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Facts about Clothing Used In Ancient Egypt: Egyptian Clothes

Updated on February 16, 2017
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past. Without it, we are destined to repeat the past.

In Ancient Egypt, jewelry played a large part in their society. The richer Egyptians tended to wear the jewelry with gold and gems, whereas the poorer Egyptians usually made theirs out of glass beads.
In Ancient Egypt, jewelry played a large part in their society. The richer Egyptians tended to wear the jewelry with gold and gems, whereas the poorer Egyptians usually made theirs out of glass beads. | Source

The ancient Egyptians valued clothing, which caused a visual separation of social classes. We still do this today.Do you feel, in order to close that gap in schools, we should have school uniforms?

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Fabrics Used In Egyptian Clothing

In Ancient Egypt, fashion was a big part of their culture. A lot could be said about a person, depending on what they wore and how they wore it. Men, women, and children all wore different styles of clothing, yet all of them enjoyed adornments such as jewelry and make-up.

Due to Egypt's hot, humid weather, the ancient Egyptians preferred light weight clothes, like linen, although silk was often bought by the wealthy, whereas those of the lowest status would use cotton or wool. In order to make linen, plant fibers such as flax that grew along the Nile River would be soaked, combed, and then beaten into threadlike fibers. Once they became threadlike, they would then be spun and placed on a loom. Usually men were the ones who harvested the flax stalks, while women were the ones who would spin the flax thread and make the garments.

Another common fabric used among Pharaohs and priests was leather. Most leather was thought to be impure; therefore, it was most often used as coats rather than an article of clothing. One exception was that of leopard skin named padelide, which the priests and Pharaohs often wore. Pharaohs would also wear a lion's tail around their waist like a belt.

Men often wore wraparound skirts with a belt and lots of jewelry.
Men often wore wraparound skirts with a belt and lots of jewelry. | Source

Egyptian Clothing for Men

Status was a big part of how a man dressed. The workers, who were the most poor in the community, most often wore loin cloths made of cotton and sometimes linen or wool. The rest of the men would usually wear a wraparound skirt made with linen, and tie a belt around their waist. This skirt was called the Shendyt. They did as little sewing as possible in most of their garments. They also rarely dyed their items, and usually wore white. This was in part to their desire to be clean. White gave a cleaner appearance.

Sometimes the skirts would also be wrapped around their legs as well, giving a more pants feel. They did this more often in the winter, than in the summer months. The length of the Shendyt worn by men varied throughout history. During Old Kingdom (Prior to 2055 BC), men wore them above the knee and the material was often gathered in the front or pleated. During Middle Kingdom (2055 BC to 1650 BC), men wore their Shendyt longer, it would touch their calf. During the New Kingdom (1650 BC to 1069 BC), men also wore tunics that had sleeves, as well as pleated petticoats.

Regardless of what era, the richer you were, the lighter the material used on your garments. Some garments worn by Pharaohs and priests, who ranked as the highest class, wore an almost see-through material. Silk and linen were most commonly used among this group, whereas those of poorer status might wear linen, cotton, or even wool.

In Tutkhamen's tomb, they found many more items of clothing than was expected, which implied that men may have worn a larger variety of clothing than originally thought. There were items such as underwear, shirts, tunics, aprons, sashes, socks, scarves, and gloves. Since there are a couple months in the winter where the weather in Egypt is cold, these items were probably worn during the colder months, whereas the skirts depicted on many of the Egyptian drawings were more accurate during the warmer periods.

The dresses worn by Ancient Egyptian women were often pleated, and usually covered either one shoulder or both.
The dresses worn by Ancient Egyptian women were often pleated, and usually covered either one shoulder or both. | Source

Egyptian Clothing for Women

Women, like men, also used very lightweight fabrics for their clothing, plus status was just as important. The higher position, the thinner the material. Unlike the men, women usually wore full-length dresses that would either have one or two shoulder straps, but very little sewing, if any. These dresses, depending on the period, would sometimes lie below the breast, but most often covered the chest.

Regardless of what era, the material was always very simple and usually white. They liked the dresses to have a lot of style to them, such as pleating. In the Old Kingdom, they usually wore horizontal pleating, whereas in the New Kingdom, it was generally vertical. During the Middle Kingdom, pleating was much more extensive. Sometimes it would be horizontal with vertical pleating overlapping. How they achieved this pleated look is unknown.

Occasionally women would have feathers and beading across the chest area, but mostly the cloth was bare. Over the dress, women would usually wear a robe or cape; this was often pleated as well.

Books On Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Clothing for Children

Egyptian children, until the age of six, did not wear clothes during the hottest months. At six-years of age, they were allowed to wear clothing for protection from the sun, but they did not begin to wear regular clothes until they hit puberty, in which case they would begin to dress as the adults. Although the children were often naked, they still wore jewelry like their parents, especially bracelets, collars, and hair accessories. During the cooler months when temperatures could get as low as ten degrees, they would wear wraps and cloaks. Since it was cold for such a short period of time, this was not everyday garb.

Some Egyptians would wear ornate collars like this one.
Some Egyptians would wear ornate collars like this one. | Source

Egyptian Jewelry

Jewelry was a very important part of Egyptian culture. Status was often portrayed through the style of jewelry one wore. Ancient Egyptians felt jewelry made them appear more appealing to the gods, so they would wear as much as they could. They often wore bracelets, necklaces, rings, fanciful buttons, earrings, neck collars, and pendants. The jewels had an Asian influence with its bulky appearance.

The higher class a person was, the more gold and precious gems they would use in the making of the jewelry. The most common gems were Turquoise - a greenish-blue gem, Lapiz-luzuli - a brilliantly bright blue gem, and Carnelian - a smooth reddish brown stone. The lower class would still decorate in lots of bulky jewelry, although they used pottery beads or glassware for decoration rather than gems.


Ancient Egyptian eye make-up was often very thick and pronounced like on this mask that is displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Milan.
Ancient Egyptian eye make-up was often very thick and pronounced like on this mask that is displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Milan. | Source

Egyptian Make-up

In ancient Egypt, both men and women wore make-up. Most notable was their dark, heavy eyeliner that they used along both the lower and upper eyelid. This was usually made up of a black kohl, which is a very common lead ore taken from a mineral called galena. They lined their eye lids not just for beauty, but also because they believed that it protected the eyes from dust and dirt.

The Egyptians would use the same black kohl to darken eye brows and eye lashes. Above their eyelid, they also used eye shadow, which was usually in a shade of blue or green. Both men and women would color their lips and nails with henna dye. They would use this same dye to put color into their hair and to decorate their skin. Although they often decorated their hands with henna, only the lower class got tattoos. This was not a fashion that the upper class shared.

The ancient Egyptians also used a red powder called crew on their cheeks and lips when they did not use henna. Unfortunately, there were a lot of harmful substances used in their make-up that had adverse effects. This led to many illnesses, although the Egyptians were unaware of what caused their poor health.

Whether they were the poor or the rich, ancient Egyptians were very particular about how clean they were, and this showed in the clothes, jewelry, and make-up they wore. The one difference separating the rich from the poor was the type of material their clothes were made of, as well as how they designed their clothes. Since status was very important to the ancient Egyptians, clothing was a way to signify that difference.

Citations

  • http://historyonthenet.com/Egyptians/clothing.htm
  • http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/clothing.htm
  • http://www.dragonstrike.com/egypt/cloth.htm

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz

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    • deborahmorrison1 profile image

      Deborah Morrison 2 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      This hub is fascinating. I liked the pictures and the clear descriptions. The egyptian clothing styles were unique and beautiful.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, interesting and informative. Enjoyed reading and voted up.

    • profile image

      selena 3 years ago

      coooooooooooooool

    • profile image

      kay 3 years ago

      gggggggrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttttt site about Ancient Egyptians!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! also great for kids

      P.S

      thanks my teacher would have killed me if I hadn't found this site..!

    • profile image

      Hurt 3 years ago

      It helped me soooo much that u and god bless

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 3 years ago

      I enjoyed your hub and learned some things as well. Thanks and well done!

    • profile image

      Tamara 3 years ago

      I used this information for Egyptian Project.Great stuff!

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you, I find ancient Egypt so incredibly fascinating!

    • maximioum profile image

      maximioum 5 years ago from Spain

      so interesting hub. I like your writings. i voted it up and gave interesting.. keep working on

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the great compliment.

    • bmcoll3278 profile image

      bmcoll3278 5 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

      Great hub. Thanks

    • hirundine profile image

      hirundine 5 years ago from Nelson, B.C. Canada

      angela_michelle,

      So true! I see some celebrity chefs calling for cooking lessons for children to help with the obesity problems. Not a bad idea? I was taught boys activities at school, a million years ago. Cooking and sewing were not in the curriculum. At least for boys.

      I went to art school and was in the textile program. Which helped. My mother taught me to sew, darn and knit. Which post-ww2 in britain was necessary. I still darn holes .... go figure?

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Actually I have thought about that with my daughter attending a public school, she spends all day at school and all night with homework, and she is not learning the simple things in life like gardening or sewing or crafting. Then she comes home with these theories that they have taught my child as fact, and I have to explain there are a lot of theories out there. It is not fact, it is just one hypothesis of many. I get frustrated. We don't want to homeschool, but I'm not happy with public school system. A lot of those things are being lost today.

    • hirundine profile image

      hirundine 5 years ago from Nelson, B.C. Canada

      angela_michelle,

      Children are treated differently all over the world, in many ways; you and I would likely disagree with? Generally people take it a bit too seriously? Increases of population bring, different attitudes? Liked this hub on clothing. I've had an interest in textile making for awhile and can warp a loom. .... depending ;-]

      It's a shame that we, as a society, depend too much on machinery for the profit of a few? Certainly I have an appreciation of craft. It takes a lot of resource to make but one linen cloth. Spare time used to be taken up by those activities, not watching sports or movies.

      A few beads, some rolls of cloth and hey? Bought yourself a nation .... now that was an investment that paid off?

      That's how we are mostly, like magpie's caught by the gleam of tawdry glitter?

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      It is amazing the difference in attitude about children in the last hundred years. I do think children are becoming two spoiled thinking they have rights they do not have. I am a firm believer children should treat all adults with complete respect. But then a hundred years ago, some people believed children should be seen not heard. There has to be a happy medium.

    • hirundine profile image

      hirundine 5 years ago from Nelson, B.C. Canada

      An informative and well presented hub. Appreciating the research and graphics.

      Regarding the children. It may be that the ancients found it easier to to keep them clean, naked; than all the laundry that mothers have today. After all if the climate suits? Why not? As well, only comparatively recently have children gained legal rights and status. So, there may be an element of "waste not, want not" regarding their expense until older? That was much of the thinking through medieval europe? Sounds harsh but that was the reality?

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      I'm glad to teach you some things. :) Thank you very much!

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 5 years ago

      Very interesting and informative hub. I appreciate your efforts and found the facts surprising and fascinating. I know a lot more about the ancient Egyptians clothing than I did before I read your hub. Thanks. Voted this hub up!

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Completely agreed about the heat. It's really odd to me that the children were generally naked.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I found this topic and your writing on the subject quite interesting. The different classes of society were marked by their clothing and styles much more than today's dress styles. In such heat, cotton and linen would be my choice as well for comfort.