Tunic – The Body Garment That Just Keeps Going

When it comes to body garments, there are many different types.  There’s the night gown, the jacket, the robe, and the long shirt, but one of the longest lasting body garments is the tunic.  You have most likely heard this name before, but what exactly is the piece of clothing?

To bring clarity to this pondering, a tunic refers to a garment for the body, stretching from the shoulders to the hip, sometimes extending to the ankles.  It sports a pretty simple style, thus making it purposeful for many outfits.  Rooted in earlier Greek garments, the tunic comes from the Latin word “tunica”, which was the main garment both males and females sported in ancient Rome.

Townsman Tunic:

Townsman Tunic

In ancient Rome, the tunic was a representation of social status and was worn by both citizens and non-citizens.  The tunic was often worn underneath a toga and status was indicated by the length, width, ornamentation, and presence, or lack of, stripes.  If you wore a tunic that reached a bit above the knee, it could be deduced that you were a slave, soldier, or manual worker.  If you were seen in a tunic going down to the ankle, it could be assumed that you had an occupation that involved sitting most of the time.  If you wore a tunic that reached somewhere in between the knee and ankle, there is no doubt that you were a horse rider.  For male wearers, tunics were loose and started from the neck and going to the knee.  For the female wearer, either a loose fit or tight fit could be worn, beginning at the neck and covering a skirt or shorts.

Resembling the Roman tunic was the tunic worn by the ancient and Byzantine Greeks.  These tunics looked like jackets and also included decorations at the hem line to indicate the city-state where the wearer lived.  As for colors, the Greek tunic was either bleached white or dyed with bright colors.

Medieval Tunic, Black:

Medieval Tunic, Black

The legacy of the tunic lasted after the fall of the Roman Empire into the Middle Ages of Europe, where they were worn with varying sleeve and hem lengths.  These body garments were worn over underclothes, consisting of a shirt and drawers and still had lengths down to the knee or ankle.  Medieval tunics were made from wool or linen, while the wealthy class was known to flaunt tunics of silk or fabrics with silk trim.  These tunics also featured elaborate embroidery and tablet-woven braids along the neck, wrists, and hem.  The Medieval tunic was the fanciest of all the tunics up to that point.

In today’s age, the tunic is still in existence, primarily in religious and uniform contexts, although it may also be worn as costume in performance or at festivals and faires.  For a complete viewing of our tunic offerings, stop on by:  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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