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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!


Amalia T. said...

Which is the Nehkbet's Vulture crown? The opposite end from the battle crown?

I think the white linen dresses are pretty snazzy for being so simple! And love the sandals with the enemies underfoot. We should bring that back.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Amalia- Oops! I meant to write that the Nekhbet crown is the one on the extreme right. I'll edit the post right now. And yeah, I want some enemy sandals myself. :)

Michele Emrath said...

I love this post! Learning is by far my favorite thing (I know, that's weird to say), and you present the fashion so well here.

I especially like the part of about walking on one's enemies. How righteous they were back then. But more honest, I suppose.


Elana Johnson said...

So true about the simplicity aspect. Sometimes I just wish I could say "Clothes" and they'd materialize on my body. Oh my heck, I'm so writing a book with that capability. :)

L. T. Host said...

I love these kinds of posts, Stephanie! So cool :) Thanks for sharing.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

My son will love this post. I'll have to share it with him later. He loves all things ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. :-)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I was just deciding to make myself a writer hat for when I work on manuscripts as opposed to blogging and other pursuits. You know, keep me focused on the job at hand. I'm soooo drawn to the I've-got-your-back vulture. I'm sure I'd look fetching but no one would see but the computer.

Julie Dao said...

This is so cool! I want a vulture crown and papyrus sandals. Were armbands common at all or is that just a romantic addition in the movies?

Bethany Mattingly said...

I'd wear a vulture on my head if it told everyone else how awesome I was!!! lol I wonder if gold sandles were comfortable? It seems to me leather ones would be the way to go...

Jemi Fraser said...

The Egyptian culture was sure complicated - and it's reflected in the clothing. Fascinating stuff!

VR Barkowski said...

I'd be willing to go out and make an enemy just so I could have a pair of those sandals, and I'm all for dressing in white linen with really awesome accessories. Do you know how heavy those headdresses were?

Fascinating post, Stephanie!

AjFrey said...

Great post, and very helpful. One of the characters in my novel is a thousand year old Egyptian vampire. (Hey, why not?)

I've included a lot of history, but didn't think to look at past dress because he dresses very modern. But it would be fascinating for him to bring a few things from his past. Mmmm... Food for thought.

Wendy aka Quillfeather. said...

Nothing says 'I've got your back' like a hovering vulture. Indeed!

Love your blog! You have another follower :)

Margo Berendsen said...

I am in the process of reading all your posts labeled Ancient Egypt. I'm so glad I discovered your blog! The shoes with the enemies depicted on them - I can right away imagination a great character tag out of that. A pharoah that likes to walk on his enemies. So are you trying to get your Hatshepsut book published? (very interested here). have you read Orson Scott Card's book on ancient Egypt - it's been years, but I believe Hatshepsut was in it - his idea was she was the princess who adopted Moses.

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