My theme for this project – Ancient Egyptian Art, Women’s clothing, headdress, jewelry and footwear – A Status Symbol.
The most affluent and influential woman in Ancient Egyptian was the wife of the Emperor, Pharaoh or King. She was as powerful, perhaps, as much as her counterpart. She was adorned with crowns and jewels from all over the world. She owned property, governed cities and made important legal decisions alongside her husband, father or brother (Tyldesley, n.d.).
Egyptian women were given gifts from admirers from across the land and nearby kingdoms. These gifts included unique and expensive fabrics, gold and silver, along with other items. A poor Egyptian woman did not have these luxuries. She most likely worked for the monarchs. If she didn’t, she worked at home caring for children, land, others. She did not wear crowns or jewels or even fine linen. When you see either of these women, you immediately know their status in the world.
Today, we define a woman’s status by what she wears – gold or silver jewelry, size of diamonds in her ring, designer clothes, designer bags, designer shoes, cars, homes. If you can’t afford these “wares’, if you will, you advertise your status to everyone that sees you. By wearing knock-offs, costume jewelry or discount clothing “couture”, you reveal your net worth to the world. Style is a status symbol. However, they did not sacrifice beauty for comfort.
It wasn’t any different in ancient Egypt. Women were adorned with great ornaments of gold to reflect their status in society; men did, as well. Because they thought they could take it with them to the afterlife, kings and queens of Egypt were “buried with a multitude of jewelry” (Fashion And Clothing In Ancient Egypt, 2016). The poor even wore jewelry, though not as elaborate or ornate as the wealth of kings and queens.
The clothing styles of ancient Egypt came to us from archaeological finds of statues, tombs, buried treasures, and houses. The women usually wore dresses that fell to the ankle. “Upper-class women wore pleated dresses with fringes, […] covered with a transparent garment” (htt1). Formal wear was more elaborate and bejeweled, if you will. Later, fashion was inspired Greek and Roman trend. Men wore kilts or loin cloths. They even found containers of perfumes and make up, believe it or not. Both men and women wore make-up to protect their skin from the harsh desert.
Shoes were also discovered made of fur or leather. Straps helped keep them tied to the foot for security. It may surprise you that in 2004 a jar was found in an Egyptian temple in Luxor that had three pairs of shoes and a single one. “Two pairs were originally worn by children […]” (Owen Jarus, 2013). Women’s shoes were mostly sandals adorned with jewels and expensive fabrics.
Headdresses were all the rage, as well. While women wore them too, the men’s headdress was usually larger and more adorned. The taller the headdress, the higher your status, they thought.
This collection of five images shows women in their clothing style, some jewelry pieces, and even some footwear. We’ll go back in time to see that there may be a difference in style, but not in “status”.
I hope you enjoy the virtual tour, again.