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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Haute Couture, Ancient Egypt Style

It's easy to spot an ancient Egyptian in art, right? They're the ones with the white sheaths or kilts, black hair, and all sorts of goofy crowns. Today, I have for you a run-down of ancient Egyptian dress, haute couture from 3,500 years ago.

Let's start at the top and work our way down. There are a gazillion crowns in ancient Egypt. The most common is sported by the second guy to the left- the Double Crown. The white part symbolizes Upper Egypt (which because the way the Nile runs is actually the bottom part of Egypt) and the red piece symbolizes Lower Egypt. Put the two together and viola! You've got a crown that means you're the big kahuna for the entire country.

The guy on the very left is wearing the blue battle crown, or Khepresh. This wasn't used very often, but Ramesses II was depicted wearing it a fair bit. Of course, he also liked to go to war.

For our last crown up for discussion, we have Nekhbet's vulture headdress on the extreme right. This was a crown usually worn by Egypt's queens, a physical manifestation of the goddess. Typically Nekhbet is depicted as a vulture flying above the Pharaoh's head. Nothing says "I've got your back" like a hovering vulture.

As for clothes, the Egyptians typically stuck to white linen, for obvious reasons. The thinner the linen, the finer it was, with some accounts stating the finest linen was one thread thin and virtually see-through. My guess is that the gal in the middle- the only one not wearing linen- is wearing a beaded gown. By Hatshepsut's time, upper class women often wore beaded overgowns. The lower class women wore less. In fact, female dancers would often dance naked.

Shoes! (Where is Susan when you need her?) If you were situated in one of the upper echelons (love that word!) of Egypt's social classes, you probably wore leather sandals, maybe even golden ones. As a Pharaoh, you probably would have ordered some snazzy footwear with pictures of your enemies on them (like the ones pictured). That way, every time you took a step, you ground those pesky Nubians and Hittites into the dirt. If you were a regular Joe, you mostly would have gone barefoot or been lucky enough to have some lashed papyrus sandals.

There will be more on ancient Egyptian fashion later- wigs, cosmetics, and jewelry! I'm not sure if I'd prefer their clothes or modern style. It sure was simpler back then!