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The toga was the principal garment of the free-born Roman male. It was also worn by Etruscan men and originally also by women. It was usually made of undyed light wool, but for mourning was of dark wool, the toga pulla, and, for boys of high birth and the holders of certain offices, it had a purplepraetexta border along its upper edge. A decorated version worn by victorious commanders in triumphal processions, the toga picta or trabea triumphalis, was made of purple wool and gold thread.

In shape the toga was a very large semicircle, a single piece of cloth which in the 1st cent. ce measured up to 5.5×2.75 m. (19½×10 ft.) It was worn without a fastening and the wearer had to keep his left arm crooked to support its voluminous drapery. It was put on thus: one corner was placed before the feet and the straight edge was taken up and over the left shoulder, across the back and under or over the right arm, across the chest, and over the left shoulder again, the second corner hanging behind the knees; the curved edge became the garment's hem. By the imperial period, two features had developed which helped to accommodate the garment's increased size: an umbo or ‘navel’ at the waist, resulting from the upper part of the under layer being pulled over the second layer, and a sinus or ‘lap’, created by folding down the straight edge where it passed under the right arm. In the 3rd cent. ce the umbo was generally folded into a band lying across the wearer's chest, and in the 4th cent. the sinus was usually long enough to be thrown over the left forearm.

As a result of Roman conquests the toga spread to some extent into the Roman western provinces, but in the east it never replaced the Greek rectangular mantle, the himation or pallium. Its increased size and cost caused it to decline among ordinary Romans, but portrait statues record its use by wealthier citizens at least until the end of the 4th cent. ce. A late version, smaller and decorated, is familiar from the ivory diptychs of the consuls. In the long term the toga developed into the sash-like loros, a vestment exclusive to the Byzantine emperor. See dress.


Quintilian, Institutio oratoria 2. 3. 137–142.Find this resource:

    Tertullian, De pallio 5.Find this resource:

      L. M. Wilson, The Roman Toga (1924).Find this resource:

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