Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition

March 14–July 8, 2012


Both Roman-style tunics and Central Asian–inspired tailored garments were worn in Byzantium's southern provinces from late antiquity into the early Islamic era, as proven by scientific testing of burial finds. Roman tunics were usually made of linen or wool and could be long or short, with or without sleeves. Simple tunics were generally layered under more elaborate ones decorated with symmetrical ornaments on the shoulders and at the knees, including ornamental bands (clavi), roundels (orbiculi), and squares (tabulae). Tunics were shaped by belts and draping. Men and women wore cloaks; women wore scarves and veils as well. During the Byzantine and early Islamic periods, tunics of brightly colored fabrics, with separately woven and applied elaborate decorative elements, were widely popular. Central Asian–inspired Sasanian tailored garments consisted of a shirt, caftan, coat, trousers, gaiters, boots, and headgear. The shirts and coats had flared sides cut to shape, with decoration down the center and at the neckline, cuffs, and hemline. Men and women wore similar tailored garments, and women added shawls and veils. Children wore clothes similar to those of adults. Over time, the styles mingled, producing increasingly colorful decoration and elaborate ornament.

Related Artworks