Latin Fashion – Then and Now

Children’s fashion was the same as that of an adult but only in a smaller version.  The clothing varied from region to region. On a boy’s sixteenth or seventeenth birthday, he dressed in a white tunic. The day ended with a dinner party given by the father for the boy’s “coming of age” symbolizing becoming a citizen. A young girl wore a toga and a tunic down to the ground when she went outside.

Children wore a special locket around their neck from birth.  The bulla contained an amulet as protection from evil.  Girls wore their bulla until the eve of their wedding day. Boys wore theirs until they had their party for becoming a citizen. However, if a boy later achieved some honor like becoming a successful general, etc., then he would wear his bulla in a ceremonial parade.  This served as protection from jealousy of men and the gods.

The toga was the formal garment of a male citizen.  It was first worn alone but later draped over a tunic.  At first, the fabric was heavy, white wool.  However, the color varied over time and even included stripes.  Those who were royalty wore specific colors and chariot riders wore other colors. Later the toga was designed to have fabric for a hood. The toga was often worn belted. Some soldiers wore trousers. Capes and cloaks were added depending on the weather and the occasion.  These were made of wool or leather. Men, women, boys, and girls often wore leather or wooden shoes or sandals. It was fashionable for the men to wear one ring.

Sometimes beards were in fashion, too; other times, to be clean-shaven was fashionable. Women wore togas first but then switched to tunics.  If you were married, you wore a stole over the tunic.  This was a long, full dress gathered with a high belt.  Near the shoulder, the dress was gathered with a large brooch. If you were wealthy, the colors were richer and the fabrics finer such as muslin or silk. Women would sometimes wear a loose-fitting bonnet or a hairnet.  In colder weather, they wore a palla, a long woolen shawl. Women dyed their hair.  Golden red, jet black and the blond were popular colors.

Black wigs were imported from India and blond wigs from Germany.  A curling iron or scissors was used to make ringlets.  Oils and tonics were used to give softness and shine to the hair.  In the late 1st -2nd centuries, high-piled hairstyles became popular.  Hair was often styled at home by slaves. Women enjoyed makeup.

Face powder was a mix of white lead and powdered chalk.  Rouge and lipstick were made from wine.  Eyebrows and eyelashes were blackened with ashes.  Jewelry was popular and precious stones, especially pearls, were used for the hair, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, ankle circlets and rings. Sandals or slippers often in bright colors and decorated with stones were worn. Women carried fans made out of peacock feathers, wood or stretched linen.  They also used parasols.

Today the clothing is westernized like that of other European countries and the United States.  The styles are modernized and typical of fashion the world over.

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