Introduction - ClothingFor the most part, the clothing and fashion of Ancient Egyptian men, women and children centered around the hot, dry climate. Light colored and light feeling fabrics were a necessity in the desert of Egypt where temperatures often soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). From peasants to royalty, Egyptian clothing did not vary too much from the basic loincloth and dress. What distinguished someone who was of a higher social status in Egyptian culture was mainly the quality of the fabric and the decorations. In the interesting facts and information listed below, you will learn what ancient Egyptian people wore, when kids started wearing clothing, how Egyptian linen was produced and why it was so labor intensive.
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Ancient Egyptian Clothing Facts
- The typical ancient Egyptian dress included linen tunics with hanging fringes called Kalasiris. The length of the skirt varied depending on what was fashionable at the time.
- Although worn for thousands of years, no actual kalasiris have ever been discovered.
- With the exception of tiny bits of silk, wool and cotton, linen was predominantly used in ancient Egyptian clothing for thousands of years-throughout the Old, Middle and New Kingdom.
- Children often did not wear clothing at all until about the age of six. At that point, they wore the same clothing as Egyptian men and women.
Ancient Egyptian Clothes-Making Process
- Most ancient Egyptian clothing was made of linen, which is produced from the fibers of the flax plant.
- The men were usually responsible for the first portion of the linen making process which included harvesting the flax plant by manually pulling it from the ground. After soaking the flax stem for several days, the men beat the fibers that they separated so that it could be spun into thread by the women.
- Although the linen was often left in its natural color, plant dyes were sometimes used by the ancient Egyptians to produce colorful thread that would then be weaved into linen.
- Early Ancient Egyptian weaving was done on a horizontal loom which usually required two women. Later, during the New Kingdom, vertical looms came into use.
- The ancient art of spinning, the process where flax plant fibers are twisted into strong thread, was considered women's work.
- Since sewing was not only labor intensive, but also required some degree of skill, stitching was limited to basic techniques. Ancient Egyptian clothing was relatively simple. The linen was usually cut into rectangles, wrapped around the body and tied with a belt. Simple hems kept fraying to a minimum.
Social Distinctions in Ancient Egyptian Clothing
- The quality of the linen used in Ancient Egyptian clothing separated the royalty from the peasants. Extremely fine, almost see-through linen was used for the wealthy and for royalty while a much more coarse cloth was used for the peasants.
- At one point it was common for upper class Egyptian women to wear dresses that were pleated horizontally. Each time the dresses were washed, the intricate pleating had to be redone. The trend of horizontal pleating gave way to vertical pleating during the New Kingdom.
- Upper class women in ancient Egypt sometimes wore a shawl in addition to their dress. The shawl required a bit more sewing, as did the sleeves and shoulder straps which wealthy women sometimes added to their dresses.
- Wealthy Egyptian men and women decorated their clothes with beads, feathers, and other items. Both men and women also wore jewelry and headdresses.
- Ancient Egyptian priests and pharaohs often wore animal skins, particularly leopard skins.