New research on the clothing of ancient Egyptians has revealed that arm warmers, socks, loincloths, and even underwear were commonly worn. While little work has been conducted on the clothing choices available at the time, Egyptologist Dr. Aleksandra Hallmann from the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Oriental Institute in Chicago decided that the time was right to thoroughly explore this unique area of ancient Egyptian history and set about examining fashion choices over thousands of years.
As Science In Poland report, Hallmann notes that “Egyptians most often used rectangular fabrics of various lengths and widths, which they wrapped in many ways around their bodies.” However, it is well documented that other items of ancient Egyptian clothing also included “socks, gloves, loincloths and even underwear – a triangular piece of fabric girded around the waist.”
By far the most prized piece of fabric for ancient Egyptians would have been linen. But this could be because besides clothing, it also had numerous other uses, including being used to carefully wrap valuable statues and to hold other items that were once used for ritualistic activities.
“Linen cloth was used to wrap mummies. Egyptians used both long bandages made especially for the needs of a given burial, as well as bandages made of old fabrics that had been used as clothing. Some of them even showing traces of mending!”
Also, when it came to bartering, linen commanded a high price. According to Hallmann, “Linen was present in almost all areas of life of the ancient Egyptians.”
Wool was also commonly worn by ancient Egyptians, and the clothing choices available at the time were one of two types – either wrapped or sewn. Of these two categories, wrapping was by far the most popular, and Egyptians frequently made use of rectangular pieces of fabric that they could use to drape over their bodies in different ways.
As Hallmann explained, archaeologists have not recovered any sewn dresses during excavations, despite artwork depicting women wearing them.
“Bas-reliefs depict women in dresses, but not a single sewn-up dress has been found during excavations. They were appropriately arranged and draped rectangular pieces of fabric, and not specially sewn clothes”
Sewn clothes included items like tunics, which women, men, and children all wore, and their style changed somewhat throughout Egyptian history. Men oftentimes wore linen loincloths, which were also known as kilts or skirts, although unfortunately, their original Egyptian name is unknown. Some of these kilts would have been extremely short, while others ran straight down to the ankles. These kilts could be worn with other kilts, or complemented with a tunic.
In general, clothes reserved for Egyptian royalty were much more colorful and grandiose, according to Hallmann.
“Of course, fabrics had different quality and finishes, which also influenced their prices. Royal garments were more colorful and had more decorative elements, such as tassels or decorative hem.”
An abstract of the paper which discusses the different clothes that ancient Egyptians would have worn has been published in Academia.