It was a loose outer garment without sleeves which was open from the waist upwards, worn by the ancient Romans, consisting of a single broad piece of woollen cloth of a shape approaching a semicircle. The toga was gracefully draped by placing an edge on the left side of the body which extended from the lower legs up over the shoulder, around the back and beneath the right arm. The loose end of cloth which remained was thrown over the left shoulder. It was generally made of undyed wool, except the border of the toga.
Symbolism of the Toga and Status of the Wearers
There were specific laws called Roman Sumptuary Laws which dictated which type of clothing could be worn by Romans. This included the type of material, the style of the clothes and the color that people were allowed to wear. These laws ensured that a specific class structure was maintained in the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Only Roman citizens were permitted to wear the toga. Emperor Augustus enforced the public wearing of the toga by males in the center of Rome and in the media cavea of the theater. Foreigners and banished Romans were banned from wearing the toga. Only the Emperor was allowed to wear a toga which was entirely colored in purple. Statues of gods were also dressed in the purple toga. Only the augurs were allowed to wear a saffron toga. A toga with stripes on the border symbolised the status of the wearer such as senators and magistrates. The toga picta or toga palmata was a toga with a gold border which was only permitted to be worn by generals in their triumphs. The toga symbolised a garment of peace because Roman soldiers did not wear the toga.
Was the Toga worn by Roman women?
During the early period of the Roman Republic the toga was at first worn by women as well as men. However, a garment called the stola was introduced and worn by married women. Prostitutes and women condemned for adultery, were not permitted to wear the stola and forced to wear a toga. A toga-clad prostitute was called a togatae.
Colors of the Toga
The colour of the toga worn by men was generally white, that is, the natural colour of white wool. Hence it was called pura or vestimentum purum. The toga was kept white and clean by the fuller. When this was neglected, the toga was called sordida, and those who wore such garments sordidati. A black or dark colored toga was worn as a sign of mourning. The augurs wore a saffron colored toga. The colors of the borders on the toga indicated the status of the wearer.
There were many different types of toga which were worn by the Romans. Names and descriptions of the different types of Roman togas are as follows:
Different Types of Roman Togas
Toga pura: Was the common, natural, white color of wool Toga virilis: Was the plain white toga worn on formal occasions when which boys assumed upon maturity
Trabea: The 'trabea' which was entirely colored in purple worn by the Roman Emperors. Also called the purpureaToga candida: Was bleached by chalk to a dazzling white worn by candidates for public office hence the word candidate
Toga praetexta: Had a broad crimson band woven along its lower border. It was worn by freeborn children of both sexes and by consuls and priestsToga pulla: Was a dark colored toga worn during mourning
Toga picta: Was worn by Roman Emperors on special occasions such as the opening of gladiatorial games. Unlike all other types of togas, the material was not just dyed purple but was also richly embroidered and decorated with gold.
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