Types of Roman Dress for Women

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The Palla as Roman Dress for Women

Woman Wearing the Palla
Palla | Stola | Tunica | Strophium and Subligar | Cleaning Roman Dress for Women.

The palla was a woven rectangle made of wool that the Roman matron put on on top of her stola when she went outside. She could use the palla in many ways, like a modern scarf, but palla is often translated as a cloak. A palla was like the toga, which was another woven, not sewn, expanse of cloth that could be pulled over the head.​Photo: Woman Wearing the Palla. PD "A Companion to Latin Studies," edited by Sir John Edwin Sandys

02
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The Stola as Roman Dress for Women

Galla Placidia
Palla | Stola | Tunica | Strophium and Subligar | Cleaning Roman Dress for Women.

The stola was emblematic of the Roman matron: adulterers and prostitutes were forbidden to wear it. The stola was a garment for women worn under the palla and over the undertunic. It was usually wool. The stola could be pinned at the shoulders, using the undertunic for sleeves, or the stola itself could have sleeves.

The picture shows the fourth-century figure Galla Placidia clothed in stola, under tunic, and palla. The stola remained popular from Rome's early years through its imperial period, and beyond.

Photo: Image ID: 1642506. Galla Placidia imperatrice, regente d'Occident, 430. D'ap[res] l'ivorie de La Cathed[rale] de Monza. (430 A.D.). NYPL Digital Gallery

03
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Tunica

Roman plebeian
Palla | Stola | Tunica | Strophium and Subligar | Cleaning Roman Dress for Women.

Although not reserved for women, the tunica was part of the Roman costume for women. It was a simple rectangular piece that might have sleeves or might be sleeveless. It was the basic garment that went on under the stola, palla, or toga or could be worn alone. While men might belt up the tunica, women were expected to have fabric extending to their feet, so if this was all she wore, a Roman woman would not belt it. She may or may not have had some form of underwear under it. Originally, the tunica would have been woolen and would have continued to be wool for those who couldn't afford more luxurious fibers.

Photo: Image ID: 817534 Roman plebeian. (1859-1860). NYPL Digital Gallery

04
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Strophium and Subligar

Ancient Roman Women Exercising in Bikinis. Roman Mosaic From Piazza Armerina, Sicily.
Palla | Stola | Tunica | Strophium and Subligar | Cleaning Roman Dress for Women.

The breast band for exercise shown in the picture is called a strophium, fascia, fasciola, taenia, or mamillare. Its purpose was to hold the breasts and may also have been to compress them. The breast band was a normal, if optional, item in a woman's underwear. The bottom, the loincloth-like piece is probably a subligar, but it was not a normal element of underwear, so far as we know.

Photo: Ancient Roman Women Exercising in Bikinis. Roman Mosaic From Villa Romana del Casale outside the town of Piazza Armerina, in Central Sicily. Mosaic may have been made in the 4th century A.D. by North African artists. CC Photo Flickr User liketearsintherain

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Cleaning Roman Dress for Women

A Fullery
Palla | Stola | Tunica | Strophium and Subligar | Cleaning Roman Dress for Women.

At least the major clothing maintenance was done outside the house. Wool clothing required special treatment, and so, after it came off the loom, it went to the fuller, a type of launderer/cleaner and went back to him when soiled. The fuller was a member of a guild and seemed to work in a kind of factory with slave underlings doing many of the necessary and dirty jobs. One task involved stamping on the clothing in a vat -- like a wine press.

Another type of slave, this time, domestic, had charge of folding and pleating the clothing as necessary. 

Photo: A Fullery. CC Argenberg at Flickr.com

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Gill, N.S. "Types of Roman Dress for Women." ThoughtCo, Feb. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/roman-dress-for-women-117821. Gill, N.S. (2017, February 10). Types of Roman Dress for Women. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/roman-dress-for-women-117821 Gill, N.S. "Types of Roman Dress for Women." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/roman-dress-for-women-117821 (accessed May 27, 2018).