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Rahotep and Nefret

Ancient Egyptian clothing: Rahotep and Nefret

Ancient Egyptian tunics

Unlike most of the people of the ancient Mediterranean, people in ancient Egypt did not wear just one or two big pieces of cloth wrapped around themselves in various ways. Instead, both men and women in Egypt wore tunics which were sewn to fit them. These tunics were like a long T-shirt which reached to the knees (for men) or to the ankles (for women).

The invention of sewing
Lots of articles about ancient Egypt

Egyptian tunics were usually made of linen and were nearly always white. Most people in ancient Egypt, both men and women, do not seem to have covered their heads with any kind of cloth. They often went barefoot, but sometimes they wore straw or leather sandals.

What is linen made of?
Shoes in ancient Egypt

Egyptian men and women doing farm work

Ancient Egyptian clothing: Egyptian men and women doing farm work

Shorts and skirts for men

Men who were working outside usually wore short skirts or shorts instead of tunics. These skirts may have been made the same way they were in West Asia by winding a piece of linen cloth around your waist and legs.

What about Mesopotamian clothing?

Woman from near Amarna with about 70 hair extensions (ca. 1300 BC)

Woman from near Amarna with about 70 hair extensions (ca. 1300 BC)


Leather loincloths for men

Starting in the New Kingdom, about 1500 BC, men sometimes wore leather loincloths, which seems to have been a fashion they got from Sudan, further south, possibly from Sudanese mercenary soldiers fighting in Egypt.

What is the New Kingdom?
Clothing in sub-Saharan Africa
What is leather made of?
Early history of Sudan

A close-up of the extensions

A close-up of the extensions

Makeup in ancient Egypt

Both men and women wore blue and green eye shadow and black kohl eyeliner, when they were dressed up fancy. People also wore black kohl around their eyes because it helped to keep the glare of sunlight down (which is why football players do the same thing today).

Hairstyles and jewelry

Men wore their hair short, and shaved their beards and mustaches, while women wore their hair down to their shoulders, often with extensions. Both men and women wore gold jewelry if they could afford to.

More on how to make an Egyptian costume
More about Egyptian shoes

Bibliography and further reading about ancient Egyptian clothing:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Fashions, by Tom Tierney (1999). Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Costumes Paper Dolls, by Tom Tierney (1997).

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber (1995). Not for kids, but an interested high schooler could read it. Fascinating ideas about the way people made cloth in ancient times, and why it was that way.

Egyptian Shoes
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