"It [the toga] is not a garment, but a burden."
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, Early Christian Author and Apologist (c. 155–c. 220 C.E.)
Image 1. Roman Clad in the Toga
Any well-dressed and respectable citizen living in the height of the Roman Republic would not have been seen outside of his or her home without the iconic overclothing of the Roman world. Men wore a toga while women wore the stola (and in cases of higher ranking women—the palla as well) and these items of clothing were not only socially important to dress in but, at times and by decree from those in power, required wear for civic duties and public festivals. These garments were as important as putting on pants before leaving the house in today’s modern age and mentality.
The toga and the stola are outerwear—tunicas were worn underneath these articles of clothing except in the early period of the Roman Republic when both men and women wore just the toga. The toga, the stola, and the palla, were garments of upper class citizens, with the lower class—such as workers and servants—simply wearing the tunica. Not everybody wore the toga and, especially in the later Republican and Early Imperial era, the toga was not worn all the time (Cavazzi, 2008).
There has been plenty of speculation on the toga and the stola as most documentation comes from statuary, funerary reliefs, paintings on walls, and even ivory carvings (Vout, 1996). As we do not have an actual toga or stola to study all of our examinations must be made by looking at the representations of the garment and thoughtful extrapolation.
Understanding the iconic clothing of the Roman Empire is as important as recreating it. When we understand more about the toga, the stola, and the palla, we can make informed decisions on how to make them and, especially, how to wear them correctly. Luckily for us there has been plenty of research on the topic of Roman outerwear ranging from theatrical to museum-quality research that we can explore to help better our understanding of these garments that were “…worthy of the masters of the world”.