HISTORY OF TUNICS
"Who wore it best" is often the question when celebrities are photographed wearing the same or similar outfits. But when it comes to the history of the tunic "Who wore it first" is the question of the day. Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all embraced the tunic as multi-purpose piece of clothing suitable for men and women.
Greek and Roman Tunics
The Romans score big fashion points for the versatility of their tunics which were both sleeved and sleeveless. Everyone from the wealthiest statesman to the lowliest slave owned at least one. Prominent citizens might wear a tunic as a sort of slip under a more formal toga. It could also be belted and bloused for a fancier look that would be quite feminine by today's standards but was considered gender-neutral in ancient times. Farmers, workmen and salves would wear only a tunic, but the quality of the garment would reflect the person's standing.
The extreme heat of the Egyptian climate kept clothing needs at a minimum. Men, especially, wore little more than a bottom kilt-type garment known as the schenti until The New Kingdom era when Syrians (influenced by the Greeks) introduced Egyptians to a simple, sleeveless tunic that could be secured with a belt. Open sides allowed for air flow to help provide much-needed ventilation. The Egyptian tunic eventually became more elaborate with starched sleeves to make the shoulders look extra broad and intricate pleats and folds that indicated the wearers rank.