The 6 Types of Togas Worn in Ancient Rome

Roman togas indicated status and position

Statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, York Minster
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The ancient Romans have been called the toga-clad people — and with reason. Drawn from clothing worn by the ancient Etruscans and, later, the Greeks, the toga went through several changes before finally becoming the classic Roman item of clothing.

What Is a Toga?

A toga, simply described, is a long piece of fabric draped over the shoulders in one of several ways. It was usually worn over some kind of tunic or other undergarments.

The toga was a stately symbolic article, described by Varro as the earliest dress of both Roman men and women. It can be seen on statues and paintings from as early as 753 BCE, during the earliest years of the Roman Republic. It was common until the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 CE. But the togas worn in the earlier years were quite different from those worn at the end of Roman times.

The earliest Roman togas were simple and easy to wear. They consisted of small ovals of wool worn over a tunic-like shirt. Virtually everyone in Rome wore a toga, with the exception of servants and slaves. Over time it grew in size from just over 12 feet [3.7 m] to 15-18 feet [4.8-5 m]); as a result, the probably semicircular cloth was cumbersome, difficult to put on, and just about impossible to work in. Typically, one arm was covered with fabric while the other was needed to hold the toga in place; in addition, the woolen fabric was heavy and hot.

During the time of Roman rule until about 200 CE, the toga was worn for many occasions. Variations in style and decoration were used to identify people with different positions and social status. Over the years, however, the impracticality of the garment finally led to its end as a piece of daily wear.

Six Types of Roman Togas

  1. Toga Pura: A citizen of Rome might wear the toga pura, a toga made of natural, undyed, whitish wool.
  2. Toga Praetexta: If he were a magistrate or a freeborn youth, he might wear a toga with a woven reddish-purple border known as a toga praetexta. Freeborn girls may have worn these as well. At the end of adolescence, a free male citizen put on the white toga virilis or toga pura.
  3. Toga PullaIf the Roman citizen were in mourning, he would wear a darkened toga known as a toga pulla.
  4. Toga Candida: A candidate made his toga pura whiter than normal by rubbing it with chalk. It was then called toga candida, whence the word "candidate."
  5. Toga Trabea: There was also a toga that was purple or purple striped, called a toga trabea. Augurs wore the toga trabea with saffron and purple stripes. The purple and white striped toga trabea was worn by Romulus and consuls officiating at important ceremonies. The imperial purple toga was a toga trabea.Sometimes the equities wore the trabea and it was especially associated with them.
  1. Toga Picta: Generals in their triumphs wore toga picta or togas with designs on them. The toga picta was also worn by praetors celebrating games and by consuls at the time of the emperors.