Full Version: Newbie (civilian chick) - help?
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First, thanks to all of you - you have a fantastic resource here!

Second - I hope this isn't to off topic, but I'm finding a real derth of civilian Roman stuff online. But since I keep having Google searches leading me to you, I figure this is as good a place as any to get started. Smile

My primary interest so far is Rome herself in the 1st century BC, esp. the decades between Sulla and Caesar. Secondarily, first and second century AD Roman Britannia sounds fascinating.

Can I ask for help in starting to get a costume together? Most everything I've seen is awful general - just "wrap some light wool around you, tie it off and belt it, and find a couple fibulae." I'm used to 18th century reenactment with a lot more detail, so I'm a little flummoxed at just how... simple it seems, at least until you get to the well to do levels. I keep thinking "this can't be's too simple!" Smile

Do we know -
1. Those "buttons" at the top of the dresses - I'd be shocked if they were real button buttons - could they be some kind of "tie off a pebble in the folded fabric" fastener of some kind? Do we know for certain? Can I presume the waist tie is a tied cord of some kind, not a belt proper?

2. I see scads of fibulae, presumably original, on eBay - mostly crossbow type. Is that a military pattern? Civilan? Do we have any idea who used which patterns when? For that matter, is there a good survey for what kinds of jewelry were used when, at what social strata?

3. Finally, do y'all have any favorite sources for civilian life in the first century BC?

Thanks so much!
(and I'm still admiring those ornamented pugios you soldier guys are carrying. Pretty! Big Grin )
Salvette Jennifer!
Welcome to RAT! Don't seem weary about the simple dress styles as I'm sure what you've been seeing is a 'little' misleading. Roman women were very beautiful, with jewelry that almost outdo's today's! Of course the wealthy were better off but...ya :|
They were very advanced for their times, and wore enough, but not too much. They surely didn't wear fancy ball dresses like you're used to, but actually humble and maybe slender looking. As I'm not 100% myself, I'll re-direct you to this very helpful site, which Crispvs ( he probably knows all you need to know) is part of as a Legionary.

Yes, us solja boys sure do like our pugies Wink

Best of luck in your pursuit and everyone here's reaaaaally nice, so we only bite little chunks Wink Ok?

Regards, Sam.
...does anyone know if the dress worn by women in the Rome series is accurate or not, as there's many examples in that show, and...even if not to be educated, it's an excellent series. Just don't expect pg-13 scenes, I might be the only miss-fit on that one. Wink

I watched on youtube, both seasons before it was taken off, though always worth another try if you're interested Smile
Hi Jennifer,

Welcome to the forum.

We have many knowledgable members who can address this topic. My knowledge of Greco-Roman costume is rather limited but I think you can get to a good start by visiting this page on civilian clothing:

There are some helpful links near the bottom of the page as well.

The basic clothing for men and women (which aren't very different) from your chosen period is very simple. The costume can look very elegant in its simplicity depending on how its worn. So, I'm sure you won't find recreating a costume from this period to be that challenging given your experience.

Good luck Confusedmile:

Oh dear :oops: :oops: how could I forget THEE Legio XX! sorry... :roll:
Yes, Legio XX is a good place to start, and we have a goodly number of women in the group, though they don't frequent RAT as it is mostly military.

You are talking about a gap sleeved tunica, and my wife and the others sew a button or similar into the joins, or just gather material into a bunch and sew that but neither buttons. I took a good look at one on a sculpture but you cannot tell from that how this was done. There are several other good sites out there, and I recommend A T Croom's book on Roman fashion as another first reference.

There is an old but really good video by Dr Norma Goodman, "Let's wrap" that goes over the basic look and construction of the clothing. She is very accurate though as a budget thing she had to use polyester rather than wool or linen.

As to the belting, the fabric on the existing statues folds overthe belt, so you dont get a clear idea of it, but a rope or leather cord would do fine.

We are in the Washington DC area if that helps.
When I made a gap sleeved tunic for my wife, I took two pieces of linen fabric of the appropriate size, sewed up the sides and pinned the upper edge together in six places, each separated by about four inches. I left a substantial gap in the middle for the head, with three pins to either side. I then removed one pin and pinched the material together with my thumb and forefinger. I then twisted the piece I was holding together by 180-270 degrees and sewed around and through it so that it could not untwist and come undone. I did the same with each of the pieces I had pinned together until all of the pins had been replaced with twists of fabric which seemed to resemble what could be seen in sculpture. The gap between each twist of fabric was reduced to around two and a half inches by the twisting.

There is no guarantee that this method is accurate but it worked well and seemed to resemble what is seen in sculpture. It was also very simple to achieve.

For what it is worth, my wife used a piece of tablet woven braid as a belt (as do I incidentally) so this would offer you another option to stand alongside a strip of leather or a piece of rope, both of which would be just as appropriate.

There are several gifted ladies on here with experience of making
ladies gear as well, I am sure the ywill be able to help enlighten you!
Amy and Claire spring immediately to mind!
Adian Wink has shoes socks jewelry hair pieces belts pots and pans etc etc
Just curious, but am I correct in believing that the more attractive lady of rome was the one who's skin was most pale?

And that they actually caked their skin with a white powder of some sort? Im not too sure what they actually used...If anybody here knows?
Hi Jennifer, welcome to RAT.

The general rule is overdress in wool and underess in linen. Don't worry about silks. When buying wool look at the weaves and colours carefully. Think about what you are trying to recreate.

A simple peplos is held by two brooches. It can be worn at both shoulders or just one:

Sometimes you can fold down the top quarter of the dress.
There are many ways with one or two belts it can be gathered in. On the hips or under the bust, sometimes both!

In the later period this style of dress becomes common. You can see the wide draping sleeves and the long, tight sleeved undress underneath.

These dresses may seem simple, but then in some ways that is what is so wonderful. They were not overly fitted, but can still be very flatting depending how you wear them to suit your shape.

You can compare a peplos and a chiton in design here:

There are plenty of options with table weave for belts. They may look simple, but one in linen or even silk can look especially fine.

Here are some useful links to make up:

Some of the colours used as makeup can seem a bit outrageous. Certainly by the byzantine era you wouldn't be out of place with black panda eyes and bright red lips!

And don't even get me started with hairstyles!!! It is a minefield...

And remember all good roman ladies wore a headress :wink:
And a simple cloak, made from a rectangle of cloth, keeps the weather off you. 8)

Most importantly though remember it is better to portray someone of lower status well, rather than someone of high status poorly!

Best of luck! Big Grin
Hope this gives you some overall starters. Any probs/questions - just ask.
Ennius, according to many sources, ladies whitened their faces with lead oxide. Not the best idea for long-term health, though. Zinc oxide--often used as sunblock--is safer/better, or just white theatre makeup, like what's called "Clown White".
@ Amy and Jennifer, it just looks if you are making a new topic "show here your roman female impression" :wink: and you are doing a very good job.Maybe you should start the topic in the civ section, as that doesn't already exists.It will help female reenactors to better their impression.
Quote:Ennius, according to many sources, ladies whitened their faces with lead oxide. Not the best idea for long-term health, though. Zinc oxide--often used as sunblock--is safer/better, or just white theatre makeup, like what's called "Clown White".

Thanks demetrius, was scratching my head for hours over that.
There may be more information on make-up in Alex Croom's book: Roman Clothing and Fashion, Tempus 2000(?).

I recall seeing her doing some experiments with some of the other ladies in Cohors Quinta Gallorum a few years ago to see what effects could be achieved with a small number of known face whitening substances. She told me that there were a number of known substances which could be used, most of which were entirely safe, although she also pointed out that the white lead used by many women would have been inert and thus would not have harmed them. She did explain to me why this was so but it was a long time ago and I do not recall the explanation clearly.

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