Clothing in Ancient Egypt

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Rahotep and Nefret

Rahotep and Nefret

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).

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.

Egyptian men and women doing farm work

Egyptian men and women doing farm work

Men who were working outside usually wore short skirts instead of tunics, which may have been made as in West Asia by winding a piece of linen cloth around your waist and legs.

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

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

Starting in the New Kingdom, 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.

A close-up of the extensions

A close-up of the extensions

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). 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.

Linen
Spinning
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Egyptian Shoes
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By | 2017-06-13T11:50:49+00:00 June 13th, 2017|Africa, Clothing, Egypt|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Clothing in Ancient Egypt. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 13, 2017. Web. December 11, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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