Imperial Roman toga on Tiberius (reigned 14–37 CE); in the Louvre, Paris
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The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a sash of perhaps twenty feet (6 meters) in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was invariably made of wool, and the tunic under it was often made of linen. For most of Rome's history, the toga was a garment worn exclusively by men, while women wore the stola. Non-citizens were forbidden to wear the toga.
As time went on, dress styles changed. Romans adopted the shirt (tunica, or in Greek chiton) which the Greeks and Etruscans wore, made the toga more bulky, and wore it in a looser manner. The result was that it became useless for active pursuits, such as those of war. Thus, its place was taken by the handier sagum (woolen cloak) on all military occasions. In times of peace, too, the toga was eventually superseded by the laena, lacerna, paenula, and other forms of buttoned or closed cloaks. However, the toga did remain the court dress of the Empire.
The same process that removed the toga from every-day life gave it an increased importance as a ceremonial garment, as is often the case with clothing. As early as the fifth century B.C., and probably even before, the toga (along with the calceus) was looked upon as the characteristic badge of Roman citizenship. It was denied to foreigners, and even to banished Romans, and it was worn by magistrates on all occasions as a badge of office. In fact, for a magistrate to appear in a Greek cloak (pallium) and sandals was considered by all, except unconventional folk, as highly improper, if not criminal. Augustus, for instance, was so much incensed at seeing a meeting of citizens without the toga, that, quoting Virgil's proud lines, "Romanos, rerum dominos, gentemque togatam" ("Romans, lords of the world, the toga-wearing race"), he gave orders to the aediles that in the future no one was to appear in the Forum or Circus without it.
Because the toga was not worn by soldiers, it was regarded as a sign of peace. A civilian was sometimes called togatus, "toga-wearer", in contrast to sagum-wearing soldiers. Cicero's De Officiis contains the phrase cedant arma togae: literally, "let arms yield to the toga", meaning "may peace replace war", or "may military power yield to civilian power."
There were many kinds of togae, each used differently.
In several countries, the tradition of the toga party has become popular in recent decades, generally at colleges and universities, perhaps best illustrated in (if not inspired by) the film Animal House.
This practice trades on the exaggerated legend of Roman debauchery, and participants dress in togas, which are usually makeshift garments fashioned from bed linen. As such, these "togas" bear little resemblance to the Ancient Roman garment, being both flimsier and scantier.
Interview: Arthur Toga discusses flight attendant Uli Derickson, purser on the hijacked TWA Flight 847 in 1985, who died at age 60
Feb 24, 2005; MELISSA BLOCK All Things Considered (NPR) 02-24-2005 Interview: Arthur toga discusses flight attendant Uli Derickson,...