Dressed for Success

The Middle School is no place for a toga party. Unless you’re in Lauri Dabbieri’s Latin classroom, where 20 custom togas hang on the wall. Unlike in Animal House, these have an educational purpose.

“Part of the reason the students have togas is that we really want to convey the sense of Romanitas, of being Roman,” said Dabbieri, who has been creating togas with her Latin classes for nearly 30 years. In their studies on Ancient Rome, the classes also make mosaics, as well as bullas, gold charms intended to keep children safe.

Typically, the students receive their togas when they begin taking Latin in 7th grade. “Over the course of the two years, the students add words that describe them to their togas,” Dabbieri said. “They start with a verb of something they like to do. When we learn a new verb tense, they’ll add something they used to like to do, or something they will be able to do in the future. When they leave the Middle School, they’ll be able to take their togas with them as a visual representation of what they did in Latin class—and they’ll have fun token of Middle School Latin.”

Like many things, though, last year’s toga presentations were delayed—until now.

“In 7th grade, we didn’t get to do any of the projects because we were on Zoom and didn’t have enough time in-person,” said Lindsay ’26, who is in her second year of Latin. “And Mrs. Dabbieri said, ‘Oh, next year we’re going to have so much fun; we’ll do mosaics, and we’ll do the togas.’ And it’s exciting because I get to be creative in a language class.”

Lindsay and fellow 8th grader Maina showed off their togas. All students wear what would be considered a man’s toga in ancient Rome; the intricate stylings of a woman’s toga would require far too much time to put on and take off, even when donned over the students’ street clothes. The togas were decorated with their names, the names of their classmates (who had signed each other’s garments like yearbooks), and their chosen verbs.

“In class, a lot of the verbs we learn deal with ancient Rome; it’s not like Spanish where you learn verbs you use a lot,” said Lindsay. Both Lindsay and Maina, being teenagers, chose “sleep” as their preferred activity.

The togas aren’t worn daily; they’re for special occasions. Dabbieri says she wears hers “once or twice a month, without warning, to keep them on their toes.” This year, the students say, the togas felt particularly special because they were so long in coming.

“Latin class was great without the togas” said Maina. “But the togas are an extra bonus.”

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