The stola was the basic garment worn by women during the years of the Byzantine Empire (476–1453 C.E. ). The stola was a long dress, sewn along both sides from the hem at the bottom all the way to the arms. The stola was usually worn with a belt placed just below the bustline. Typically made of linen or light wool, the stola also could be made of silk, the fabric preferred by the very wealthy. Like many Byzantine garments, the stola was based on the women's stola worn in the Roman Empire (27 B.C.E. –476 C.E. ).

The stola was part of a layered outfit. It was worn over the top of a long underdress and a shorter tunic, either of which might have had long sleeves. Byzantine women, in keeping with their culture's modesty, never appeared in public with bare arms.

The Byzantine stola became more complex and ornamented over time. Early stolas were sleeveless, but by the seventh or eighth century C.E. stolas began to appear with long sleeves, with later varieties having bell-shaped or flared sleeves. By about the eleventh century C.E. , stolas were commonly made of thick silk brocades with raised patterns in silver and gold, and they were decorated with a variety of patterns and embroidery. Members of the royal family commonly wore stolas of rich purple and gold. Stolas worn by other women might be deep blue, red, or white.


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: Stola ]

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