How to wear a Toga – Dr Mary Harlow – University of Leicester

How to wear a Toga – Dr Mary Harlow – University of Leicester


The Toga is the garment we most associate with the Romans. It was worn on civic occasions by every male citizen from Marcus the retired centurion in Leicester to the emperor in Rome. It’s the garment that we see on thousands of statues and monuments across the ancient world. As you can see the toga is a very large garment, in the roman world it would have been made of wool, it would have been made all in one piece and it could have taken up to 12 or 16 square metres of material, but once on the body it was important it was draped well. It was worn without fastenings, without broches and without pins, so dressing our Roman Citizen required quite a lot of skill. So underneath your toga you wore a very simple tunic, it’s just two oblongs sown together at the shoulders in effect and down the sides. It might be decorated with clarvii, these are the stripes that run from shoulder to hem, and these might if you were very wealthy be dyed with Murex purple. Murex is a shell fish so the production of the purple dye was a very smelly business but if you could retain a little bit of that fishy smell in your final garment it would show your colleagues that you could afford the best. You can see the slaves have pre-folded the toga so it’s easier to put it on their master. It runs down the front of the body, over the left-hand shoulder. It’s then brought around the front of the body under the right shoulder and taken across the left shoulder again. The left arm carries all the weight in this process and the right arm is left free for proper gesturing. We can do a little bit of tightening, creating a little bit of tension in the material so that it felt secure as the citizen walked about. What we want is the effect of elegant folds across the front of the body, like we have here. We create the umbo which is an extra fold by pulling up the central piece which was laid on first and laying it across the body, and you can hide your money in here, create like a little pocket. And then finally when once our citizen has put his sandals on of course he’s ready to face the world. Through doing practical experiments like this we can better understand the images we see on monuments like the Ara Pacis, where rows of togate men fiddle with their clothing but at the same time are very comfortable in their draped dress.

17 Replies to “How to wear a Toga – Dr Mary Harlow – University of Leicester”

  1. I've got my linen materials and $600 for 2 Libyan slaves to help me dress. Now, how will I get my servants over without Visas?

  2. University of Leicester hi iam intrested in the dimensions of the toga itself can you please provide me with further information?

  3. THe professor needs to do more research. This in not really how a toga is draped. It was a little more complicated than this, and the result was more elegant. The magisterial study of draping the toga Lillian May Wilson, A Study of the Roman Toga, John Hopkins, 1924. This professor needs to read it.

  4. I'm glad they chose a guy with Mediterranean features, if they put a guy with blue eyes and blond I would have given quite a laugh LOL

  5. The Romans where clean shaven why did he have a beard. But the beard is really well kept. It just broke the immersion a little. Beard is nice tho

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