Roman-style chiton

As a lover of just about anything that involves wearing a costume, I hosted a toga party this weekend. I wanted my outfit to be somewhat authentic looking, so I decided to make a chiton. A chiton is basically a tunic held together at the top edge with fibulae, or pins. Women’s tunics were floor-length and were slightly defined at the waist with a belt or cord. For my chiton, I used an old fitted twin-sized sheet that did not fit the guest bed for which we bought it. I took out the elastic and removed the part of the sheet that covers the sides of the mattress on all but one end. The result was a piece of fabric that was almost my height and almost wide enough to reach my elbows. I cut the fabric in half and stitched it into a tube, leaving about six inches on either side for the sleeves. I hemmed the top edge and the sleeve openings. The bottom hem was the casing for the elastic.

I created the neck and sleeves with two gold buttons at the shoulders and two more at the top corners of the chiton; these stood in for fibulae. It looks rather wrinkled here because this photograph was taken after I’d been wearing it for several hours.

If I wear this again, I think I’ll add a third button to each side so the sleeves aren’t quite so open and look more like the ones seen on ancient statues. I used a piece of gold ribbon for a belt and gathered the fabric at the waist until the garment just touched the floor. I accessorized with some Roman-style jewelry and was planning to wear a wreath of grape leaves, but I didn’t quite get that far. I didn’t have to worry about shoes; since I was in my own house, I just went barefoot. Underneath, I wore a skin-toned strapless slip so as to be decent without interfering with the open neckline.

I made Jared a tunic of unbleached muslin, which was nearly identical to mine except shorter (appropriate for a Roman man) and with the sleeves sewn rather than secured with buttons. He draped another piece of muslin over this, following instructions he found online for making a toga. And that was it! Super-easy, and cheap, too.

The party was a blast and some of our guests had fun togas, including one fashioned from a Space Invaders sheet.


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