing protective charms that was given to them at the time they were named.

Both brides and vestal virgins, women whose lives were dedicated to the goddess Vesta, seem to have worn a special headdress. It consisted of pads of artificial hair alternating with narrow bands. A veil was placed over this. For brides the veil was bright orange and a wreath made of orange blossoms and myrtle was set on top of it. This association of veils and orange blossoms with weddings continues until modern times and may have its origin in Roman custom.

See also Textiles, Prehistoric; Toga. BIBLIOGRAPHY

General Works Barber, E. J. W. Prehistoric Textiles. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.

-. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years. New York:

W. W. Norton and Company, 1994. Born, W., III. "Footwear of the Ancient Orient." CIBA Review p. 1210.

Sichel, Marion. Costume of the Classical World. London: Batsford

Academic and Education, 1980. Tortora, Phyllis, and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1998.

Mesopotamian and Egyptian Dress "Herodotus on Egypt." Reprinted in The World of the Past. Vol. 1. Edited by J. Hawkes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.

Houston, Mary G. Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Persian Costume. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2002.

Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian. Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1993.

Minoan and Greek Dress Evans, A. "Scenes from Minoan Life." In The World of the Past.

Edited by J. Hawkes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963. Evans, M. M. "Greek Dress." In Ancient Greek Dress. Edited by

M. Johnson. Chicago, Illinois: Argonaut, Inc., 1964. Faber, A. "Dress and Dress Materials in Greece and Rome." CIBA Review no. 1 (n.d.): 297.

Galt, C. "Veiled Ladies." American Journal of Archeology 35, no. 4 (1931): 373.

Geddes, A. G. "Rags and Riches: The Costume of Athenian Men in the Fifth Century." Classical Quarterly 37, no. 2 (1987): 307-331. Houston, Mary G. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Costume. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003.

Etruscan and Roman Dress

Bonfante, Larissa. Etruscan Dress. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Croom, Alexandra T. Roman Clothing and Fashion. Charleston, S.C.: Tempus Publishing Inc., 2000.

Goldman, N. "Reconstructing Roman Clothing." In The World of Roman Costume. Edited by J. L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante, 213-237. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

McDaniel, W. B. "Roman Dinner Garments." Classical Philology 20 (1925): 268

Rudd, Niall, trans. The Satires of Horace and Persius. Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1973.

Sebesta, Judith Lynn. "Symbolism in the Costume of the Roman Woman." In The World of Roman Costume. Edited by J. L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante, 46-53. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

-. "Tunica Ralla, Tunica Spissa." In The World of Roman

Costume. Edited by J. L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante, 65-76. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Sebesta, Judith Lynn, and Larissa Bonfante, eds. The World of Roman Costume. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Stone, S. "The Toga: From National to Ceremonial Costume." In The World of Roman Costume. Edited by J. L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante, 13-45. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Wilson, Lillian May. The Roman Toga. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1924.

-. The Clothing of the Ancient Romans. Baltimore, Md.:

Johns Hopkins University Press, 1938.

Phyllis Tortora

ANGORA Though true angora fiber is from the hair of the Angora rabbit, because more than one animal bears the name "angora" some confusion exists regarding what really is angora fiber. Angora rabbits produce angora fiber, and Angora goats produce mohair fiber. Angora also differs from rabbit hair, which is the fiber obtained from the common rabbit, in that angora is longer and more flexible and better suited for luxury textiles.

Each rabbit produces ten to sixteen ounces of luxuriously soft fiber per year. The rabbits are clipped with a pair of scissors, sheared with electric clippers, or plucked by hand when the hair is three to five inches long. Plucking pulls the loose hair from the rabbit and produces the highest grade of angora wool because of the spiky fur-like quality it gives to the fabric. Some countries regard plucking as inhumane and have outlawed the practice.

Angora fiber differs from sheep's wool in several ways. Unlike wool, angora fibers do not have scales on their surface. This lowers the risk of shrinkage from felting (the permanent interlocking of the fibers) and makes the fibers slippery. Angora fiber's diameter is very fine, approximately 11 microns (1/25,000 of an inch). Only the finest wool is similar in diameter to angora. Angora fiber has a low density (weight) of 1.15 to 1.18 grams per cubic centimeter, compared to 1.33 for wool. Angora fibers have little elasticity, making them difficult to process into yarn. Wool, on the other hand, is very elastic because of its crimp and molecular structure. Blending angora with wool helps make spinning easier and helps to hold the angora in the yarn structure. During a garment's life, it is normal for short angora fibers to work their way out of the yarn and shed from the fabric.

Angora's small diameter fibers have air-filled chambers that give them warmth without weight. The fiber transmits moisture readily, so garments feel dry, warm, and comfortable. Angora's properties are of value not only for fashionable garments, but also for therapeutic garments designed for people with joint diseases. Garments featuring angora fiber include knitted sweaters, hats, gloves, and underwear for fall and winter-wear.

The highest quality commercial angora fiber is white, but the fiber is available in other beautiful colors including pure white, gray, fawn (a light grayish brown), brown, and black. Angora does not take dye well, so the dyed fiber usually has a lighter color than other fibers in the blend.

There are five grades of angora fiber. The first four require the fiber to be white, perfectly clean, and without tangles or mats. The lengths vary according to the grade: grade one, the top grade, is 2 to 3 inches long; grade two is 1.5 to 2 inches; grade three is 1 to 1.5 inches; and grade four is any length. Grade five is of any color and can be soiled and matted or unmatted. Naturally colored angora fiber is generally found in garments produced by small-scale manufacturers.

Angora rabbits were originally raised in North Africa and France. In the early twenty-first century, 90 percent of the world's production was from China. Other countries producing angora included Argentina, Chile, Hungary, France, and India.

See also Felt; Fibers. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Spalding, K., and C. McLelland, eds., Angora Handbook. 2nd ed.

Morgan Hill, Calif.: Northern California Angora Guild,

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