Popularized by the movie Animal House, toga parties are still a part of the social scene at many colleges and universities. Party-goers dress in homemade togas and dance to popular golden oldies and classic R&B; tunes. The highlight of most toga parties is a free-for-all dance as the band or DJ plays the Isley Brothers classic song “Shout”.
Toga parties are not meant to be Roman-themed events, but simply an excuse for college students to celebrate the end of a long week of studies or the last gasps of finals.
If you’re ever invited to a college toga party, creating the right costume can be important. A classic Roman toga was often constructed from fine linens and carefully decorated, but today’s togas are generally made from bed sheets and held together with cheap belts or ties. Here’s how to make a toga from readily available materials and with minimal sewing skills required:
- Most Roman togas contain two separate pieces- the inner tunic and the outside toga. The tunic is a simple piece of material that covered the wearer from the neck to the knees. It was generally made from cheaper linen and could be worn by itself in private. The outer toga was often constructed from finer fabrics, which were dyed and custom-fitted. In general, the outer toga was arranged to drape around the torso and waist, then thrown across one shoulder and secured in the back. This is the basic Roman toga you’ll be making.
- Find an old bedsheet or length of cotton material. You’ll be cutting and possibly sewing this fabric, so you don’t want to use a good sheet for a tunic. A tunic is supposed to be very simple, so don’t worry about adding decorations or elaborate hems. The fabric needs to be long enough to reach from the neck to the knees after being folded once. If you have excess material, carefully trim it off with fabric scissors. The result should be a simple sheet folded in half.
Find the center of the fold and designate a small semi-circle across the front with a laundry pen or permanent marker. Carefully trim both layers of fabric along the line and remove the circle of material left behind. This will be the hole for your neck eventually.
You may need to adjust this hole for comfort, but it should remain just large enough to allow your head to fit through the sheet with minimal effort. If you’re comfortable with a sewing machine, you can also add some ribbon or decorative trim around the neck hole for contrast and security.
- Place your head through the hole and allow the fabric to drape naturally. The top-end should extend a few inches past your shoulders and the bottom should be around your knees or mid-thigh. Once you’ve determined the length and width to be correct, you’ll want to sew the sides together below the arms, ending near the waist.
- Use a very basis straight stitch on a machine, or a quick basting stitch by hand. None of this needs to be very elaborate, but the tunic needs some closure on both sides for personal appearance. Even a few well-placed safety pins should provide enough closure to prevent overexposure.
An old necktie or length of gold braiding can be used as a belt to secure the inner tunic to your body. You may also want to wear gym shorts or boxers under the tunic for additional protection-bikini underwear or standard briefs may not be appropriate for a mixed party. If time and money are a consideration, you might also wear a t-shirt in place of a proper tunic.
- The outer toga should not require much in the way of sewing, but it does need to be long enough to cover the shoulders, torso, and legs. In general, you’ll want a piece of material that drapes easily (cotton, muslin, or linen, for example) and is around 3 or 4 yards in length. Start by wrapping the material 1 1/2 times around your waist and pin it securely. Throw the remaining material over one shoulder.
- Allow the fabric to drape. Take the excess material and tuck it into the back of the waistline. Again, pin this material securely. Continue to adjust the fabric until it covers any exposed areas and feels secure across the shoulder.
- Sandals would be the preferred footwear to accompany a toga, but some may prefer to go barefoot or wear standard tennis shoes for protection on the dance floor. The trick to a good toga is keeping it secure and arranging it to prevent accidental exposure. A well-crafted tunic could be worn by itself with the addition of some gold belting and decorative hems.
- It may be possible to fashion a complete toga from one large piece of material, but be prepared to use a belt and lots of pins in order to keep it secure. Women may wish to substitute a toga for a more Grecian look- a longer tunic and sheer material draped across the body and secured at the shoulder instead of the waist.