Roman Tunica in the Chiton style
Summary: Summers in Atlantia have often been too hot and humid for me to handle in normal garb. I confess that when I found out that Giuliana was doing Roman this summer, I was easily swayed to the dark side of super-early period. I made a coral colored peplos style tunica first, then this green linen chiton tunica, as well as a purple tunica and black cotton gauze palla.
Evidence: To my knowledge there are no surviving extant Roman garments, just scraps of textiles here and there. Luckily, they did leave behind a wealth of sculpture and paintings to give us clues to their normal attire. Roman ladies are often covered up by their pallas (female togas or mantels), but there are sculptures and paintings that show the various tunica styles. The shoulder details show fastenings. Archeological digs have given us various pieces of jewelry, some simply ornate, and some functional.
Chiton style sleeves, pinned along the top edge
Statue of a lady, Agrippina the younger, wearing a chiton style tunic, with palla draped over left shoulder
Ornate gold pin, likely used to fasten a tunica
Collection of Roman jewelry, V&A Museum
Encaustic portrait of a woman, showing hair parted in center, drawn back, and coral-looking beaded necklace
Materials and Construction: I had some fine sage green linen in my stash that I decided to use for the tunica. It is a plain tabby woven fabric, very plausible for the era. Frescos from ancient Rome show a wide variety of colors used, from black, red and dark blue to pale blue, pink, white and gold. Since I did not have eight matching little brooches with which to fasten the gown, I used eight buttons that appeared similar to a found brooch and sewed them in place.
First I made two lengths of the green linen in their full width as tall as I was from foot to neck. Then each side seam was sewn, leaving the top ten inches open. Then each raw edge was hemmed, both tops and the bottom hem. Finally the buttons were sewn on to mimic the brooches to close the top seam of the tunica.
Accessories are the fun part of Roman costuming. I used a tabby weave silk ribbon I had made to adorn my hair, as it is swept back into a bun, pinned in place. The necklace is coral and citrine, and while simple, reminded me of some ladies funerary portraits. I'm also wearing fibulae, a woven belt, a coral bracelet and glass bracelets from Arab Boy.
Photographs copyright © 2005 Bardulf Rauen (Bill Frazer)
Resources: Roman Clothing- http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/clothing2.html