Tunics – the forerunner of the T-shirt – were easy-to-wear garments. Both Roman girls and boys wore knee-length tunics, generally made from white cotton material. Boys’ tunics were trimmed with crimson. Roman girls wore a belt with theirs, and when they went out in public, they wore a second ankle-length tunic over the shorter one. Tunics are easy to make and still easier to wear. They are ideal summer wear for kids, so you may want to make a few of them while you are at it, so they can wear one while you wash the other.
Go for a simple style. The slaves in ancient Rome wore loose, knee-length tunics that were basically two pieces of fabric sewn together.
Measure the kids. Record the measurement from the shoulder to the knee. Also take their bust, waist and hip measurements. The sleeves length is calculated at halfway between the shoulder and the elbow.
Make a pattern using the measurements and draw it on brown paper. Allow an extra few inches for the width – 2 to 3 inches for small kids and 4 to 5 for bigger ones -- so that the tunic will drape nicely. Make the neck hole slightly rounded. Add an inch for the hem.
Pin the pattern to white cotton fabric – or use colored or patterned material if you want to deviate from the traditional look – and carefully cut two pieces, one for the front and one for the back. Leave 1/2 inch for a seam allowance.
Pin the pieces together and sew. Hand-stitch the hem for a more finished look.
Trim the sleeves and the bottom of the tunic with crimson for boys. Add a little color to the girl’s tunic if you like.
Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.
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