September 15, 2009

Roman Blockbusters, Byzantium & Barbarians

Ninety years before the birth of Christ, Naples aligned with Italic tribes in a defensive front called Italia, which was doomed to failure against the indestructible war machine, Rome. Italia’s defeat swept Naples and the entire bay under the domain of Rome in 82 BC.

Although the islands were transferred back into Naples’ hands in 29 BC, Rome retained use of them as resorts. Despite the diffusion of the Roman culture and the Latin tongue, Greek language and culture persisted in Naples and on the islands until the 6th century of our era. Cities like Pompeii and Herculeum, however, were entirely Roman cities.

Five hundred years later, the collapse of the Roman Empire created a vacuum in southern Italy and paved the way for the Byzantine Empire to impose its rule in AD 553, governing its possessions through the nomination of local noblemen. From 661-1137, these dukes, as they were fitly called, progressively forged a sphere of autonomy.

The Roman dress code was complex, reflecting the individual’s social status, gender, and language. Talk about “in your face”!

Stately and dignified, Roman dress was a bit more cumbersome than that of the Greeks. The actual garments, however, were similar to Greek clothing, except for the toga.

Made of wool, this flowing garment was draped carefully around the body to create graceful folds, leaving the right arm exposed and the left arm covered to the wrist. Colors varied according to age and social rank.

Underneath, Roman men wore a tunic, often striped, which was rectangle in shape with openings at the shoulders. Footwear consisted of sandals with leather soles and long laces that were tied up the leg. Clean-shaven, Roman men sported short hair.

As for Byzantium, Roman dress was developed by adding ornamental embellishments, headdresses, and length to the toga. Skull caps were popular, as well as the colors gold and violet; in essence, less earthy than the Romans in the West.

2010 Trends & Takeaways from the period:
In addition to more recent “nomadic” influences, the Roman art of draping has guided many spring/summer 2010 collections.

Inspired by the long voluminous layering effect of this period, designers have employed sheer, lightweight—almost airy fabrics—in their 2010 creations, adding a stylish flow and revealing the skin.

Photo top left Ceasar's Murder, Public Domain.
Photos middle right & bottom left Copyright Men's Fashion by Franesco.

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