Authentically reproduced Roman military gear takes a lot of time and money to make or buy, no mistake. However, there are people who need Roman costumes but have no need for the level of historical accuracy required by reenactors. These include people making costumes for plays or church pageants, teachers and students involved in school projects, and even TV and film producers who want something better than Hollywood's usual fantasy "Romans". These guidelines are made to be used in conjunction with the Twentieth Legion's Handbook for Legionaries, but offer suggestions for materials and methods that are far easier to obtain and use. Obviously, the goal here is a relatively realistic costume, NOT armor and weaponry which are at all functional or protective. None of the items below are designed to withstand any sort of staged or competitive combat! But with a minimal budget and a little ingenuity, you can quickly create a Roman soldier costume which is almost a sure winner at your next Halloween party.
Besides the Legio XX website, a little research is always a good idea. First Rule: Anything seen on TV or in a movie is probably wrong! (Except for SOME of the new cable TV or PBS shows about ancient Rome.) There are photos of legionaries on the Legio XX site, and more on the sites listed on our Links page. Otherwise, look for one or two books written or illustrated one of these authors: Peter Connolly, Dan Peterson, Michael Simkins, Graham Sumner, John Warry, or Martin Windrow (see the Bibliography). A number of excellent books for "younger readers" have come out in the last 10 years. The appearance of the Roman soldier went through a number of changes over time, although it may be more practical for your purposes to use items from an earlier or later period for your costume.
Second Rule: Color and Shine! Ancient people loved colorful display, and armor was always brightly polished, so forget the stereotype that "brown=old". Items that need to be painted to look like metal should be silver or gold, not an "antiqued" finish.
Third Rule: Avoid extra embellishments! Stick to what you can see in photos of other reenactors or the books listed above for the most accurate look. (Obviously, this is more important for the stage and film producer than for the mother building a child's Halloween costume.)
Basic materials could include cardboard, vinyl, various fabrics, leather (from old coats from a thrift shop, etc.), craft foam, polymer clay, plastic, aluminum roof flashing, paint, staples, paperfasteners, duct tape, string, etc.
ITEMS (at least the more difficult ones)
Sandals--Substitute modern sandals, or make from leather, vinyl, or heavy cloth. (String and cardboard won't hold up.) My first caligae were an old pair of Hush Puppies with the crepe soles peeled off and half-inch slices cut out of the uppers.
Helmet--A child's plastic "knight's" helmet is the same shape as the early Roman "Attic" style. Just remove the visor and add cheekpieces of cardboard or aluminum. For larger heads, a plastic batter's helmet or construction helmet turned backwards, with cheekpieces added and some paint, can look a lot like a Coolus style helmet. A surplus civil defense helmet can also be made into a good Coolus by cutting off the excess brim with a hacksaw or sabersaw and adding cheekpieces. Helmets can also be made out of gray or yellow felt, cut into segments like slices of an orange, and glued together. Some cabinet knobs or lamp finials make good crest knobs.
Shield--Masonite or hardboard (1/8" thick) can be soaked in the shower, bent and held in a curve (between a wall and a piece of furniture, perhaps), and left to dry. A couple 3/4"-wide strips of the same material glued together will serve for the handle. The boss might be made from a metal cup or small pot, a Tupperware container, or even a large plastic whiffleball cut in half.
flashing can be cut with metal snips or even
heavy scissors, and weighs almost nothing. Place it on a wood
and use a hammer and small screwdriver to punch slots for paper
(brads) which serve as rivets; internal straps can be leather, vinyl,
heavy cloth. Armor, including the solid muscled type, can also be
made of vinyl, felt, silvery ironing board covers, or cardboard.
I've seen a terrific lorica segmentata made from ironing board covers,
with lines of stitching to represent the metal strips. Scale
can be made by cutting strips of felt or vinyl to look like rows of
and sewing them to a tunic, or simply by drawing them. Chainmail
is harder to imitate, but there are "metallic" fabrics available from
a mailshirt might be made, or perhaps an old cable-knit blanket or
could be converted. (Hollywood knits its chainmail from
cord and spraypaints it.) Rings for mail can also be made by
slicing up PVC tubing, http://www.larp.com/orcs/PVCmail.html.
--These two sites provide
lots of really useful info on making plastic armor and such. The
Studiocreations site even shows you how to make your own vacuumforming
--Craft Foam Armor
Tutorial--For fantasy armor, but the same methods can be used for Roman
Rash produces very accurate auxiliary armor and equipment made from
fiberglass and other materials, some of which is shown at right (click
for a larger view). Contact him at jd_rash1775 AT yahoo DOT com
Costume Armour, Inc.--P.O. Box 85, Cornwall, NY 12518, 845-534-9120, http://www.costumearmour.com/. Plastic armor, almost as expensive as the real thing, but decent rental prices. "Segmentada" is pretty bad, but muscled armor looks fine. Even a scutum!
Tobins Lake Studio--7030 Old US 23, Brighton, MI 48116, 810-229-6666, http://www.tobinslake.com/. Molded white vinyl armor to cut out and paint. Their officers' helmets are tolerable and their lorica could be worse, though their soldiers' helmets and shields are much less convincing. All very cheap!
Rodin and Rodin Associates, Manufacturers' Representatives--PO
Carefree, AZ 85377, http://www.rodin.cc/.
$100 minimum order.
Roman Officer's helmet and breastplate, a little Hollywoodish.
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