What Would A Female Shop Keeper Wear In Ancient Rome

The question of what a female shop keeper in Ancient Rome would wear has long been a mystery. Although we can only guess based on the scraps of evidence that survive today, we have a better understanding of the clothing women in Roman society wore. It’s generally believed that these fashion rules also applied to female shopkeepers, as part of the protective practices allowed for Roman citizens. Clothing was more than a form of protection in Ancient Rome; it was also essential for exhibiting one’s social status. Let’s explore the kinds of clothing a female shopkeeper in Ancient Rome likely wore.

Types of Clothing

According to the experts, any female shopkeeper in Ancient Rome would have been expected to wear a stola. This was a type of long tunic, which reached to the feet and was typically fastened at the shoulder by a fibula. The stola would be made of either linen or wool and could be either plain or decorated with various patterns. Most likely, female shopkeepers wore tunics of a muted color, such as brown or gray, in order to set themselves apart from the wealthier Roman citizens and to indicate their profession.
The female shopkeeper would also have worn a mantle, which was a type of cloak. This was usually made of wool and was draped over the left shoulder and fastened with a belt or a fibula. The mantle would have been available in many colors and designs and could be worn over the stola.


The female shopkeeper likely would have worn leather shoes, though some surviving graffiti indicate that in some parts of the Roman Empire, slippers were popular for female dress. These types of footwear would have provided protection from the weather and would have been seen as appropriate for a female shopkeeper.


In Ancient Rome, jewelry was an important marker of social status. Female shopkeepers likely would have worn modest jewelry, such as small earrings and simple necklaces, in order to show their profession. Wearing too much jewelry could be seen as ostentatious, so it would have been important to keep jewelry to a minimum. Experts suggest that the female shopkeeper would not have worn rings, as this could have been seen as excessive, and could have attracted unwanted attention.


Women in Ancient Rome wore their hair in a variety of styles, but female shopkeepers likely would have worn their hair in a simple knot or a braid. This was a practical choice, as the hairstyle would have been easy to maintain and the clothing would not have interfered with the shopkeeper’s work. Experts also suggest that the female shopkeeper may have chosen to cover her hair, either with a veil or by wearing a turban.

Head Coverings

Women in Ancient Rome often wore head coverings for protection from the sun and for modesty. It’s likely that female shopkeepers would have worn a plain scarf or shawl over their hair. This would have offered protection from the sun and would have been practical for the shopkeeper’s work.


The female shopkeeper would have worn a few practical accessories. A pouch, for example, would have been useful for carrying coins and other items. She would also have likely worn a belt to keep her clothing in place, and a pair of gloves to protect her hands while working. As we know, in Ancient Rome, clothing was more than fashion; it was a way to display one’s status and profession.

Clothing as Social Status

It is thought that the clothing a female shopkeeper wore in Ancient Rome was meant to indicate her social standing. Clothes were chosen not only for protection, but also to display her position in Roman society. As a female shopkeeper, she was expected to wear clothing that was subdued and modest, as this was seen as appropriate for her profession.  


Experts believe that female shopkeepers in Ancient Rome would have worn a simple form of clothing underneath their stola. This would have consisted of woolen or linen undergarments and would have been tucked away out of sight beneath the stola. This type of clothing would have provided an extra layer of protection from the weather and helped to keep the stola’s shape in order to give a professional look to the female shopkeeper.


Since only fragments of evidence survive, we can never be sure exactly what a female shopkeeper in Ancient Rome would have worn. However, based on the available evidence and expert opinion, it’s clear that a female shopkeeper would have worn clothing that indicated her social standing and provided protection. The clothing she would have chosen would have been a mixture of practicality and modesty, reflecting the values of the Roman Empire.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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