Roman British Costuming: General Guidelines for “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts”
A Roman lady wears a tunic (white), stola (blue), and palla (red).
As a historian, history is my passion. I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered. But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts” or Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar?” What if you don’t have years of expertise researching Roman and Roman-British clothing?
The following is a general guide for productions of “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of Roman and Roman-British characters/personae:
The brat is a 2 meter long, 30″ wide heavy wool rectangle that is wrapped or pinned around the body to protect the wearer from the elements. Worn across “Celtic” societies on both the continent and the British islands. The late medieval “kilt” of Scotland evolved from the ancient brat which can be pinned and belted (as above) as desired or simply folded and wrapped around the body in dozens of different ways.
Simple wool tunics. Men wear shorter tunics with warm, simple-cut trousers. The trousers of upper class warrior men are cropped with hemlines between the knee and an ankle. Women wear ankle length tunics. Both sexes wear brats: a heavy and often coarsely woven rectangular shawl folded lengthwise across the body. The brat may be worn as a shawl, draped and pinned as a cloak, draped and pinned as a surcoat, or simply folded and pinned secure to the upper breast. Jewellery is abundant and includes decorative broaches.
Men wear knee length tunics called “chitons.” Over this common men wrap a rectangular cloak similar to a brat that is often pinned securely. High ranking men wear togas over their chitons instead of a cloak.
Women wear a long-sleeved tunic dress covering most of the body. Over this women wear a stola which is high-waisted and held together at the shoulders by broaches. The top layer for upper class Roman women is her palla which is wrapped around her in dozens of different ways to cover her head, warm her like a cloak, or even serve as a female version of a toga.
The Roman palla and how to wear it.
Roman soldiers wear armour and carry a gladius (a short thrusting sword) at all times.
Components to a Roman legionnaire’s armour.
Special costuming for “Boudicca: A Play in Three Acts”and for general reenactment of Roman British characters/personae
Act I, Scene I: Prasutagus wears the fine linen/wool that marks him as a member of the upper class with decorative trim along the hem edges of his tunic and brat. Roman bureaucrat wears a toga marking him as a Roman citizen and aide to the Roman governor. The broach securing Boudicca’s brat features a raven as a mark of her devotion to Cathubodva.
Act I, Scene II: Boudicca wears a Roman stola over her Celtic tunic dress. A palla drapes across her body like a shawl. Her flaming red hair is now elaborately braided and pinned up matronly.
Act I, Scene III: Boudicca and Prasutagus wear their finest woollen tunics with embroidered trim along sleeve, hem, and neckline edges. Boudicca’s brat is made of a much finer wool than we saw in Scene I which is soft blue or lavender in colour. King Prasutagus wears a polished circlet or crown. Boudicca wears a coronet of spring flowers over her braided hair. Linet wears a tiara or circlet made of oak leaves and a silver necklace.
Act I, Scene IV: Gaius and Roman Bureaucrat wear togas over their tunics.
Act III, Scene I: Gaius and Roman Bureaucrat both wear togas over their tunics.
Act III, Scene III: Gaius wears full battle armour instead of his toga.
From Act II, Scene V forward Roman soldiers also carry shields.
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