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The fashions and fabrics of ancient Egyptians!

Ancient Egyptians understood the different types of clothing. They wore socks, mittens, loincloths and tunics, they even wore underwear! Fashion in ancient Egypt changed regularly, as it does today. Wool was used, but linen was the primary fabric.

Egyptologists and archaeologists working in Egypt very rarely mention the clothing worn by the ancient Egyptians. It is a topic that remains relatively poorly understood. Scientists have neglected this area for a long time and have focused on other aspects of the civilization, despite the fact that a lot of fabrics have survived and continue to be used today.

The Egyptians mainly used rectangular fabrics of various lengths and widths, which they wrapped in many ways around the body. Although there are also socks, gloves, and even pieces of underwear that have been found, which were made from a properly girded triangular piece of fabric.

Light, breathable Linen was a primary material

The most popular fabric they wore was linen. But it was also used for other purposes: for wrapping statues for ritual purposes (e.g. the jackal in Tutankhamun's tomb was wrapped in a linen tunic) and various ritual items. Linen was also an expensive component in barter transactions. Flax was present in almost all walks of life among the ancient Egyptians.

The ancient Egyptians also used wool. It has been discovered sporadically during excavations within ancient Egyptian settlements. On the bas-reliefs, unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish the type of fabric. Due to the popularity of flax, scientists often assume that the Egyptians wore garments made of this fabric.

Mummies were wrapped in linen cloth. Multi-meter bandages specially woven for the needs of a burial were used, as well as bandages made of used fabrics, which had been once also used as clothes. Some of them even show traces of darning. This was a consequence of the fact that textiles were very expensive in ancient Egypt and therefore were reused for various purposes, including wrapping mummified corpses. There are known cases, however, when folded clothes were placed in chests serving as wardrobes, in the tombs of wealthy Egyptians.

Made to measure or wrapped clothing?

Egyptian clothes can be divided into two categories, one being clothes that were wrapped around the body and the second being and sewn clothes. The Egyptians knew how to create made-to-measure and sewn garments, such as tunics. However, most of their creations were created by wrapping or draping a rectangular piece of fabric around the persons body.

What did the women wear?

Women in dresses can be seen in the reliefs, but no sewn dresses were found during the excavations. This leads us to believe that the dresses were arranged and draped rectangular pieces of fabric, rather than sewn dresses.

An example of sewn clothes are simple tunics worn by Egyptians with different frequency depending on the era. They were rectangular strips of fabric folded along the shorter edge, sewn on the side. Additionally, an opening was made for the head along with the neckline. Sometimes, sleeves were sewn on separately.

Such tunics were worn by both women, men and children. Their length and width, as well as their popularity, changed throughout the history of ancient Egypt.

Men's clothing choices

It was very characteristic for men to wear linen loincloths, called kilts or skirts in the professional literature, due to the lack of the original Egyptian name. They belong to the same category of wrapped garments as women's dresses. They were draped from a rectangular piece of linen around the hips, on bas-reliefs or statues, it shows pharaohs and farmers dressed in them. Their length changed over time, some were very short, covering half of the thigh, and some reached to the ankles. Kilts were often worn on top of each other or with a tunic.

Of course, the fabrics differed in quality and finish, which also influenced their price. The royal robes were more colorful and had more decorative elements, including a fringe or a decorative border.

When studying the clothing of ancient Egyptians, the carvings from tombs are very helpful.  However, scientists sometimes encounter a problem, because decorative elements are often painted, not etched, so they fade over time.

Many elements of the ancient Egyptian clothing culture have survived to this day. For example, a tunic is very similar to today's galabeya, a wide, loose garment, reminiscent of a nightgown, which is very popular especially in the Egyptian countryside.

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Ancient  Egypt & archeology