A Day in Old Rome: A Picture of Roman Life

By William Stearns Davis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
COSTUME AND PERSONAL ADORNMENT

65. The Type of Roman Garments. -- How is it possible to mention Roman women and Roman weddings without thoughts also of Roman costume and personal adornment? Seldom, indeed, has there been or will there be an age in which fine wearing apparel, and jewelry, and elaborate hair dressing can occupy so great a place in the thoughts of both sexes as it does in this era of the Roman Empire.

Good clothes and fine rings are in fact so important that if you do not possess them, on many social occasions you must hire them. There were several guests at Statilia's wedding who appeared in gala robes with handsome jewels to match. With them went attendants who passed for confidential freedmen; yet it was whispered they were actually the agents of costume purveyors charged to see that every hired banqueting gown and topaz-set ring was promptly returned.

Roman garments are like the Greek: they are usually wrapped on, they are not like those of a later age which must be put on. Pins, buckles, and brooches usually take the place of buttons. Sometimes, however, costumes of a different type can be met with in the cosmopolitan crowds in the fora. Occasionally are seen Persians and Parthians wearing tight- fitting leathern casings around their lower limbs, like the articles that another day will style "trousers"; and more frequently are met blond or red-headed Gauls wearing caracallæ, close-fitting garments with long sleeves, slit down in front and reaching to the knee.1 Such dresses are, however,

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1
The use of this garment gave his familiar nickname to the Emperor Bassianus, "Caracalla," who reigned 212-217 A.D. The Gauls also had a kind of trousers. This was counted against them as a token of sheer barbarism: bracatæ nationes ("trouser-wearing peoples") was a term of extreme contempt in Italy.

-80-

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