New roman frock

On Saturday I made my new roman dress for an event at the ashmolean on Sunday. ( which was absolutely rammed, I think I had hundreds for each session).

the dress is called a stola, the dress of a respectable matron, but since the style lasts for most of the empire there are variations, mostly at the shoulders. I decided to experiment with recreating this style from the first century ad, my other one has straps so I thought this would make a change.

I used the madder dyed cloth I did during the week. Un bleached white was the traditional choice for this garment, but colour seems to have been pretty common too, and Ovid talks about the range available to ladies.


It looks to me like the fabric is sewn together at the shoulders, with a sort of bar sewn across. So first I sewed my fabric into a tube and hemmed the bottom, I didn’t hem the top because I thought that might make the shoulder bulky. I also reserved a two inch strip of fabric, other than that it all went into the tube.


Next I pinned it to the dummy, adjusting it so it hung evenly. There is a fine line with these things between having enough fabric so it drapes nicely, and having too much that just makes your bum look big. I think this was about right.


Using a waxed linen thread I whip stitched the fabric for about three inches across each shoulder before arranging the sewn fabric into tiny pleats.


Then I carefully folded a bit of my reserved fabric and sewed it into the bar covering the join, and once I’d done that I hemmed the top. I have no idea if this is the “right” way to reconstruct the garment in the statue, but it seems to me a good approximation.


I wore a white linen tunic underneath on Sunday, and it was very comfy, although I’m sure it looked far more elegant on the dummy because she’s less lumpy than me.

i wore my sky blue palla with it, which is about the same shade as the belt.



~ by opusanglicanum on November 23, 2015.

12 Responses to “New roman frock”

  1. Fabulous, as ever.

  2. It’s a lovely colour, and it looks very comfortable.

  3. It seems a very reasonable way to achieve the effect seen on the statue. I’m glad to know Roman ladies got to wear colours! I know dyes were available, but I’ve ended up with the impression that they were a bit infra dig in Rome!

    • If you look at the wall paintings from Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the Egyptian mummy portraits, there’s actually a fair range of colours there. although I think you have to be careful about the accuracy of them since they probably reflect the range of paint pigments available rather than cloth dyes, which are not necessarily the same thing

  4. And just look what’s on the BBC news site today!

  5. It looks great!

  6. Looks nice.

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