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Fashion: Women's Department

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Long Wrapped Garments


Long wrapped garments were composed of diaphanous material and served as robes that could be pleated and draped. Some women's styles covered the bust area while others would leave them exposed. They were of relatively the same appearance as the long wrapped garments that men wore, with slight differences: The draping and arrangement of the garments make women's long, wrapped dress different from those of men. Out of all the garments worn by women, the long wrapped dress was the most complex. One characteristic that contributes to this statement is the ways one can wrap the garment around the body.






In cases where one needed to hold clothing in place, one used a sash as one does nowadays. Sashes were often made of rope; plain-woven linen, sometimes with fringes or tassels; elaborately designed embroidery; or double weave fabrics. Even though women could wear sashes, men were depicted wearing them more often. For upper class women, sashes were worn in addition to white linen clothing; sashes were often the only adornment and color, with the exception of whatever jewelry one was wearing.



Shawls & Cloaks


Shawls for women were made in the same fashion, as were those of men's: from squared or rectangular pieces of fabric, which one wrapped around the upper part of the body, above the waist. Other cloaks, of the longer kind, were worn as well to ensure warmth. The way one wrapped a shawl or a cloak around one's person varied and was often made to have ends tied together, over the shoulder. During the Old Kingdom, long cloaks were popular; during the Middle Kingdom, short shawls and long cloaks were commonly worn; and during the New Kingdom, one tended to wear knotted and wraparound cloaks of various styles.





Most women who wore skirts were those of the lower classes or women who were at work. These skirts were fashioned in much the same way as wrapped skirts that men wore, upper and lower class alike; short or long, pleated or smooth, full or form fitting, or doubled up.





Just like men, women wore loosely fitted tunics. Tunics were probably a cross-cultural sort of design--a mix of Mesopotamian and Hyksos style. Along with other new element of dress, the tunic appeared in fashion during the New Kingdom. In addition, tunics of both short and long styles were made with or without sleeves and were often made of diaphanous linen. Furthermore, it is apparent that loincloths or short skirts were worn under tunics; wrapped skirts could be worn over them.

However, just as women of lower classes typically wore skirts, they also wore tunics. Thus, women of higher classes did not wear this type of garment.



V-Neck Dresses


First appearing during the Old Kingdom and continuing onward, v-neck dresses were styles of women's clothing that have been found in quantity, especially in tombs. These simple garments could be made with or without sleeves, pleated or plain. In cases where they were made with sleeves, they were of a more complex design, with a tubular skirt joined to yoke.



Wrapped or Sheath Dress


The wrapped dress or sheath dress was the most commonly worn garment for women from all classes, upper or lower. Even though this dress appears to be a form-fitting garment, it was logically not constructed this way. Depictions illustrate these dresses impractically rather than realistically. If these garments were actually that tight, they would be garments in which it would be practically impossible to move around. Thus, this garment was probably a wraparound dress with the straps being separate garments. It is evident that the straps were probably not part of the ensemble because no sheath dress of this style has been found. If one wore straps with the sheath dress, they would wear either one or two; the straps would come over the shoulder to hold the dress up. However, the lengths of cloth with patterns of wear consistent with wraparound dresses have been found. The length of such garments have been found and illustrated as being measured above or below the bust area and ending around the lower calf or ankle.


The following is a possible addition to the wrapped dress or sheath dress:


Beaded Net Dress:  The most probable way that one decorated a sheath dress with designs was to cover it with a beaded net dress. The art of beadwork was highly developed by the New Kingdom--evidence of this has been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Thus, the usage of a beaded net dress as a form of design for a sheath dress is highly probable. Other theories of the application of designs to a sheath dress include the following: painted designs, appliqués, leather, feathers, beadwork, or woven designs. In addition, since dying linen was a 100% improbable way of applying color, it was more likely that one used beads to give the sheath dress some color.



Tortora, Phyllis and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume:  A History of

     Western Dress. 3rd ed. New York:  Fairchild Publications, 1998.

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