What did they wear in Ancient Rome?

As part of our ‘History Extra explains’ series, leading historians answer the burning questions you were too afraid to ask…

Toilette of a Roman Lady. Found in the collection of Museo del Prado, Madrid. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

What did they wear in Ancient Rome?

The Romans had a variety of clothes for everyday use, including simple tunics, mantles and cloaks (for men) and shawls and gowns (for women). Fine brooches were regularly worn in order to pin layers down and keep them in place.

Trousers were considered a very ‘barbarian’ form of dress, and no self-respecting Roman male would be seen in anything that completely covered his legs. Loincloths, bandages and leather bands were used to support the nether-regions in the absence of briefs, pants or bras.

The most famous article of Roman clothing was the toga – a large semicircular blanket of woollen cloth wrapped around the body in such a way that it required the wearer to continually support it with their left arm. The toga was heavy, hot and impracticable, but as an emblem of civilian power it was an essential item of dress for all ceremonial, political or official occasions.

Dr Miles Russell is a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology, with more than 25 years experience of archaeological fieldwork and publication.

For more burning historical Q&As on the Tudors, ancient Rome, the First World War and ancient Egypt, click here.


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