As you’ve seen in previous newsletters, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope this has given you another tantalizing glimpse into Osterian (and Roman) life. If nothing else, it might have provided you some ideas for your next Halloween costume!
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