First off a warning. History nerd in the house. I LOVE history. I happened to follow my family's personal history regarding WWI, the Holocaust and Israel (my father ended up there via a french DP camp after being freed from Auschwitz) but I have always loved Italy. 

So much so, that my mom and I went on a special trip there when I was 14. Which is when I became more than a little obsessed with the Vestal Virgins. If you've ever been to Rome, you may have seen the Temple of Vista, it's one of the best preserved in the Roman Forum. Moreover, it's history is as salacious as it is important but overlooked, the perfect thing to froth a nerdy, virginal teen (trust me, I was a late bloomer.) The Virgins were incredibly powerful women at the time, a stunningly ethereal contrast to Italy's other famously powerful but much gaudier Courtesan women. Their power came from the absence of sex. They were also, like the Courtesans, allowed into the rooms, dealings, and brains of men in ways that other women were not. Feminist virgins. And of course, like the Courtesans of Venice, they were still ultimately at the mercy of men, who often feel the to totally control and sadistically annihilate these powerful women. Have I piqued your interest yet?

Vesta was the Roman Goddess of the hearth, home, and family. A virgin, she was rarely depicted in human form, instead recorded as the personification of flame. Her fire wastended in a sacred room that could only be entered by her servants, the Vestals, aka my dream Girl Band Name, in which I would be the lead singer. Preistesses of Vesta, the six Vestals were therefore required to tend to the flame, which was supposed to protect Rome from things like illness and famine. Their purity, and physical perfection, were directly related to their ability to maintain the flame. This meant that whenever anything went sideways in Rome, the Vestals were scrutinized for both behavior and appearance, often publicly and with impossible standards.  

So then, why would anyone want to become a Vestal? Well, to quote this great post I found, 


These women led extraordinary lives, utterly different to those of their contemporaries. At the age of only six or seven, they were selected for the priesthood and sworn to celibacy for thirty years...

Vestal virgins were chosen from highborn families and were granted privileges that would have been unimaginable for other women in Ancient Rome. They could own property, vote, and write a will. They had the best seats at public games, and they even had the power to free condemned prisoners and slaves. A condemned man on his way to his execution only had to catch a glimpse of a Vestal Virgin to be freed...

As their name suggests, virginity was integral to their identity. While extramarital sex was frowned upon in Rome, those who indulged in it usually faced a fate no worse than confiscation of property. For the Vestal Virgins, however, it was a much more serious matter. They were considered daughters of the state, and having sexual relations with anyone was tantamount to treason.


Let me take you then to the Temple's collection of "rooms." A sunken, dark-ringed pit, the air around it seems to crackle with weird intensity. Even though the sun is scorching off the stone of the surrounding ruins, it seems weirdly cold. This is the Vestals unique torture chamber. 


Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome, created an elaborate justification for the construction of this sadistic and unique punishment. For the Vestals, their glorified, almost celeb status required protections, and as it was, long considered illegal to spill the blood of a Vestal Virgin. How then to punish them? 

But of course! Bury them alive. But not quickly. No, where's the fun in that? Another provision preventing the burial of bodies in Rome (an early and brilliant sanitation decision) was called up to justify their unique form of torture. And so, it was decided that the offending Vestal would be sent to a special room with a few days supply of food, and then, slowly buried alive. 
The grim procession to this “room” is described in a nineteenth-century book, A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities:
When condemned by the college of pontifices, she was stripped of her vittae and other badges of office, was scourged, was attired like a corpse, placed in a close litter, and borne through the forum attended by her weeping kindred, with all the ceremonies of a real funeral, to a rising ground called the Campus Sceleratus, just within the city walls, close to the Colline gate.There a small vault underground had been previously prepared, containing a couch, a lamp, and a table with a little food. The pontifex maximus, having lifted up his hands to heaven and uttered a secret prayer, opened the litter, led forth the culprit, and placing her on the steps of the ladder which gave access to the subterranean cell, delivered her over to the common executioner and his assistants, who conducted her down, drew up the ladder, and having filled the pit with earth until the surface was level with the surrounding ground, left her to perish deprived of all the tributes of respect usually paid to the spirits of the departed.

So at this point, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with Kendall Jenner? Fair enough. Perhaps you may have noticed a reference to the Vestals Vittae being stripped? She was stripped of her special clothes. Because the vestals had a uniform, which only they were allowed to wear, and which defined them as the celebs du jour that they were.

(thanks to this post  for the help with the latin and the descriptions!)

Fascia - a simple brassiere (bra) in the form of a band, tightly tied around the body
Mamillare - Tight band bound about the bust
Tunica - chemise 
Stola - robe 
Stophium - chord or girdle 
Palla - cloak
The Vitta - simple fillet or headband 
Infula - ceremonial headband 
Suffibulum - veil
(All white with some significant purple lining ala the Louboutin red) 


The shoes worn by the Vestal Virgins were always white and were made from the skins of sacrificed animals.

Sound familiar? Could this potentially be used to describe this look, sported by Kendall, the powerful, heavily scrutinized, constantly scrutinized... need I go on?

I thought that the simplicity of the look was perfectly Vestal as well, as one Virgin was almost sent to her "room" for joking and wearing attire that was considered too luxurious and elaborate for one in her position. 

So that's what I see, which to me is FREAKING BRILLIANT, given the way in which the outfit was received - "Boring, not-on-theme, a nudge."

And if you're wondering what this has to do with Roman Catholicism, well, the worship of Vesta was one of the last religions to hold out during the birth of Christianity in Rome. Many scholars believe that the Vestals were so popular, they became the foresisters of the brides of Christ, aka the nuns, in Roman Catholicism. 

So, what do you think?