The clothes of the Romans was simple. They usually wore 2-3 articles of clothing, not including shoes. All of the garments varied in the Roman clothing materials which were used. There was little change in fashion and style during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Early contact with the Greeks on the south and with the Etruscans to the north gave the Romans a taste for beauty that was expressed in the grace of their flowing robes.
Clothing for men and women were very similar. Roman writers assigned each article of clothing into two classes according to how it was worn and the way that Romans dressed. One was indutus (put on) which were generally considered as under garments or Underwear. The second type of clothing was called amictus (wrapped around) which were the outer garments. The toga was at first worn by women as well as men, but later Roman matrons wore a different robe, called a stola, with a broad border or fringe, reaching to the feet. Prostitutes and women condemned for adultery, were not permitted to wear the stola and therefore called togatae.
The ordinary garments of the Romans were the toga and the tunic. Roman citizens only were permitted to wear the toga, and banished persons were prohibited the use of it. The toga was a loose woollen robe, of a semicircular form, without sleeves, open from the waist upwards, but closed from there downwards, and surrounding the limbs as far as the middle of the leg. The upper part of the vest was drawn under the right arm, which was thus left uncovered, and, passing over the left shoulder, was there gathered in a knot, where it fell in folds across the breast: this flap being tucked into the girdle, formed a cavity which sometimes served as a pocket, and was frequently used as a covering for the head. Its color was normally white, except in case of mourning, when a black or dark color was worn. The Romans were at great pains to adjust the toga and make it hang gracefully.
The toga picta was so termed from the rich embroidery with which it was covered:—the toga palmata from its being wrought in figured palm leaves, this last was the triumphal garment. Young men, until they were seventeen years of age wore a gown bordered with purple, called the toga praetexta. After they had arrived at the age of seventeen, young men assumed the toga virilis.
The tunic was a white woollen vest worn below the toga, coming down a little below the knees before, and to the middle of the leg behind, at first without sleeves. Tunics with sleeves were believed effeminate: but under the emperors, these were used with fringes at the hands. The tunic was fastened by a girdle or belt about the waist, to keep it tight, which also served as a purse. The women wore a tunic which came down to their feet and covered their arms. Senators had a broad stripe of purple, sewed on the breast of their tunic, called latus clavus, which is sometimes put for the tunic itself, or the dignity of a senator. The tunic worn by the equites were distinguished by a narrow stripe called angustus clavus.
The Romans initially wore neither stockings nor breeches, but used sometimes to wrap their legs and thighs with pieces of cloth called from the parts which they covered, tibialia and feminalia. This later changed in the period of the Roman Empire when soldiers wore trousers or breeches.
The chief coverings for the feet were the calceus, which covered the whole foot, somewhat like our shoes, and was tied above with a latchet or lace, and the solea, a slipper or sandal which covered only the sole of the foot, and was fastened on with leather thongs or strings. The shoes of the senators came up to the middle of their legs, and had a golden or silver crescent on the top of the foot. The shoes of the soldiery were called caligæ, sometimes shod with nails. Comedians wore the socci or slippers, and tragedians the cothurni.
The ancient Romans went with their heads bare except at sacred rites, games, festivals, on journey or in war. At games and festivals a woollen cap or bonnet was worn. A wide brimmed straw hat was worn out doors, usually on the farms, as protection from the sun. The head-dress of women was at first very simple. They seldom went out, and when they did they almost always had their faces veiled. But when riches and luxury increased, dress became, with many, the chief object of attention. They anointed their hair with the richest perfumes, and sometimes gave it a bright yellow color, by means of a composition or wash. It was likewise adorned with gold and pearls and precious stones: sometimes with garlands and chaplets of flowers.