Clothing in Ancient Roman
Roman dress differed from one class to another. The tunic was worn by plebians (common people), herdsmen and slaves was made from a coarse dark material. The tunic worn by patricians was made from white wool or linen. Magistrates wore the tunic augusticlavia, and senators wore a tunic with broad strips, tunica laticlavia. Military tunics were shorter than those worn by civilians.
Wigs were worn by men as a disguise and to hide baldness. Hairstyles and beards varied with the times. In early Roman times, men wore long hair and full beards. For a while, they were clean-shaven with short hair. About 1 Century AD, they had started to style their hair, and wear beards again.
Rings were the only jewelry worn by Roman citizen men, and good manners dictated only one ring. Of course, some men did not follow "good taste", and wore as many as sixteen rings. Most early Roman jewelry resembled Greek and Etruscan jewelry, but Roman styles eventually developed. The Romans were fond of colored stones such as topaz, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Pendants, especially cameos in gold frames, were popular.
Wool, the most commonly used fibre, was most likely the first material to be spun. The sheep of Tarentum were renowned for the quality of their wool, although the Romans never ceased trying to optimise the quality of wool through cross-breeding. The production of linen and hemp was very similar to that of wool and was described by Pliny the Elder. After the harvest, the material would be immersed (most probably in water), it would be skinned and then aired. Once dry, the fibers would be pressed mechanically (with a mallet) and then smoothed. Following this, the materials were woven. Linen and hemp both are tough and durable materials.Silk and Cotton
Silk and cotton were imported, from China and India respectively. Silk was rare and expensive; a luxury afforded only to the richest. Due to the cost of imported clothing, quality garments were also woven from nettle.
Wild silk, that is, cocoons collected from the wild after the insect had eaten its way out, also was known. Wild silk, being of smaller lengths, had to be spun. A rare luxury cloth with a beautiful golden sheen, known as sea silk, was made from the long silky filaments or byssus produced by Pinna nobilis, a large Mediterranean seashell.
These different fibres had to be prepared in different ways. According to Forbes, their wool contained around 50% fatty impurities, flax and hemp were about 25% impure, silk was between 19 and 25% impure, while cotton (the most pure of all the source fibers) contained only 6% impurities.Dyeing
The Romans had to turn their material with a manual spinner. Iron alum was used as the base fixing agent and it is known that the marine gastropod, Haustellum brandaris, was used as a red dye, due to its purple-red colorant (6, 6'-dibromoindigotin); the color of the emperor. The dye was imported from Tyre, Lebanon and was used primarily by wealthy women. Cheaper versions were also produced by counterfeiters.
A more widely used tint was indigo, allowing blue or yellow shades, while madder, a dicotyledon angiosperm, produced a shade of red and was one of the cheapest dyes available. According to Pliny the Elder, a blackish color was preferred to red. Yellow, obtained from saffron, was expensive and reserved for the clothing of married women or the Vestal Virgins. There were far fewer colors than in the modern era.
Archaeological discoveries of Greek vases depict the art of weaving, while writers in the field of antiques mention the art of weaving and fibre production. Some clothes have survived for several centuries and, as clothing is necessary, examples are numerous and diverse. These materials often provide some of the most detailed and precious information on the production means used, on the dyes used, on the nature of the soil where the materials were grown and, therefore, on trade routes and climate, among many other things.
Historical research in the area of ancient clothing is very active and allows researchers to understand a great deal about the lifestyle of the Romans. The materials used were similar to those used by the ancient Greeks, except the tilling process had been ameliorated and the tilled linen and wool were of a far superior quality.Hides, Leather, and Skins
The Romans had two main ways of tanning, one of which was mineral tanning, or "tawing" - making hide into leather without the use of tanning, especially by soaking it in a solution of alum and salt. The Romans used tools that resembled those that would be used in the Middle Ages.
The tanned leather then was used to fashion heavy coats to keep Roman soldiers warm during travel, and in more frigid areas of Rome, it was used during cold seasons.
The leather was not given to the soldiers by the military commanders or overseers, but rather from the soldier's wives and family before the soldiers left for a campaign. Although leather sometimes was used for protection against poor weather, its primary use was in footwear and belts.
Animal skins were worn over the helmet with bearskins being popular among legionaries and feline among with Praetorians. Ancient Roman taxidermists would retain the entire body and the head, with the front legs tied to fasten over the armor. The animal's head would fit over the soldier's helmet, and mostly was worn by the Roman aquilifer, who carried the symbol of Rome into battle.
The Romans rarely used goatskin for their leather, preferring pig or sheepskin, although the ideal would be the preferred leather was that most readily available - cattle skin. The thickest and most durable leather was used for shoe soles - they had to be durable to endure war.
Types of Clothing
The act of putting on outer garments such as the toga or pallium, was described as amicire, which led to any individual outer garment sometimes being identified as an amictus without it being thought necessary to specify which outer garment was referred to. The equivalent term for the donning of undergarments, such as the tunica, was induere (indutus).
Looms and Their Effect on Clothing
In general, individual clothes were woven on vertical looms during antiquity. This contrasts with the medieval period when cloth was produced on foot-powered horizontal looms that later was made into clothes by tailors. Evidence for the transition between these two distinct systems, from Egypt, suggests that it had begun by 298 AD but it is likely that it was very gradual. The weaver sat at the horizontal loom producing rectangular lengths of cloth which never were wider than the weaver's two arms could reach with the shuttle. Conversely, a weaver who stood at a vertical loom could weave cloth of a greater width than was possible sitting down, including the toga, which could, and did, have a complex shape.
The variations of clothing worn in Rome were similar to the clothing worn in Greece at the same time, with the exception of the traditionally Roman toga. Until the 2nd century BC, the toga was worn by both genders and bore no distinction of rank - after that, a woman wearing a toga was marked out as a prostitute. The differentiation between rich and poor was made through the quality of the material; the upper-classes wore thin, naturally colored, wool togas while the lower-classes wore coarse material or thin felt. They also differentiated by colors used:
- the toga praetextata, with a purple border, worn by male children and magistrates during official ceremonies
the toga picta or toga palmata, with a gold border, used by generals in their triumphs
trabea - toga entirely in purple, worn by statues of deities and emperors
saffron toga - worn by augurs and priestesses, white with a purple band, also worn by consuls on public festivals and equites during a transvectio