Over on the Forbes blog, I talk about the history of dress codes for women. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I think a lot about clothing, color, and historical dress. This post is reacting to the recent burkini bans in towns along the French Riviera by mentioning the fact that Sparta, Rome, the Church, and many others have tried to control female dress as a means of advertising a communal identity. In short? Women often serve as blank political canvases that others (usually elite men in antiquity) may paint upon in order to advertise social hierarchy, communal ideals, or attitudes towards luxury. Below, I have also offered some links to other posts I have written on clothing both here and elsewhere.
Previous Posts on Ancient Clothing, Color, and Historical Dress:
- Clothing and Cross-Dressing in Antiquity
- with Kristina Killgrove, Caesar Undressing: Ancient Romans Wore Leather Panties And Loincloths
Short Bibliography in Order Of How Much I Love The Book (Because it is my blog and I do not have to go alphabetically):
- Upson-Saia, Kristi. 2011. Early Christian dress: gender, virtue, and authority. New York: Routledge.
- Edmondson, J. C., and Alison Mary Keith. 2008. Roman dress and the fabrics of Roman culture. Toronto [Ont.]: University of Toronto Press.
- Parani, Maria G. 2003. Reconstructing the reality of images: Byzantine material culture and religious iconography (11th-15th centuries). Leiden: Brill.
A more extensive bibliography on ancient clothing is available via Miko Flohr’s website.
As these resources demonstrate: when we reimagine the ancient world, we have to do so in technicolor. This means both for statues and for daily life. It means we must read the subtexts provided to us by mentions of colors in particular. Although these aspects of premodern societies can go unnoticed, clothing, color, and laws that controlled these aspects can tell us a great deal about the past and the present.