Dress and fashion in the Greco-Roman world (James 2)

Bilderesultat for fashion Greco-Roman

Illustration: Clothing in ancient Rome

In the Greco-Roman world clothing basically fit into two ctaegories: the tunic and the mantle. The tunic was something like the modern T-shirt, but very long (of knee or ankle length), made of wool or linen, with or without sleeves. In ancient terminology one “entered into” a tunic to put it on. A mantle was something like a large blaket wrapped around a person.

The tunic (or chiton) was the basic article of clothing for virtually all people, serving as a linen undergarment work next to the skin. The only item of clothing the poorest people may have owned, it was often quite dirty

  • The average Roman man added a girdle and an abolla, a rectangular woollen mantle worn in a double fold over the right shoulder and fastened with a pin.
  • Upper-class men wore a second undergarment over the tunic, in addition to the girdle.
  • Prosperous Romans donned the familiar toga, a long, oval-shaped (or semicircular) woollen mantle draped over the body in a series of complicated folds. Although the toga originated among the Romans, it soon found wide acceptance by wealthy citizens throughout the empire and remained the standard formal dress for Roman citizens until the late Roman period.
  • Alternative garments for upper-class men included the himation, a mantle of a Greek style more popular in the eastern part of the empire, and the chlamys, a short, woollen mantle (like a cape), often associated with soldiers.

Lower-class women often wore only an ankle-length tunic, gathered by a belt across the upper abdomen, while women of higher economic status added a mantle – often either a himation or a peplos – over the tunic. These garments were held in place by ornate “safety-pins” called fibula.

  • The himation for women was smaller than that for men. It was sometimes dyed in various colours or adorned with a pattern, although colouration and patterning were simple by modern standards. But the patterns and colouring, as well as the size, did distinguish whether a himation was intended for a man or a woman. A woman’s himation was often pleated and could be worn in a wide variety of styles (over the shoulder, as a cape, as a hood, diagonally across the upper body etc.).
  • The peplos was a single, large rectangle of cloth, distinguished from the himation by its size and especially by the way it was folded: The peplos always used a cuff-lik overfold called an apotygma. A woman’s peplos was typically as long as the distance from her shoulders to her feet, plus about 30,5 cm for the apotygma. The fold for the apotygma was approximately at the shoulders, from which it draped outward and down over the upper body. The fold could be worn as a hood over the head as a sign of modesty when a woman was walking in the streets or taking part in certain religious ceremonies (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:6).

Clothes were draped over the body rather than fitted; indeed, this draping effect is part of the classical ideal of dignity and serenity. At bight, one’s clothing (especially the mantle) could also serve as a blanket. Leather sandals were the standard footwear for all ranks of society.

In ancient sculpture people often appear wearing only a mantle (if anything at all). This is because of the classical ideal of beauty and does not reflect ordinary dress. In fact, people almost always donned tunics under their mantles. and men ordinarily wore loincloths as underwear as well. A scene from Pompeii depicts two female athletes wearing garments similar to the modern two-piece swim suit, suggesting that women of means had a fairly wide variety of underwear and outerwear available to them.

Upper-class women women often frequently sported exotic hairstyles, often with an outlandish display of curls. Dyeing the hair and wearing expensive cosmetics were popular with women (cf. 1 Peter 3:3), who also wore decorative tiaras, pins and nets with their hair. The wearing of rings and other Jewelry by both men and women contributed to the display of wealth. James warned his readers not to be so dazzled by the finery of the rich that they showed partiality to wealthy believers over their less fortunate Christian brothers and sisters.


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