After talking about Greek fashion (quite briefly, however), it would be chronologically right to write about Roman. One of the greatest Empires of the world, which heritage keeps affecting us till the very present day, it indeed has its roots in Greek culture, but it has its very own way of developing.
The Greek had an ideal to follow and to look up to, perfect development of athletic body and rhetorical, philosophical mind. Romans worshipped the human himself with all his strengths and weaknesses, which were seen as special and very individual qualities. From my perspective, this could be the main difference between these cultures, which distinguished their ideologies a lot. In each Roman house (which was wealthy and noble enough) was a kind of a shelf with portrait busts of ancestors in it. Roman were proud to be human in all the possible meanings of this word. They cherished each memory about their predecessors and the glorious history they were participating in. The more developed and wanted form of art between all the people were, indeed, portrait busts.
Of course, it is impossible to talk about clothes, when the main subject is the bust, but fashions in Greek and Roman times were very much alike. However, it would be hardly right to tell that addressing hairstyles. Roman people paid a great deal of attention to their hair, they took care of it, developed wigs and the hairdresser was one of the most prestigious professions that time.
We shall focus on one bust, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking pieces of art in this world – bust of a Flavian Lady, now kept in Capitoline Museum. This is not a random choice, as it would provide us with a small talk about Flavian dynasty in Rome. This period is very small (between 69 AD and 96 AD) and consists of reigns of only three emperors (Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). However, during this time, many significant events took place: from eruption of Vesuvius and siege of Jerusalem to strengthening the borders with barbarians by expanding the fortifications along the Limes Germanicus. It is very hard to imagine modern Rome without Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum. This was a bright era, full of events, with the sunset of Roman Empire approaching, what made it even more interesting, and, in some cases, extravagant.
The same could be told about Flavian hairstyles: interesting and, indeed, extravagant, probably, the most flamboyant in all Roman history. Braids and curls in all their kinds were extremely popular. In all time, women wanted to look younger than they are. In Flavian time, they wanted also to look taller: that is what the high arching crown (usually made using fillets of wool and toupees) on the front was for. It reminds me a bit of a combination of modern Babette and buns: as the hair was divided into two parts, first of them combed forwards and built with curls forming that crown and the second braided and coiled in bun.
This hairstyle was not only very extravagant, but also, I shall suppose, pensive and vulnerable, very feminine. The complicated web of braids and curls bewitched the eye of the onlooker, making him lost in the hair as much as in women’s soul. The front hair was headed upwards, to the sky and miracle worlds, full of magic and fairytales, forming a crown, what could be seen as reminder that every woman is a queen in her own way and should be treated so. And the very complex braided bun opened the neck, making woman elegant and vulnerable, forming the urge to protect her.
We are used to think about Roman people as an ideal, after which we shall strive. But let’s take a closer look. Roman were the ones who made gods more human-like and made ordinary human nearer to the gods. They were very aware of individuality of each person, transforming weaknesses into strengths, imperfections into something unique and therefor worth worshipping. Let’s look at the same bust sideways in order to prove that.
Not having an ideal or a standard, accepting themselves the way they are, being sure they deserve everything they may want in this world – that is what made great not only Roman people, but also an Empire they made. I think, it may be good to learn from Roman to accept and to love yourself, just because you are so unique and special in your own way.
Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,
Historic of Art and Fashion