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Originally, women wore togas as well, but after the 2nd century BC, the toga was worn exclusively by men, and women were expected to wear the stola. At that point, it was considered disgraceful for a woman to wear a toga; wearing the male garment was associated with prostitution and adultery.
Although the stola was a Roman garment, it was inspired by the clothing of ancient Greece. It was a staple of fashion in ancient Rome spanning from the early Roman Republic through the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire into the first millennium. Probably the most well-known image of the stola is the one worn by the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
The stola was a long, pleated dress, worn over an undergarment called a tunic or tunica intima (the Roman version of a slip). The stola was generally sleeveless but versions of it did have short or long sleeves. These sleeves could belong to the stola itself or be a part of the tunic. The traditional sleeveless stola was fastened by clasps at the shoulder called fibulae. The stola was typically girt with ribbons, and typically had two belts. The first was worn just below the breasts creating a great amount of folds. The second and wider belt was worn around the waist.
Stolas were generally made of fabrics like cotton or wool, but a wealthy woman could be seen wearing a stola made of silk. The stola was worn as a symbol and represented a woman's marital status.
A wealthier woman might also have added a limbus to her stola. A limbus was a separate piece of fabric with many folds that was sewn into the hem of the stola creating the appearance of another gown being worn beneath. This created the illusion of layers, a symbol of wealth and status.
Stolas were made in a variety of colors including red, yellow, and blue. Decorations were also added to the neckline and hem. For common women, these would be a simple band of color or pattern. For wealthier women, more details and embellishments were used. A wide ornamental border called an instita was often used around the neckline and hem as a display of wealth.
- McGinn, Thomas A. (1998). Prostitution, sexuality, and the law in ancient Rome. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 340. ISBN 0-19-508785-2. "…through conviction under the law was cast as a prostitute, most visibly through imposition of the label of the toga, the prostitute's badge of shame."