A toga was an article of clothing worn by the ancient Romans. Usually made of fine white wool and worn with a tunic underneath, it was draped over the shoulders and wrapped round the body. The toga was originally worn by both sexes, but from the 2nd century BCE onwards it was worn exclusively by men and was the approved form of town dress for Roman citizens.
There were many different types of toga, of which the most common were:
- the toga virilis (‘toga of manhood’), a plain white toga worn by Roman citizens unless they held certain official positions (see below);
- the toga praetexta (‘bordered toga’), a toga with a broad purple border worn by boys, by certain magistrates, and by certain priests;
- the toga candida (‘bright toga’), a toga rubbed with chalk to produce a shining white, worn by candidates standing for election to certain magistracies.
For women the article of clothing which corresponded to the toga was the stola, a long pleated dress, usually without sleeves, worn over a tunic.
Etymological notes: (1) The Latin noun tŏga is formed from the verb tĕgĕrĕ, ‘to cover, hide, conceal, protect’. (2) The English word togs, an informal word for ‘clothes’, probably derives from toga: togs is first recorded in the 18th century and is thought to be an abbreviation of ‘togemans’ (‘coat’), the first part of which comes from toga.