1st Century BCE – 1st Century CE
This handout is for the middle to upperclass Roman citizen during the late 1st ce BCE – 1st ce CE. Clothes were defined as “women’s” or “feminine” and “men’s” or “masculine,” and thus are categorized as such, but wear what you want.
This is a working document. Addendums may be added.
Fabric (wool, linen, cotton…) 2-4 yards
Thread & Needle (needed for the gap-sleeve tunic)
Sewing machine (optional)
Safety Pins (needed for the gap-sleeve tunic)
Measuring Tape (optional)
Chalk line (Optional – good for making straight lines – this can be found at most hardware stores)
Leather belt (middle/upperclass) or rope (lower class)
Was the main fabric used for Roman clothing
It had religious, social, and spiritual significance.
The toga and tunic, with perhaps a rare exception, were made from wool.
Sources (Pliny the Elder) speaks of its use during this time and is a good substitute for wool.
although known in Ancient Egypt, Babylon, and the Steppes, it was rare in Rome.
Although it was known at this time, sources doubt and debate if it was ever worn this early, it would have been very expensive. If it was used, it is likely it would have been used as trim (e.g. clavi).
Choosing the Right-For-You Fabric
Wool will be the most expensive fabric but will be more period.
Comes in a variety of price ranges.
This is great for all weather, but especially for hot weather.
Cotton also ranges in price but can be in the much more affordable range.
Silk is not ideal if you are warm weather sensitive as it does not breath and is a warm fabric.
*Non-Period Substitutions (without prints): bed sheets, curtains, anything really but do be mindful of the material as some can be very flammable and/or hot.
Wool retains dyes well so those garments would be brighter in color.
As linens did not take dyes as well and would require frequent upkeep they would have likely been in the pastel range.
Dark colors (dark grays and blacks) were worn by those in mourning.
White was a sign of purity, was worn by brides, religious occasions, and was the color of the toga and the senatorial tunic (not to be confused with un-dyed fabric).
Scarlets and purples were mostly worn by the upper class due to their expense, however there were forgeries. Scarlets were also seen as “masculine.”
(see the color charts below)
Purpura (below) was made from a very expensive dye. Fabric dyed purpura showed affluence and status due to its expense.
Patterns & Instructions
Length is usually down to the knees, shorter for soldiers, but also seen longer.
The tunic should be tied at the waist with either a belt (middle/upperclass) or rope (lower-class)
Some of the fabric should fold over the belt or rope.
Usually worn with a mantle (a wrap different from the long toga)
Worn under the toga
Made of wool (but of course any affordable fabric will do)
Tunica tended to be white to be colorful or off-white (natural) and worn with contrasting clavi
2-3 yards of fabric
Width should go to just below your knee, enough to be belted, and to elbow or mid upper arm
Although, feel free to play with the length/width to see what works best for you
If adding Clavi, read ahead first.
*Tip: Avoid using two pieces of fabric if possible – a seam across the shoulders tends to weaken the garment
Fold the fabric in half with the salvage on the sides
Cut a slit in the middle for the neck, wide enough to get your head through (A boat neck can be done if the slit neckline is bothersome)
Hem all the edges and the neckline.
Sew up the sides stoping 9” (or what works for you) from the top (these are the arm holes)
What are Clavi (Simplified)?
Clavi were vertical stripes of color that went from the front hem over the shoulder and down to the back hem.
These were woven into the fabric but there is an example of them being sewn on (which is probably the better option in this case)
Clavi were 3” wide for senators and emperors and 1” wide for everyone else
This is an oversimplification but for starting out go with what works or keep it simple.
Contrasting with the tunic color
Clavi were located close to the neckline of the tunic, if not touching, more to the point they go over the top of the shoulder and not down the arms of the tunic (see the next page for examples).
Cut two strips of fabric 1/2” (or your preference) wider than the width of clavi you are using and long enough to go from the front hem, over the shoulder, to the back hem
Attaching Clavi Method I:
If you are working with linen you can pull a thread from the bottom to the top
Attaching Clavi Method II:
Or make a line on both sides of the neck with a ruler or a snap chalk line (Hardware store).
Use that line as an indicator as to wear to pin the clavi (so they are straight)
Sew them on. (or cut the tunic open and sew them in)
Sew the sides together as seen in the tunic instructions.
Mantles & Wraps
Wraps are not secured but instead draped. Mantles (cloak) are secured on the right shoulder with a brooch/fibula or tied. There are several types, if you wish to explore further see Croom & Olson
Both the paludamentum and sagum are mantles mainly associated with the military. The prior being for higher ranks, Centurion and above and appear to be more ceremonial. The later is for all ranks especially when deployed. The differences in the color and fabric of the sagum depend on the status of the wearer. The sagum is also worn by civilians doing work out of doors.
Pinned on the right shoulder with a brooch/fibula and made of a higher quality fabric, it has a curved bottom and statues show it going to just below the calf if not a little longer.
Is a rectangular piece of cloth that is shorter and secured in the same fashion or tied.
*Pattern for the paludamentum and sagum will follow.
The main wrap is the toga of which there are different kinds for different ages, ranks, and for marking special occasions.
During this time period is a 6 yards (18 feet) long with a curved bottom and made from wool which was bleached white.
It is partially folded in half, and wrapped around the body twice and over the shoulder.
It is worn over the head for religious occasions.
I will not go into the details of the togas at this times as there is plenty of information out there already on the topic.
Fabric amount (this will vary by body type)
Width: top of the shoulder to between the calf and ankle
Length: around the body with overlap
Cut a curve around the base of the mantle
Hem all the edges
Fabric amount (this will vary by body type)
Width: top of the shoulder to around the knee
Length: around the body with overlap
Hem all the edges
All types of pants were considered “barbaric” and were mainly worn by the military outside of Rome.
Pants, during this time period were not worn by the Romans, even the military (it comes about later).
Trousers: a longer baggier pants
Breeches: knee length pants
If you feel you need to wear trousers with your tunic there are a few options to consider:
Shorts (modern) that are hidden under the tunic
Breeches that go to the top of your knees (see the next page)
Trousers that go to the ankle (see the next page)
Fabric: Linen or wool (or affordable fabric)
Color: Neutral/beige (unknown historically)
Length: Ankle or knee length
To the right is a breeches pattern, an extant find, from the 1st century CE and not Roman.
If the pattern in beyond your ability or affordability, try a neutral color pair of scrub pants – you can add puttees for a touch of authenticity and to hid the pant if you so desire.
Puttee (Leg Wraps)
Style I: Triangular wraps that went around the lower leg and were secured under the knee and above the ankle.
Style II: Bandage-like wraps that would be wrapped around the lower and sometimes upper legs.
Indoor Civilian Shoes – a slipper type of shoe
Outdoor Civilian Shoes – similar to a turn shoe
Military Shoes – caligae, an open sandal with hobnails on the soles
*Things to keep in mind: comfort, affordability, and safety.
There is evidence to suggest that men would wear an under tunic (this could be made of a neutral (un-dyed) color) or they would wear multiple tunics for warmth. There are also images of what appears to be a wrapped or folded together loin cloth.
Typically Roman men did not accessorize as jewelry was considered effeminate. The exception being a gold ring (Eques Class) and a brooch or fibula for securing fabric.
Signet rings were also worn (only by men as they were for conducting business). However, they were worn only while in use.
There are torcs as well, however, I have to look more into those before speaking on them.
Corona, or wreaths, are mainly, with a few exceptions, for military accomplishments.
Bair Brooks, E. (n.d.). Dulcia’s Roman Closet – Roman Clothing. DULCIA’S ROMAN CLOSET. Retrieved 2019, from https://sites.google.com/view/dulciasromancloset/roman-clothing?authuser=0
Cleland, L., Davies, G., & Llewellyn-Jones, L. (2012). Greek and Roman Dress from A to Z (The Ancient World from A to Z) (1st ed.). Routledge
Croom, A. (2002). Roman Clothing and Fashion (1st ed.). Amberley Publishing.
Dean, J. (2015, February 23). Colours of the Romans. Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour. http://www.jennydean.co.uk/colours-of-the-romans/
Edmondson, J., & Keith, A. (2009). Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture (Phoenix Supplementary Volumes)(1st ed.). University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division.
Harlow, M., & Nosch, M. (2014). Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology (Textile Research Series Book 19). Oxbow Books.
Nosch, M. L., & Koefoed, H. (2011). Wearing the Cloak. Adfo Books.
Olson, K. (2017). Masculinity and Dress in Roman Antiquity. Taylor & Francis.
Sebesta, J., & Bonfante, L. (2001). The world of Roman costume (Wisconsin studies in classics). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press.
Southern, P. (2007). The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.
Sumner, G. (2002). Roman Military Clothing (1): 100 BC–AD 200 (Men-at-Arms) (First Edition). Osprey Publishing.
Sumner, G. (2009). Roman Military Dress (Illustrated ed.). The History Press.
The British Museum (https://www.britishmuseum.org)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (https://www.metmuseum.org)
Reconstructions & Experimentation