Roman Kit on a budget

Make kit for various classes of Roman, men and women, all for under £30? Don't mind if we do - in fact let's do it (mostly) for under a crisp £20! Our aim here was to make the kit look very striking and to keep it visually distinct from the Greek look (for which see the Greek kit tutorial).

Low status Roman: tunic

Equipment needed:

  • a needle, or preferably access to a sewing machine
  • scissors
  • pins
  • iron
  • a friend to help you cut

Materials needed

  • 2 metres of 5ft width cream/unbleached white cotton/polycotton. Do not pay more than £4 per metre, you can get it for £1 if you really try, or try charity shop bedsheets (mmm, prehemmed!) (You really want linen, but it tends to be too expensive, get linen if you want to spend more.) - We got some double-width polycotton for £3.50 per metre (i.e. about 10ft wide) which means you need less than a metre of length - £4
  • white thread - £1
  • Charity shop leather belt - £1
  • TOTAL: £6

Fold your fabric into quarters to make a rectangle of the dimensions shown. If you have narrow fabric, you may have to cut it in half, then sew it into one large square in order to make it fold up into quarters that are big enough. Alternatively, you could make two halves of the T-tunic shape (see below) and then simply sew them together, in the same way that we did for the Greek tunic.

Lie down on the fabric with the nape of your neck at the folder corner and the fold running down the middle of your back.

In order to create maximum disruption for minimum effort, Jude's cat will sit on the fabric while you are cutting, so distract him with catnip.

Get a friend to cut around you, leaving a generous margin (you are 3d after all and your fabric currently isn't). Decide on your sleeve and tunic length, but remember to add an inch on for your seam allowance.

Get up and cut a small head hole. Make it really small. You can always cut it bigger later whereas too big now and you're stuffed.

Unfold your tunic piece. It will look like this. Make sure your head can fit through the hole.

Refold your tunic along the top of the sleeves. It will look like this. Sew the seams together. Hem the neck hole and bottom edge, also the sleeve edges.

Get a vaguely Roman-looking belt from a charity shop and wear it... er, that's it! 

Deluxe Roman: decorated tunic and cloak

Extra materials needed

  • 2m of bright red linen, wool, or other heavy cloak material. We used linen at £5 per metre.£10
  • two (preferably matching) charity shop brooches - £1
  • 3m of red ribbon to match your cloak - £2
  • the same length of wonderweb - £2
  • TOTAL: £22

Trimming the tunic is easy using wonderweb. Get your iron nice and hot and place the ribbon along the edge, sandwiching a strip of wonderweb between it and the tunic. Then iron it. Voila!

Make sure your wonderweb is fully enclosed between ribbon and tunic or you'll get sticky stuff all over your iron and/or ironing board.

If you cut the neck hole square instead of round, you can trim that in ribbon too.

The cloak is spectacularly simple. Simply hem any rough edges if it's a fraying fabric then fold over enough that you get it the length you want. The finished edges should be the vertical edges and the ones you hemmed should be the horizontal edges.

Get a friend to grab it at the fold, and pass it over your shoulders from the back so that your head is roughly in the middle.

Pin it on to your tunic at the shoulders. Girls, you might want to pin it onto your bra straps so that it doesn't shift about too much.

Again, you can wear it lots of different ways. 

Higher status Roman: woman's dress

This is very similar to the Greek woman. For your dignity, make an under-tunic as described on that page.

Materials needed

  • 1.5m of the cheapest white material you can find - £1.50
  • 4 metres of muslin (or any fabric that drapes really nicely and is sort of see-through - £10
  • four (preferably matching) charity shop brooches - £2
  • 2-3m of red curtain cord, maybe more if you're on the plump side - £2
  • TOTAL: £15.50

Fold your 4m length of muslin in half lengthways. Along one side, pin the four brooches centrally, with roughly a foot or so between each one. These hold the fabric together on each of your shoulders and (if you held your arms out horizontally) at the top of each forearm. Put your head through the middle hole.

To stop the brooches dragging the fabric off your arms, put a couple of stitches in under your arms, making sure you can get your hand through the hole.

To distinguish it from the Greek look, we're going to tie it across the bust. Put the centre of the curtain cord against your ribs and pass the ends of the cord behind you, to your waiting friend, who will pass them up and forwards over your shoulders. Cross the cord across your bust and pass back to your friend who will tie them behind you.


The 'sleeves' could be wrist length if you pull some of the fabric up through the cord.

Feel free to add extra brooches along the gap in the sleeves. 

Jude thinks wrapping your hair into a bun covered with a bit of leftover fabric looks very Roman.

Learn to play the lyre?

This is not a lyre. 

Alternatives and additions...

There are lots of options for Roman clothing and hairstyles on the web, have a look at some of them. Try adding a trim to the dress or cloak.

Leather sandals are an obvious choice of footwear although you might want to wear boots and wrap your legs (if going for the warrior look).

Add a toga - there are plenty of tutorials on how to tie them online.

Tips and tricks

One of the issues with Odyssey will be keeping the Greek and Roman looks visually distinct. We recommend using red somewhere in your costume, avoid apotigmas (see Greek page if you've no idea what I'm talking about) and try to use the more ornate styles.

Online Resources