The tunic was similar to the Greek chiton. Roman women also wore a long shawl, called a palla, over their tunic and stola when they went outside.
Definition and Description of the Stola
Definition of the Stola: The word stola derives from the Latin word 'stole' meaning a garment. The stola was a long garment, descending to the ankles, worn by Roman women. The stola was not allowed to be worn by courtesans, or by women who had been divorced from their husbands for adultery. Such women were forced to wear a toga, which was seen as disgraceful in Roman society.
Description of the Stola
Description of the Stola: The stola was a dress worn over the tunic by Roman matrons (married women). It came as low as the ankles or feet and was fastened round the body by a girdle with broad folds above the breast. The essential distinction between the tunic and the stola seems to have been that the latter always had an Instita or flounce sewed to the bottom and reaching to the instep. The stola seems to have been usually fastened over the shoulder by a Fibula or clasp, and generally had sleeves.
Symbolism of the Stola and the Status of the Wearers
There were specific laws called Roman Sumptuary Laws which dictated which type of clothing could be worn by Roman men and women. These laws detailed the type of material, the style of the clothes and the color that people were allowed to wear. Only married women were permitted to wear the stola. Unlike the toga the stola only conveyed the marital status of the woman. The stola was worn by a Roman woman as a symbol of marriage publicly proclaiming her respectability and adherence to Roman traditions. The stola did not indicate her social class. Roman women could not transact any business of importance without the concurrence of their parents, husbands, or guardians as decreed by the laws in the Twelve Tables. Women could not partake of magistracies, priesthoods, triumphs, badges of office or receive gifts, or spoils of war. Elegance, finery, and beautiful clothes were the women's badges. However, the clothing styles and fashions of Roman women were relatively simple and unchanging and as women had no special dress that distinguished their status the wealthy women wore expensive materials, highly elaborate hairstyles, make-up and expensive jewelry.
Colors of the Stola
The range of colors available for dyeing the stola and fabrics used for Roman clothes increased as the Romans came into contact with, and conquered, many of the nations in the western world. The Romans were great traders and even opened trade routes to China from where they obtained luxury materials such as silk. Different shades of colors were produced by using various dyes and combination colors such as orange were also produced. The main Colors of stola include the following colors :
Materials and fabrics used when making the Stola
Many luxury materials were imported from the provinces. Fine linens came from Egypt, cotton from India and silk from China. Silk was quite rare and extremely expensive. Clothes made of silk were a luxury which could only be afforded by the wealthiest Roman women. The most common fabric used to make the stola was wool however other clothing materials used by the Romans to make the stola included the following:
- Cloth of gold