Portrait Bust of a Woman, A.D. 150-160, Roman. Marble. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Fashion and Elegance in Ancient Rome



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How did Roman citizens display style, wealth, and status? Classicist Kelly Olson examines art, literary sources, and objects on view at the Getty Villa to reveal evidence of elegance. Olson looks to old and gem-laden jewelry, sumptuous colors like purple and scarlet, and luxurious garments that were essential in constructing upper-class identity. She explores the ways lower-class Romans strove to appear fashionable through counterfeited gems and dyes, the secondhand trade in luxury clothing, and inexpensive cosmetics.


Kelly Olson holds a Ph.D from the University of Chicago, and is currently an associate professor in the department of classical studies at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses on Roman society, sexuality, and appearance, as well as fashion history more generally. She is the author of Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-Presentation and Society and Masculinity and Dress in Roman Antiquity.

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