Documentation on Roman Women’s Clothing, including Provencials and Barbarians, to help create garb for the SCA; presented at a workshop in the Shire of Seareach, June 2017.
Roman Women’s Clothing
By: Domina Arria Marina
Women’s dresses all reached the ankles, though they differed in sleeve lengths. Fabrics of the period was most commonly linen and wool, although cotton was available from Egypt and silk was available from China. Nearly any color of fabric found in natural dyes was used for women’s clothing.
The TUNICA is the basic women’s garment, very similar to a man’s tunica, being sewn up the sides and along the top, and having short sleeves (six to eight inches long). It can be worn belted or unbelted. This was most often seen on lower-class or merchant-class women, freedwomen, slaves, and young girls.
The PEPLOS is a sleeveless tunica, made from two rectangular pieces of cloth partially sewn together on both sides to form a tube. The open sections at the top were then folded down in the front and back, almost to the waist. It was fastened at the shoulders with two large pins, and tied with a belt over or under the folds.
The CHITON is a gap-sleeved tunica, which stretches from elbow to elbow. The top edges are not sewn together but rather fastened every few inches by little knots of fabric or possibly small buttons of some sort, leading to the modern term “gap-sleeved” tunic. From three to five fastening points on each side seems to be common, with as many as seven.
The STOLA is the traditional distinctive garment of a married Roman woman or matron, worn over a chiton (gap-sleeved tunica). At the top, the fabric is gathered into a pair of straps or narrow bands which go over the shoulders, causing the neck opening to form a V-shape. It was worn with a belt high under the bust.
The PALLA is a large rectangular wrap, at least 3 yards long and 2 yards wide, considered the female equivalent to a man’s toga. It was always worn by a decent woman in public, and could be put on in a number of ways.
Woman’s street shoes were like men’s but made of finer and softer leather. Sometimes they were ornamented or dyed a bright colors. Shoes for winter often had cork soles. Thick platform soles were occasionally worn to appear taller.