The Excessive Preparation of Ancient Roman Women for Society

Essay by apbsJunior High, 9th gradeA+, February 2007

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All the time, care, and money a woman puts into her appearance have plagued the patience and wallet of man for centuries. This tradition has survived complaints of those who are the motivation of such meticulous preparation, shortage of products, and the means to acquire them. In Ancient Rome, women consumed several hours of the day and large sums of money to make themselves presentable to society. They achieved this high-set goal through the use of fine jewelry and elaborate hairstyles, various costly cosmetics, and elegant creations of clothing and footwear. These honorable role models have endured much criticism for their vanity from satirists of their time and of the present, but their persistence has prevailed. A little less desire for pomp would have lessened the drain on daylight hours and personal fortunes, but perhaps the emphasis on physical beauty might have been necessary to conceal other faults.

Donning jewelry was very common among the Romans and they also were not strangers to the detailed care of hair.

The prevalent types of jewelry were bracelets, earrings of valuable metals or emeralds, rings with precious gems set in gold or silver, ornamental hairpins, and brooches (Nardo 77). Women of poorer status could only afford jewelry made of cheaper metals and colored glass to look like gems (77). Another device used to make oneself more attractive was to fashion one's hair with every product available. Women dyed their hair or used wigs in the popular colors of blonde and red (73). The dye came from the Rhine region of Germany and the hair for wigs from slaves and war captives, also located in Germany (73). There was such a high demand for blonde hair to make wigs and hairpieces, a profitable trade for the blonde hair of northern barbarians arose (Roman Dress).