Social rank and Tradition were important elements of ancient Roman fashion and taste for both ancient Roman men and Roman women. However this doesn’t mean that fashion and individual taste were blotted out, especially as the well-being of the Empire made the austerity of the Roman Republic a distant memory.
Caesar was well known for his flamboyant manner of dress and nowadays we might define him as a “dandy” – rather like a rebellious school child will wear a school tie in a hundred different ways so too Caesar hung his garments in a distinctive, loose and according to witnesses of the day – a rather effeminate manner.
As for women we imagine things being a little harder on them because of their relative lack of freedom, but again, riches and well being brought a strong degree of emancipation. As the traditional Roman matron’s clothing left little room for fashion, a degree of self expression was found through complex hairdos and jewelry, so much so that a hairdo is often a good means of dating a Roman portrait.
Persons who had important positions of state or religion would be allowed variations in order to signify their standing. Children, by virtue of their age and sacredness, wore the sacred toga Praetexta like that of the magistrates and senators. Vestal virgins had a particular type of plaited hairdo as well as their sacred gowns. Senators had a purple stripe (clavus) down the front of their tunic.
The manner of folding and wearing the toga was also extremely important to the Romans and it would be unusual for it to be seen worn or folded the wrong way round, draped over the right shoulder rather than the left.
The Etruscan influence on Roman dress codes was particularly noticeable in the roman priesthood which being generally conservative in habits (no pun meant) left its fashions unchanged since the earliest times. It is interesting to note that during religious ceremonies such as funerals it was customary for men to cover their heads and women to uncover them which was totally the opposite to their everyday customs. The priesthood on the other hand would always cover their head.
Another interesting custom was that applied in times of disaster. In these cases everybody would dress according to the rank below them. Magistrates as Senators, Senators as Knights, Knights would remove their rings of Equites rank and the commoner-plebeians would wear the military cloak.