Without steel needles, sewing was a difficult craft in the first-century CE. The women had a few simple garments with little shape. The seams were held together with fastenings like clasps, ribbons, or buttons. Styles didn’t change much so even the most fashionable women wore garments that had been passed down from previous generations.
The woman pictured here appears to be wearing a calf-length outer tunic, probably of light wool. Under that, she’s wearing a full-length inner tunic. Her shorter outer tunic allows us to admire the inner tunic’s wide dark border called an instita, the height of Roman fashion.
In THE DEADLIEST SPORT, Miriam explains how her former servant Phoebe dresses:
Nowadays Phoebe dresses in a Chinese silk or Spanish linen inner tunic that along its lower edge sports an instita, a wide (and her case, deeply embroidered and voluminous) ornamental flounce. Atop that, she wears a woman’s traditional boxy outer garment, the hem of hers barely brushing the top of her instita so she can flaunt this latest Roman style. And, in keeping with her status as the wife of a prosperous shopkeeper, she adorns herself with necklaces, amulets, and pendants; a few snake bracelets; perhaps a brooch; and one or two massive rings, each studded with gems.
Well, if all the women wore baggy tunics, how else do you expect a woman to display her wealth? Yes, Phoebe has come up in the world since Miriam freed her. Find out how in THE DEADLIEST SPORT, soon to be released.