A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, with or without sleeves, and of various lengths reaching from the hips to the ankles. The name derives from the Latin "tunica" commonly worn by both men and women in Ancient Rome, which in turn is based on earlier Greek garments.

The Roman tunica was worn by citizens and non-citizens alike; citizens, though, would wear it under the toga, especially at formal occasions. The length of the garment, the presence or lack of stripes, as well as their width and ornamentation, would indicate the wearer's status in Roman society. Soldiers, slaves and manual workers generally had tunics to a little above the knee; those in more sedentary occupations to about the ankle (unless they were expecting to ride a horse, when a shorter one would be worn).

Greek tunic

The tunic was also worn by the ancient and Byzantine Greeks and is very similar to the chiton, which looked like a jacket. In Ancient Greece, a person's tunic was decorated at the hem-line to represent the city-state in which he lived. The tunics were either dyed with bright colors or bleached white.

Roman legionary tunic

Underneath his armor, the Roman legionary wore a (usually woollen) tunic. There is considerable debate today as to whether the typical Roman legionary's tunic was undyed or dyed red using madder dye; a number of works of art and written descriptions contemporary to the Roman Empire contradict each other on this point. Alternately, it is possible that Roman legionary officers wore red tunics, while rank-and-file soldiers wore undyed tunics.

The tunic originally worn by the Roman legionary consisted simply of a long piece of rectangular cloth sewed to an identical piece, with holes for the arms and head simply left unsewn. Later, it became fashionable for tunics to be produced with sleeves and worn with braccae. This was especially the case in relatively cold northern territories such as Britain and Germany where similar clothes were already in existence among the native populations. ["Dress and Adornment", 485. ]

Medieval tunic

Following the fall of the Roman empire, the tunic continued to be worn with varying sleeve and hem lengths throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Often reaching the knees or ankles, it was usually worn over underclothes consisting of a shirt (usually hip-length or longer) and drawers (usually knee- or ankle-length pants related to braccae). It may be accompanied by hose. ["Dress and Adornment", 488-489. ] Wool and Linen were common fabrics used, though the wealthy sometimes wore fancy silk tunics, or a lesser fabric with silk trim. Tunics worn during the Early Middle Ages often featured decorative embroidery or tablet-woven braids along the neck, hem and wrists. ["Dress and Adornment", 489. ] "Dress in Anglo-Saxon England", passim] This was the case, for instance, with tunics worn by both rich and poor Anglo-Saxons before the Norman Conquest. [Bradfield, 13. ]

19th century

Around 1830, small boys began to be dressed in sashed or belted tunics over trousers, a fashion which replaced the earlier skeleton suit.

Modern tunic

In Western culture, its use continues primarily in a religious and uniform context. It is the primary garment worn by the clergy, and members of religious orders. The religious tunic reaches to the feet. It is also the name often given to the coat worn by military and police personnel, usually close-fitting. Tunics are commonly worn in Middle-Eastern cultures to this day. Light female garments, especially for sports or exercise, usually only coming down to mid-thigh, are also called tunics.

ee also

*Clothing in the ancient world
*Clothing in ancient Rome
*Early medieval European dress
*Anglo-Saxon dress
*1830s children's fashion
*1840s children's fashion
*1850s children's fashion



* Bradfield, Nancy. "Historical Costumes of England: 1066-1968". 3rd Edition. 1970.
* "Dress and Adornment." "The New Encyclopedia Britannica". 15th edition. Volume 17. 1994.
* Owen-Crocker, Gale R., "Dress in Anglo-Saxon England", revised edition, Boydell Press, 2004, ISBN 1-8438-3081-7
* Payne, Blanche: "History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century", Harper & Row, 1965. No ISBN for this edition; ASIN B0006BMNFS

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tunic — • A vestment shaped like a sack, which has in the closed upper part only a slit for putting the garment over the head, and, on the sides, either sleeves or slits through which the arms can be passed Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Tunic — TUNIC, TUNICA (Latin) The tunic without the toga was worn by Roman soldiers, which accounts for the soldiers military coat being still called a tunic. Among the Saxons the tunic was an outer garment reaching to about the knees. Tunics of uneven… …   Dictionary of the English textile terms

  • Tunic — Tu nic, n. [L. tunica: cf. F. tunique.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Rom. Antiq.) An under garment worn by the ancient Romans of both sexes. It was made with or without sleeves, reached to or below the knees, and was confined at the waist by a girdle.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tunic — (n.) c.1600, from M.Fr. tunique, from L. tunica (Cf. Sp. tunica, It. tonica, O.E. tunece, O.H.G. tunihha), probably from a Semitic source (Cf. Heb. kuttoneth coat, Aramaic kittuna) …   Etymology dictionary

  • tunic — ► NOUN 1) a loose sleeveless garment reaching to the thigh or knees. 2) a close fitting short coat worn as part of a uniform. ORIGIN Latin tunica …   English terms dictionary

  • tunic — [to͞o′nik, tyo͞o′nik] n. [L tunica < * ktunica, of Sem orig. (prob. via Punic), as in Aram ktūnā, Phoen ktn, garment worn next to the skin (> Gr chitōn)] 1. a loose, gownlike garment worn by men and women in ancient Greece and Rome 2. a… …   English World dictionary

  • tunic — UK [ˈtjuːnɪk] / US [ˈtunɪk] noun [countable] Word forms tunic : singular tunic plural tunics 1) a) a long loose shirt, usually worn by women b) a long loose piece of clothing with a belt and no sleeves, worn by people in ancient times 2) a short… …   English dictionary

  • tunic — noun Etymology: Old English tunice, from Latin tunica, of Semitic origin; akin to Hebrew kuttōneth coat Date: 12th century 1. a. a simple slip on garment made with or without sleeves and usually knee length or longer, belted at the waist, and… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tunic — /tooh nik, tyooh /, n. 1. Chiefly Brit. a coat worn as part of a military or other uniform. 2. a gownlike outer garment, with or without sleeves and sometimes belted, worn by the ancient Greeks and Romans. 3. a woman s upper garment, either loose …   Universalium

  • tunic — [[t]tju͟ːnɪk, AM tu͟ː [/t]] tunics N COUNT A tunic is a sleeveless garment that is worn on the top part of your body …   English dictionary

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