Judging by the variety of garments depicted in fine detail in Etruscan art, we are dealing with a people subject to multiple cultural influences, also as regards fashion. So much so that, if an “Etruscan style” existed, it would be impossible to imagine it outside the context of trade relations and frequent exchanges between Mediterranean and Near Eastern peoples.
This is the case with the variations on the chiton, a garment of Greek origin, but also with hairstyles like the long plait worn down the back, of Oriental derivation, or the tutulus imported from Greece, but interpreted according to typical local forms.
Larissa Bonfante seeks to identify the most indigenous features of Etruscan fashion by conducting a multifaceted analysis of its development from the 8th to the 5th century BCE. She does this with the aid of a rich iconography that follows the evolution of individual garments, footwear, ornaments and hairstyles, about which written sources yield little information. It is through artists that we know about the Etruscans’ fondness for luxury that led them to adorn themselves with jewelry and accessories; their custom of wearing tailor-made clothes as opposed to the loose, flowing garments worn by the Greeks, and their reluctance to embrace the nudity favoured by the latter. But also their fondness for a wide range of hats in contrast to the Greek custom of going bareheaded, and the female custom of wearing clothing that elsewhere was reserved for men, such as the semicircular tebenna, the short mantle that could even be worn back to front, and footwear with laces.
This custom reflected the freedom enjoyed by women in Etruscan public life and society, compared to those in other coeval civilizations.
For Bonfante, clothing becomes an important historical document for dating finds and attributing a gender, a social rank, and even a name to the figures depicted. Although Etruscan fashion reflected the assimilation of Greek and Near Eastern models that were then transmitted to the Roman world, this still left room for the development of a specifically Etruscan style.