Paludamentum was a broad term referring to several varieties of cloaks that were worn during the time of the Byzantine Empire (476–1453 C.E. ). Worn by both men and women, these cloaks were worn over the standard garments of the day: the tunic and dalmatica worn by men, and the stola, or long dress, and palla worn by women. There were actually several different kinds of paludamentum. The most common was a large semicircle of fabric, pinned at the right shoulder and reaching to about the hips. Another very common paludamentum was shaped like a trapezoid and was also pinned at the right shoulder. A variant on the paludamentum, called a paenula, was a large circle with a hole cut in the center for the head.

Byzantine empress Theodora and her attendants wearing a variety of paludamentums, or cloaks. Reproduced by permission of © .

All forms of the paludamentum were variations of garments worn by the Romans, but they were adapted to Byzantine customs. For example, paludamentum were sometimes made of rich Byzantine silk and were highly decorated, sometimes with embroidered borders. A common form of decoration was a square-or diamond-shaped pattern called a tablion, which was sewn on the front of the garment. Tablions were symbols of rank and could only be worn by members of the upper class.


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 2, Byzantine Empire: Dalmatica ; Volume 2, Byzantine Empire: Stola ]

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