The essential articles of Byzantine dress are simple and easy to construct. The primary article of dress was called a tunica. The tunica served as the basic undergarment of both men and women, or the only garment for the working class and poor. The main over-garment worn both by men and women is called the dalmatica. This garment began a t-tunic, but became more tailored in eighth century. The essential line of a dalmatica is triangular, with narrowing sleeves or flaring sleeves. Another over-garment for women only is the stola. The stola is unchanged from Roman times. Prior to seventh century the stola was the only over-garment for women. In seventh and eight centuries the stola developed bell-shaped sleeves and became undistinguishable from the dalmatica. Outer wear consisted of three different style cloaks, the paludamentum in semi-circle or trapazoid shapes and the paenula, a full circle cloak.
The Byzantines were very fond of vibrant, bright colors, reserving royal purple for the emperor and empress. Their dress is richly ornamented with embroidery and trim. The highest classes ornamented with jewels, particularly pearls. Fabrics consisted of linen for tunicas and some dalmaticas, stolas,and cloaks; Silk for richer tunicas, dalmaticas, stolas and cloaks. Dalmaticas and cloaks were of wool as well. Egyptian cotton was found in tunicas, though very rarely. Very little is known of Byzantine footwear, no examples have survived, and images show little. Royal footwear does show jewels and embroidery. Accessories to wealthier Byzantine dress include: Sudarium, an elaborate embroidered handkerchief; contabulatim, a long embroidered cloth, sometimes fan-folded and wound around the body; pallium, a very rich, hem length, jeweled court tabard, worn by men; and the superhumeral, an elaborate embroidered and sometime jeweled collar. When extensions wear added to the superhumeral, it became a pallium.
Linen: The predominant fabric in the Byzantine empire. Linen is the fabric created from the spun fiber of the flax plant, s-spun and tabby woven. Clavi were occasionally tapestry-woven into the fabrics. A rare type of resist-dyed tunic existed, with an indigo fabric with patterns in natural. A few tunicas exist in vegetable colors.
Cotton: Imported from Egypt, cotton was a luxury fabric in Byzantium.
Wool: Wool was woven and used in many weights, from fine veils to winter dalmaticas and tunicas to heavy winter cloaks. Wool was also felted in cloth for use in shoes and hats.
Silk: Silk was common enough in Byzantium to be used by some of the middle classes. Still expensive, it was often combined with other fibers to make more affordable fabrics. In the sixth century Byzantium obtained the secret of the silk worm and began its own silk industry. There they wove brocades, damasks, and samite, a heavy lustrous fabric. In the 10th century silk was combined with goat or camel hair sometimes shot with gold or silver. This was called 'bougram' or 'boquerant' for the city where it was made, Boukhara. Baudekyn is another silk-based fabric, with a weft of silk and a warp of gold threads. It was sometimes tapestry woven to produce beautiful patterns. Another silk fabric, Cendal, was a thinner , less-expensive fabric woven plain or in stripes.
Patterned fabrics abound in the Byzantine era. Not content with woven patterns, the Byzantines embroidered and jeweled their fabrics as well. Borrowing first from the Romans, geometric designs were filled with fantastic creatures or religious images or elaborate repeating floral motifs. In the eighth through tenth centuries interaction from the Eastern and Muslim countries influenced patterns so they became more stylized and elaborate. These influences effected the shape of garments as well, with the introduction of short stand-up collars and the widening of sleeves on dalmaticas.