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Egyptian clothing was made from locally-sourced materials—as were clothes from all ancient societies. Pastoral nomads created clothing from their livestock. AS one of the earliest agricultural societies,  the ancient Egyptians wore light clothes made from linen. Linen is made from flax – a plant which was grown along the Nile. The picture to the right shows the flax growing process.

Weaving flax into linenOnce harvested, the flax was soaked in water until soft. The softened flax was then separated into fibres which were beaten before being spun into thread which was then woven into cloth.

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Egyptian Clothing For Men

All men wore a wrap-round skirt that was tied at the waist with a belt. Sometimes the material was wrapped around the legs as well. The length of the skirt varied depending on the fashion of the time – in the time of the Old Kingdom they were short while in the Middle Kingdom they were calf length. During the New Kingdom period, it was fashionable to wear a pleated garment.

Rich Egyptian men were able to afford the best quality linen which was very fine and almost see-through. Rich Egyptian men also wore as much jewelry as they could afford and decorated their clothes. They also wore headdresses for special occasions.

Egyptian Clothing For Women

Egyptian women wore full-length straight dresses with one or two shoulder straps. During the New Kingdom period, it became fashionable for dresses to be pleated or draped. The dresses worn by rich Egyptian women were made from fine transparent linen. Like the men, rich Egyptian women decorated their clothes and wore jewelry and headdresses.

Typically, women’s clothing in Ancient Egypt was more conservative than that of men. In different periods, women wore simple sheath dresses, which consisted of a rectangular piece of cloth folded once, sewn down, and configured in a tube shape. The dress went a few inches above the ankle to just above the chest. Shoulder straps held up the dresses.  A popular variant of this dress had a short-sleeved top with a gathered neck opening to replace the straps 

Children

Ancient Egyptian children did not wear clothes until they were about six years old when they would wear the same clothes as men and women.

Footwear

The Ancient Egyptians went barefoot most of the time but wore sandals for special occasions or if their feet were likely to get hurt.

The sandals worn by the poor were made of woven papyrus or palm while those worn by the rich were made of leather. The picture shows the various styles of sandals worn.

Jewelry

The Ancient Egyptians wore jewelry to show their wealth and also because they believed it made them more attractive to the Gods. They wore rings, ear-rings, bracelets, decorated buttons, necklaces, neck collars, and pendants. Only the very rich could afford jewelry made of gold and precious stones. Ordinary people made jewelry from colored pottery beads.

Makeup

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Egyptian men and women wore makeup. They used black kohl eyeliner to line their eyes and darken their eyelashes and eyebrows. They colored their eyelids with blue or green eye shadow made from powdered minerals. Henna dye was used to color their lips and nails.

The charred remains of frankincense were also crushed and used to make the distinctive eye-liner seen on ancient Egyptians, as depicted in hieroglyphics of pharaohs. It also had uses in perfumery, traditional medicine, and even skincare.

This article is part of our larger selection of posts about Egypt in the ancient world. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to Ancient Egypt.

Cite This Article
"Egyptian Clothing: Pharaohs to Commoners" History on the Net
© 2000-2020, Salem Media.
May 27, 2020 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/egyptian-clothing>
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