Dress and Personal Appearance in Urban Settings

This thesis puts people centre-stage in our reconstructions of cities. Whilst the dress of upper social classes is well-known, that of the middling and lower classes is not, and we have little idea of regional variations in dress. Similarly, hairstyles or beards from court are well-studied, whilst the personal appearance of shopkeepers, beggars, children and slaves is somewhat neglected. Indeed, recent reconstructions of dress have produced idealised depictions based on mosaics, manuscripts and statues, of people looking their best. We have little idea of how clothes aged, were repaired, or how they might vary seasonally. To make progress we need to understand the nature of personal representation in late antiquity. We also need to consider often neglected textiles, especially from newly-excavated Egyptian graves, along with evidence from patristic texts and depictions, to reveal seasonality, wear and repair in dress, alongside evidence of bodily modification, such as piercings or tattoos. This material could provide a basis for filling city reconstructions with credible ordinary people.

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