Fabrics & Sewing

Fabrics & Sewing Supplies

If you want to dress like a Roman, you can find a lot of basic materials for making your own Roman clothes here.

Fabrics & Sewing

Of course, in ancient times, the tunics and other garments worn by the Romans were not made in factories, but were sewn by hand. Real antique fabrics can be found on these pages under Fabrics & Sewing in the Roman Shop under the heading Raw Materials and Useful Items. There are also some very surprising things to tell about the Roman tunic. But more about that later...

The Roman tunic and its power!

Listen and be amazed! Alexander the Great conquered a vast empire. But the commander did not wear heavy metal armour. Just a linen shirt protected him from enemy arrows, axes and spears! This is the story told by many historians. His motto: "Linen instead of metal" was not unusual in those days. The Macedonians, Greeks and later the Romans fought in armour made of specially reinforced linen, which they called linothorax. This has long puzzled researchers. What was this mysterious armour made of?

Since linen rots easily, no evidence of the ancient linen armour was found. So today we have to take Plutarch's word for it when, in his biography of Alexander, he describes what the Macedonian emperor was wearing when he stepped out of his tent on the morning of 1 October 331 BC, before the battle of Gaugamela: "... a Sicilian cloak and over it a breastplate of folded linen from the spoils of the battle of Issus". But see for yourself! The antique fabrics are strong and durable, even if they are copies of the originals. You're sure to enjoy them, even if you're hopefully not going into battle!

Fabric for your own tunic

The Roman tunic was originally made from two rectangular pieces of cloth. The back was slightly longer than the front. Two fibulae, similar to our modern pins, were used to hold the tunic together at the shoulders. More popular with the Romans, however, was the tunic sewn together at the shoulders and sides. This was made of wool and was initially sleeveless. Later the woollen tunic was given sleeves that barely reached the elbows. Above the hips, the Romans usually held the tunic together with a belt. Men's tunics reached below the knees, while Roman women's tunics came down to the ankles. On special occasions, Roman citizens wore a toga over the tunic. Roman matrons wore a stole over the Roman tunic. Romans and Roman women also wore several layers of tunics to keep out the cold or for fashion.

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