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Updated on February 19, 2010

The toga is a draped outer garment worn by the citizens of ancient Rome. It was an oblong of wool, which was draped over the left arm, around the back, under the right arm, across the chest, and over the left shoulder. The toga, derived from the Greek himation and the small Etruscan toga, was the mark of the freeborn citizen. In early times it was worn by both sexes and all classes of citizens, but eventually it became the prerogative of aristocratic men. During the republic the toga was enlarged to a semicircle about 6 by 18 feet (2 by 6 meters). Under the empire it became longer and narrower, requiring such complex draping that most aristocrats substituted simpler garments. It was retained, however, for state occasions and for some officials.

The color and quality of the toga indicated the status of the wearer. The toga pura (toga virilis), of fine white wool, was assumed by youths on reaching manhood. The toga praetexta, white with a purple band on the straight edge, was worn by young people and, later, some magistrates. For mourners the toga pulla, of dark material, was customary. The toga picta, ornately embroidered or painted in purple and gold, was the dress of generals at their triumphal processions and of the emperor.


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