The Byzantine Empire’s culture evolved as a result of many diverse influences. These included the rich heritage of the Roman Empire that the Byzantine Empire inherited, oriental influences from the East as well as from the South.
As a result, Byzantine clothing stood in contrast to the Roman clothing in that it inclined more towards ornamentation and embellishment of the outlook with rich colours, expensive fabrics, beautifully made trimmings, gold works, jewels and other elements. Byzantine people also wore very well-made shoes, hats and utilised a wide range of excellent-quality textiles in the manufacture of their clothing.
The formal clothing of an Emperor comprised of the imperial loros which was a special costume combining the Roman and Christian influences of the Empire. The loros for the Emperor comprised of a long strip of a rich cloth which dropped all the way to the feet in the front and was longer at the back so that the additional portion of the cloth at the back was pulled to the front and carried in a fold on a bent arm.
The dress of an Empress was similar except that the additional cloth at the back was pulled to the front and tucked under a belt that the Empress wore. In later period, the Empress’ loros began to feature exceptionally wide sleeves and highly intricate collars which were embellished with jewels, pearls and rich embroidery.
The clothing of the military generals and leaders in the Byzantine Empire remained unusually close to the original military clothing of Romans in the Roman Empire. Officers in the Byzantine army wore a brief tunic with leather straps at the fringes and similar leather straps covering the upper arms.
On top of the tunic, the officers wore a breastplate of armour in the battlefield. Boots and sandals complemented this military dress. Specific emphases was made on footwear since they were practically the most important part of a soldier’s dressing while marching. A form of head-cloth was also worn by the Byzantine soldiers under their helmets.
Given the great share of Christianity in the identity and establishment of the Empire, clothing in the Empire also reflected the edicts of the religion. Women’s clothing, in particular, followed the requirements of modesty as laid down by contemporary ecclesiastical authorities.
In general, women wore a long dress which fell to the ankles and had a fairly high collar. In public, women wore a wide variety of head-clothes. Headgear included veils, caps, simple cloth tied in the style of a turban and circular sewed wrappings.
Like most other portions of the Byzantine society, women also wore a wide range of footwear. This included sandals, boots reaching up the middle of the calfs and slippers. Red was the most common colour for women’s footwear.
Shoes are an exceptional part of Byzantine clothing in that people in the Empire used elaborate and excellently made shoes of different kinds, shapes and colours at a time when shoes weren’t exactly a top priority in the rest of Europe when it came to dressing.
The colours of the shoes in the Empire denoted the status of the wearer. Red shoes marked the Emperor, for instance. Shoes were gilded with gold work for the nobility and the royalty, sometimes studded with jewels and pearls as well.