As you’ve seen in previous blogs, my world of Osteria was heavily influenced by my crazy obsession with Ancient Rome (and Greece, to a lesser extent). And while I may not be a fashion maven myself, I have taken a few style tips from those historical Roman men and women and applied them to my Osterian cast of characters.

Russell Crowe could almost pass for an Osterian.

Toga or Not Toga, That Is the Question

First off, let’s clear up one thing: there is no crying in baseball and there are no togas in Osteria.

league of their own, crying in baseball, tom hanks

Togas strike me as one of the most cumbersome and silly pieces of clothing in ancient times — rivaled only by the pannier dresses of the 18th century that were so unwieldy women couldn’t sit or even get through doors without some clever moves. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about with this little digression, you can see what I mean HERE.)

But back to those togas. They were worn primarily by male citizens and were considered formal attire. The garment consisted of about 11.6 square meters (125 square feet) of high-quality, heavy wool and wasn’t only expensive to buy but to maintain (there were no dry cleaners back then).

I won’t go into details of all the complicated folds and draping that went into getting this thing just right, but let’s just say it was the equivalent of fashion origami.

I’d chase after you but, well, toga. (Taken at the National Museum in Rome)

The Men’s Department

So what did Romans put on in the morning that my Osterians also wear? For men, it’s primarily the tunic. Where the toga is complex, the tunic is super simple — imagine a t-shirt-style garment that goes down to about your knees and is cinched at the waist with a belt. Over this, for travel, to add a little pizazz, or to keep warm, my Osterians might wear a cloak, typically made of wool.

Vigiles (the police, firefighting, and military force of Osteria) also wear tunics and cloaks, but for a little extra protection they wear breastplates, and every vigile has two of these: one plain for everyday fighting, and one decorative for showing off.

finn McSpool, book launch, beastie, crawfcrafts, domna
Finn doing his best to be a vigile, but sort of forgetting the whole “clothing” aspect of the vigile look.

Another bit of protective clothing is a leather skirt worn over the tunic. This “skirt” consists of a belt with wide leather strips hanging down from it. Some vigiles go one step further and have metal chains hanging from the belt as well, giving them a distinctive sound as they patrol the street.

I picture my Osterian vigiles wearing something like this when they want to dress up. (Taken at the National Museum in Rome)

The Latest Looks For Ladies

I based some of my female characters’ clothing on what a Roman woman would wear, but often punch it up a little with some glittery bling. Roman women often wore a tunic covered by a longer dress called a stolla.

Julia Domna (the inspiration for the novel Domna) striking a pose in Ostia Antica

In Osteria, I like to make this dress sheer so you would get a little hint of the tunic underneath — of course, as you may have seen in Domna, some tart-y girls don’t bother with the tunic under that sheer gown!

As with the Roman versions, the Osterian dresses include a belt, but for my characters, this is often more of an accessory than a practical thing. Some belts are simple metal chains, but others (my favorite) have a belt that goes around the waist, with smaller, finer chains hanging down like a skirt from the main belt, giving the wearer a nice little sway to her ensemble as she walks.

The women of Osteria also LOVE to decorate their hair and this also stems from Roman times when women wore nets of fine silver strands (sometimes decorated with jewels). In Osteria, I tend to have the metallic strands woven through the hair rather than worn as nets.

Tammie Beastie nailing Osteria fashion, even down to the hair decoration.

Don’t Forget the Feet

And of course, no look is complete without shoes. For the most part, the people of Osteria are tough and wear sandals most of the year. These can be simple sandals that only cover the feet, or more elaborate (and sturdier) ones that extend up the calf. When the weather gets too chilly for exposed toes, Osterians wear leather boots that lace up the side or front.


Ready to Step Into Osteria?

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domna, paperback, complete

12 thoughts on “It’s What All the Osterians Are Wearing These Days

  1. Heeheehee! I do love Tammie Beastie’s Osterian ensemble… But now I understand why your characters prefer the tunic over the toga. It would really slow down the action if they had to spend half of a chapter getting into their clothes!


      1. This is why the centaurs break all the rules and simply go naked. But where do they keep their change? Probably best not to ponder that too deeply.


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