The standard overgarment of upper-class men, and sometimes women, in the Byzantine Empire (476–1453 C.E. ) was the dalmatica. The basic form of the dalmatica, like the tunica, or shirt, from which it descended, was simple: it was made from a single long piece of fabric, stitched together along the sides and up the sleeves, with a hole cut for the head. The Byzantines added two changes to this basic form. They enlarged the sleeves, making them large, draping bell shapes, and they broadened the hem dramatically, also into a bell shape, allowing the garment to hang in folds about the legs.

The basic Byzantine dalmatica was made from fairly simple cloth, usually linen, wool, or cotton. Depending on the wearer's wealth, however, dalmatica could become quite ornate. Decorative trim could be added to the hem, sleeves, and neckline, and woven or embroidered patches could be sewn on to different parts of the garment. Dalmatica might have clavi, vertical stripes that ran down from either shoulder, or segmentae, stripes on the edge of the sleeves or hem. The dalmatica worn by the very wealthy or the emperors might be made of rich silk brocade, with its raised patterns of silver and gold, and could be ornamented with pearls, gemstones, and even enameled metal panels. Like other Byzantine clothes, the quality of the cloth and the richer levels of ornament indicated the social status of the wearer.


Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

[ See also Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Dalmatica ; Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Tunica ]

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