The first thing we did for our Ancient Roman study was to make Ancient Roman Costume. The girls are doing a presentation at the end of the summer, and dress-up is a key component of that. We had some old white sheets, heavy duty safety pins and gold cord.
Women cannot partake of magistracies, priesthoods, triumphs, badges of office, gifts, or spoils of war; elegance, finery, and beautiful clothes are women’s badges, in these they find joy and take pride, this our forebears called the women’s world.”Livy, History of Rome 34.5
The peplos, normal attire for the average Roman woman, is made from two rectangular pieces of cloth. These can be partially sewn together on both sides (although are won’t be). The top is folded over and secured at the shoulder with two large pins. The woman pulled this garment over her head as a sleeveless dress, tying a belt over or under the folds.
I have not included any measurements because obviously children are different sizes and it is simple to cut down a sheet to the size required.
Instructions to make a peplos
Take your sheet and fold the top over as much as you want. Fold giving a longer flap if you wish to wrap the cord around the flap and the peplos. Fold giving a shorter flap if you wish to wrap the cord under the flap. For ours, we chose a shorter flap:
At this point, unless you have a very tall child, the sheet will be draping on the floor. Don’t worry about this until you have fastened the top of the peplos with the safety pins:
Next, you need to pin the material at the folds, above the shoulder. As a result, you should now have an arm hole and a head hole. You can sew up the open side if you like, but the cord around the waist does a good job at maintaining modesty. Place the garment over the head and tie the gold cord around the waist. At this point you can trim its length to prevent it trailing on the ground.
The Roman tunica was worn by citizens and non-citizens alike, although citizens would most likely wear a toga over the top of it. The length, decoration and the presence of stripes indicates the status of it wearer. We will make a short, plain tunica, suitable for a boy.
Instructions to make a Tunic
Take your sheet, or the material left over from the peplos, and fold it in half length ways. After that, cut a semi circle from the middle of the fold. I suggest making a smaller cut than you think you will need. You can always increase it, but it is much harder to decrease it!
Place the tunica over the head of the child and use your gold cord to tie around the waist:
Make Roman Costume The Results
To give you an idea how they will look, here are my girls wearing their own home-made Ancient Roman Costume: