Ancient Greek and Roman Clothing

Nero and Agrippina
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Manufacture of Ancient Greek and Roman Clothing

One of the principal occupations of women in ancient society was weaving. Women wove garments generally of wool for their families. Garments were simple in construction. They were either designed to be wrapped and draped leaving the right arm free or to be entered -- like tunics.

Material of Ancient Clothing:

Most ancient clothing was made of wool. Sometimes linen was available.

The very wealthy could also afford silk and cotton. Most clothing was not dyed, although geometric designs would be woven in with colored thread.

Tunics, Togas, and Mantles

Most people wore a tunic, tunica in Rome, and chiton in Greece. The tunic was the basic garment. It could also be an undergarment. Over it would go a mantle of some sort. This was the rectangular himation for the Greeks, and pallium or palla, for the Romans, draped over the left arm. Roman male citizens also wore a toga instead of the Greek ​himation. It was a large semicircle of cloth. A rectangular or semicircular cloak could also be worn pinned on the right shoulder or joined at the front of the body.

Cloaks and Outerwear

In inclement weather or for reasons of fashion, Romans would wear certain outer garments, mostly cloaks or capes pinned at the shoulder, fastened down the front or possibly pulled over the head. Wool was the most common material, but some could be leather.

Women's Garments

Greek Women also wore the peplos which was a square of cloth with the top third folded over and pinned at the shoulders. Roman women wore the ankle-length, pleated dress known as the stola, which could have long sleeves and fastened at the shoulder with the clasp known as a fibula.

Such garments were worn over the tunics and under the palla. Prostitutes wore togas instead of the stola, according to Smith's Dictionary's entry on the Stola.


Shoes and sandals were ordinarily made of leather, although shoes might be wool felt.

Main reference: Hero Granger-Taylor "dress" Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World. Ed. John Roberts. Oxford University Press, 2007.

See also: Roman Underwear