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Military Costumes


The typical military ensemble of an ordinary ancient Egyptian foot soldier consisted of the following: a short skirt; a helmet made of padded leather for the head; weapons and a shield; in some cases, a sleeveless armored corselet with support straps; and typically sans shoes or sandals. The skirt of a soldier could be just a wrap-around, but could also have a triangular front, stiffened for more protection of the private area—much like the modern jockstrap. The construction of the corselet—that which covers the chest—could have been fashioned out of small plates of bone, of metal, or of stiffened leather that was sewn into a linen body. For Pharaoh, this ensemble was his as well, during times of battle. However, he wore a specialized helmet, an insignia of his rank. This helmet was the khepresh or the blue war crown. In addition, Pharaoh wore a false beard, a symbol of power. However, like the infrequency of wearing his shoes, he did so of his beard.



Religious Costumes


Whatever the ordinary Egyptian wore so did the ancient Egyptian priest; each dressed similarly, but with a few differences.


The appearance of a typical priest was thus: a shaven head, as well as other places of the body; a wrap-around skirt, long or short; and—thus the deviation from normal dress—shawl made of false or real leopard skin, draped over the shoulder, a mark of distinction for this group. It was only a particular type of priest, however, who wore the latter article of clothing. Such priests were called sem priests, although, Pharaoh could were such a garment as well.


Whatever the ordinary Egyptian wore, so too, did the gods and goddesses of the culture. Goddesses, throughout dynastic Egypt, tended to be frequently shown wearing a fitted sheath dress. In addition, each deity had his or her own distinctive headdress and/or carried the insignia of their divinity.



Entertainers’ Costumes


Dancers and acrobats were often illustrated as naked or wearing a band or belt-like article around the waist. Musicians—both men and women alike—were depicted naked or with waistband as well. Some even wore beaded collars; armbands, bracelets, and anklets; or a headband or diadem. In other cases, musicians could wear simple versions of costume denoted to the particular period. For example, a musician from the 8th Dynasty could wear a kalasiris. During the New Kingdom, a clothed musician could wear a costume of full and very sheer fabric, either a tunic or a sheath dress.



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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Latest Update: December 17, 2007 at 10:10 am

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