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Fantasy Dress Styles from the Mini Series Spartacus

I've been wearing 2 layers of long sleeve linen most hot days at events.  This year I'm going to do as the romans did.

I've been inspired by the HBO show ROME and the new Starz production: Spartacus:  Blood & Sand


What the TV movies envision  
    1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire


Doctor Who: Fires of Pompeii - 2010

This is what hollywood came up with in 1964 with Steven Boyd and Sophia Loren

Not even close to reality.


One of my favs TV shows is Doctor Who and here is their Roman take, which is not too bad and actually more realistic than any of the above mentioned shows!

"Nice Tunic!" as the Doctor says to Donna.

                                                                         Real Roman Women






Tunica with the open sleeves popular in the early 1st cent BCE and 1st Cent CE


Parts of the Dress

for the 1st & 2nd Centuries

1.  Under tunic or TUNICA

2. Overdress or STOLA

3. Cloak or PALLA


Now to research and make these items. I have a list of Books listed at the end of this web page that were so very useful in the design and understanding of ancient Roman Women's Dress.

Romans loved lots of color, but White, Purple (all shades) were preferred and Gray and Black were reserved for morning.

For some odd reason, I'm not getting much in the way of 'How To's from the web.  I'll just have to wing it on my own
  1: Tunica A short tunic made from my gauze linen.  short sleeves with the button closures.Roman Tunica Slaves and serving women wore just the Tunica and if it had short sleeves sewn up like the men it was usually shorter in length.  Women of stature wore them longer.  But, by the 3rd Century AD this style was taken up by the Royalty giving it status, and the open sleeved tunica was now 'old fashioned'.
  2: Stola

Sort of like a summer dress with straps or pined on with fibulae  Roman StolaThe Stola is the equilviant of the Toga for men during this time.  It was short lived (only about 200 yrs) but it symbolizes the Respectable Roman Woman.  Known for it's straps at the top and the "instita" or flounce.  Since there are no know flounces on the existing statures or frescos, it is supposed that this means the band of color at the bottom of the hem line. The Stola was supposed to cover the feet in length.

This garment was probably made from wool to give the brightest colors.  Remember back then dye colors were not as intense as today and linen takes to dye poorly unless over dyed.

Colors mentioned in the existing texts are:  blue, purple (amethyst), saffron, green, white, chestnut, almond, wax-yellow (Art of Love) with violet and yellow associated with women.  Yellow was the bridal color in Roman Times.
  3:  Palla

I may purchase a Sari  6yrds x 1.6yds from India  Could not find anything at Estrella War Merchants, so I'll be using ebay.

Roman Palla

3-24-11:  I'm checking ebay for Sari Materials.  Lots of silks to choose from, based in India and they are used.  Color choice is hard and there are many many designs....1,500 to choose from yesterday.  Also, these old ones are only $20.00 each.  I think I'll get some trim for the Stola while I'm at it.


Styles show the hair worn away from the face hair twisted or braided up into a high bun.  Sometimes some of the hair was allowed to fall down the back.

Bands of fabric or strips of metal hold the hair back.


Fabric for the Tunica and Stola

washed and dried in Hot temps (4-13-11)

tunica & stola fabric  I have fibulae for the Stola.

jewelry: necklace

pearls and jade

the colors match.




snake bracelet

FANTASY gladiator movie earrings

I love movies and Gladiator is a fun one to watch, but as redactors you must be very very careful at what you are looking at and what you want to recreate.  The Earrings shown on the left are fun!  A trip to Michael's yielded these Findings

findings  which became these    gladiator earrings  Cool Right

    But, do not be confused...I have not found any Roman Era Earrings with cones!  OK I found some later period Egyptian ones!

REAL Roman Jewelry

for Real Inspiration the Romans loved gold and as far as I can tell all earring are for pierced ears with a simple wire

lapis earring

3 must be a special number because a number of earrings from the times had 3 dangles, however you are not limited as there are extant pieces with more dangles up to 5 and as low as 2.

Almost all have pearl and there are a lot of semi precious stones inset or drilled.  Check out the V & A museum, they have lots of earrings for inspiration.

black pearls roman earrings They used pearls, glass beads and semi precious.
  Fabric for the Pella

pella fabric  Today I purchased this cotton shot (blue & red).  3 yards and so I'll cut it in half to 22" and have 18 feet (6 yards) long Pella.  It can be washed easy and I'll plan to decorate it with beads.          4-13-11

  Added 213 beads to one side of the Palla.   4-18-11

tomorrow the other side....another 213 I expect.  My palla is 22" wide and currently 6 yards long.  I may shorten it some..must make that decision before I add beads to the end.

Adding more bling:  His Highness Ajax gave me round disks as a Thank You during his reign.  I added them to the edges of Palla.

greek   palla with decorations

This 16-ray star is the national Macedonian royal symbol of Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, and the ancient Macedonian Empire. It is also known as the Macedonian Star, Macedonian Sun, Sun of Vergina, and Star of Vergina, after the location of the Macedonian royal tombs.

medallions on palla


  Sandals I bought.  They are very comfortable.        
  5-31-11 finished some trim to go around the neckline of the tunica

THE TUNICA   6-12-11

(more images below)

So tired, but I want to get started on my Roman.  Goal is to finish it for June Crown this weekend.  Leaving on Friday, so only 5 days. 

The Tunica: Finish the edges (top) of the retangles first. .  I surged the sides of the 2 pieces of retangular fabric. Sewed about 5" after the open sleeve slits for the shoulder Tack this point for both shoulders and left a large amount for the neckline to swag.  This means that my sleeves were 5" long.  The rest of the fabric must be draped to form the neckline area.

I think I'll pleat the back neckline for a smother fit.  tried one large pleat in the back but it didn't look good on me, so I made lots of small pleats across the back and that was much better.  Marked the under arm and I'll sew from the bottom of the hem to that spot and sew the under part of the sleeve.  I'll tack the upper sleeve so it will remain open like the photo above.


roman 1 big pleat was not good looking       First Tryroman-back   Final

Roman front neckline   Front

mark out the cut line for the sleeves and side seam (all one and surged)  OK the underarm is a bit tight.  So, I'll be making the other side wider and hope it evens out the drape.  Remember that only the top will show in this gown.

Well, it's not real pretty, but it will work.  Will surge the hem and I'll be done.

NOTE:  This Stola is not a Period Made Garment.  It just gives the look of one.



roman-top-pattern  I didn't see anything I liked on-line, I didn't want to create from scratch (under the gun on this one) so I'm using this pattern (which I already had) to make the top part of the Stola. 

Pattern pieces are cut.  I'm lining the top with white linen for extra strength.

It's almost 6pm so I'm going to call it a day.  Here is a preview of the Stola

Roman Stola  here is a stola statue   

I made the midriff section 1/2 of what is shown above.


  These were the inspiration for my straps.  From the British Museum click for a detail.





The piece of linen I had left is 57" X 82" 

If I cut the piece in half  I'd have 41" in length and 114" round for a really full skirt.  However 41" was not long enough to hit the ground (that would be OK, but for the fact that the back seems to want to ride up and It's about 3" shorter in the back.

So I made the pieces 57" long:  1 piece is 41" wide (front), 2 pieces are 20.5" wide each (back)

there will be one center seam all the way up the back.  Finished length is 43" from midriff to floor.




          Tunica is hemmed and working on the Stola which will be done.  So project finished!  Just realized that this is my first gown of 2011!

Got the trim done around the bottom of the hem.

Roman Matron Finished        inkle trim around hem

         a proper roman matron  wore the gown to June Crown 2011 and I was very comfortable

Wore to Beltane 2013 and it was very very hot.  Still I'm glad I had this roman dress to wear.

roman matron  I did loose more than 40 lbs from the 2011 photo above and I took in the dress at the back seam several inches.

  11-21-11 I need to make another Roman for the Summer.  It will be a different design more loose with a best to give it some shape
This Garment is more likely like the ones they made during the Roman Empire.



A white cotton  
  Stola Dutch Blue Linen 3.5 oz (very light weight) 
  Palla I'll make a larger one this time to drape over the Stola



  This Tunica would be a 3rd Century style I do like the color combo above, but since it is so close to Roman Matron #1, Here is another color combo.

Stola is an embroidered cotton and the Palla linen

45" wide and 100" long rectangle


2nd Tunica

roman materials blue
  not sure what to wear underneath if anything I made some Tablet Weaving (it's an anglo saxon design) I'll add it to the main dress.

roman matron blue 2012


The Ides of March  3/15/12

I've sewn the tunica together, it's a tube of blue machine embroidered gauze into a tube the length I needed (50").  The arms are 10" deep from the shoulder, which of course are not sewn.  I then took my mouse pad and cut out the center of the shoulders for the neckline and pinned the cut out fabric back onto it to create a facing.  The fabric is so light it needs the extra to keep the neckline from stretching out.  I gathered fabric more in the back than in the front.

The Tunica has the sleeves as one piece without any openings along the top edge. It was the new "look" of the day.

I then cut the light blue Palla fabric using the width as the length and cut it so that it would wrap around my body.  I'll attach the tablet weaving along the top and bottom of the palla. 

It's a rectangle, use measurments that will go around your body in comfort.  No tripping and not too tight. I used my new fibula pin to keep the palla on the shoulder and I pined the tunica fabric as well.

The photos show just the top pined with the tablet weaving

I need to hem the bottom of the Tunica and finish the edges of the Palla and I'm done!


Sewed the trim down the edges of the Palla.  I may be able to use the ends to make another band of trim.  Got the hems done on the Palla as well.

Hem the Tunica with a purple cotton band.  The romans loved the color purple.  This would have been so much easier if I'd planned it ahead of time.  Will take a little longer to figure this out.

This is how I solved the issue:

1. sewed the purple trim to the bottom edge of the tunica.

2. Flip the purple trim up and pinned a line along the tunica.

3. Hand sewed the turned under edge of the purple trim to the tunica.

"instita" or flounce

roman matron




Bronze Fibula

To hold the Palla in place.

fibula bronze
  3-19-12 roman matron tunica and palla

I wore this when the temps were around 100 and I was outside all day (in the shade) but it did feel very warm.  I was as comfortable as could be and didn't feel any heat stroke or faintness.

I love Romans!

Very happy, several people gave me nice comments on the Romans.

Roman Matron   I do like the way the gown moved    3rd century roman
  #3 Roman Matron Gown I need to do one more for a long hot weekend, back to the 1st Century AD
roman empress


3yards of 60" wide linen, turquoise (greek blue)

.5 yard of brown linen cut to the stripe

166" of linen inkle trim

roman linen  a cream button tunica and the teal linen will be the stola

It's the Palla that looks so very interesting on this gown.  I cannot get the fabric to drap the same way.



2 rectangles are 45" wide and 53" long


The Tunica is a cream gauze.

I sewed up the sides leaving the top free for the last 15 inches.  I'm using french seams on these long side seams.

I'll sew the top edges to finish them.  Now to adjust the neckline, so it is more gathered in the back than in the front.

tunica-roman   The arm holes are too deep and I'll have to adjust    ancient roman tunica

to 10" depth for the armhole area.  I folded over the the top edge then ran a running stitch from edge to edge on both side. Gathered the material so that I had some gathers along the sleeve and some in the neckline area.  I tacked the two pieces together at each shoulder point.  I tacked the edges of the sleeves together and tried the tunica on for adjustments.

















1st Century Muse located in Istanbul Turkey Roman

roman gathered top

Fabric is gathered into a band







roman dress 3













stola gathered top



4-11-12 finished the top band

Just 2 things left:  center back seam and hem: Done 4-21-12









stola gathered neckline  I have identified another Roman Neckline of the 1st century and it's gathered into a rounded neckline.  I've cut the fabric for the neckline.  I'll need 2 pieces and an interlining to make it sturdy enough to hold all the fabric of the dress.

A dark brown band of linen around the base of the gown with another stripe inside.  I was going to put some embroidery but since the dress will be gathered at the neckline, I don't think it will be seen very well.        roman fantsay  I was making the stripe for the bottom on the dress but when I put it on the dummy...I really like it this way..however I went over every fresco I've collected and all the statues from the 1st century and I cannot find anything that looks like this.  So it's a fantasy design....I'll pin the top of the stripe and put it at the bottom as is proper.

gathered neckline stola  The top of the stola is the salvage edge otherwise I'd finish off this edge.  Part is gathered into the neckline then open for the armholes then gathered in the back.  I have a central seam down the center back.  I do like the way the band came out with inkle weaving above and below.

A belt worn just under the bust is the typical way to wear this dress, but I think I may just let that go.


Rather than putting the embroidery on the Palla, I'm going to add them to the bottom of this Stola. 6-18-12


embroidery on roman stola  To my knowledge Romans did not embroider on their clothes, but we do have that available to us and I had this wonderful embroidery that had been made for me by my friend Isela and it looks great.  I have 4 pieces and I'm embroiding another piece for the back.  The design is from a 1st Century Brooch.

embroidery detail  The dogs are my badge.

  I was asked to process in for a friend who was getting a Laurel.  It's a recognition that she has mastered and exceeded her skills The temps were in the upper 80s to 90s at the site so I went Roman.  More than a few commented on my attire they liked it and really liked the embroidery. 
UNDERGARMENTS roman undies Women of Rome did have underwear though to look at the statues they did not.  There were breast bindings and bikini bottoms available and there is a floor mosaic which shows women athletes dressed in them and there is a pair of the leather bottoms which were found in Roman London
  Palla Because a proper Roman woman would not be caught outside without one...And I have lots of Linen!    I'm going to add the embroidery of the dogs to the Palla I have eight dogs to add so I think it will be very spiffy looking.    I'm going to add a large border all the way around as I've seen that on the frescos.

4 full yards of Ginger IS003 4.3oz linen/cotton blend                                                                  4-9-12

Changed my mind as I didn't like the color of the linen with my Stola.  Will have to rethink the Palla.  In the meantime I have 2 to use.


Pompeii by Robert Harris

Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn


Roman Dress Accessories by Ellen Swift

Costumes of the Greeks and Romans by Thomas Hope

Roman Clothing and Fashion by Alexandra Croom

Dress and the Roman Woman, Self-presentation and Society by Kelly Olson


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