Fashion Era Series: Ancient World: Egypt (#5)

Costume History Series: Ancient World: Egypt[1][2]

Here we are the 5th entry already. The skies outside today are mostly cloudy with some sun peeking through. The temperature is 63 degrees F. This is unseasonably warm for my neck of the woods (so to speak). The lilacs are blooming, the trees are budding, and the birds are singing everywhere. 

In doing the research for this short article, I had so much trouble NOT chasing the white rabbit down the hole into the abyss of history. If some of you don’t already know, I am a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. 

The Ancient World timeline for Egyptian Costume is 2649 – 1640 BC. This seems like it covers many years, and it does, but the style of the garments was relatively consistent. As we have seen in cultures up till this point and even through today, clothing not only reflects the technological advancements mastered by the people, but clothing represents what your class or status is among the members if your society. 

A statement I read “attire… fashion exclusively human characteristic and seen in most societies”. Does that mean there are other species out there that may or could wear attire? Just a thought…. 

The long and short of it: linen. Linen was the fabric of choice for Egyptians. It was light, strong, flexible, and perfect for the warm climate. Linen comes from the flax plant that was abundant along the Nile River. Animal based “fabrics” were seen as impure or only for the highest class in society. The quality of linen between classes was also evident – as were the way the garments were worn. 

Men of all classes wore a loincloth. Higher class was a little longer, maybe to the knee, and possibly wore a tunic or draped cape (but the tunic and robe could be common for both genders). For much of this time period it was not unusually to see men and women with bare chests. Children were not expected to wear garments until they reached adolescence and slaves were not necessarily clothed. Those living in poverty and could not afford garments – did not wear any. 

Women of the lower class wore shorter skirts that stopped at their ankles, while women of upper class wore longer skirts that may have even covered their chests. As time went on, the upper class garments began to shift to more form fitting (and covering their breasts) and elaborate, often including beads, jewels, layers (inner and outer garments), and pleats. 

So here we are at the end of this little lesson…. What do you think of the costumes during this time? Leave your thought in the comments below. 


[1] http://www.experience-ancient-egypt.com/ancient-egyptian-culture/ancient-egyptian-jobs/ancient-egyptian-clothing

[2] “Egypt, 8000–2000 B.C.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=02&region=afe (October 2000) 

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