Clothing and Jewelry in ancient Egypt
In ancient Egypt, most men wore a kilt made of linen. A kilt looks like a skirt that a modern womon could wear, however, a kilt was more practical to wear than pants in the hot Egyptian climate. The women wore floor length linen tunics which were often pleated. The wealthier women decorated their dresses with fringed borders. Children often wore nothing at all. Shawls, or coats, were worn in the colder months. Everyone wore sandals, which were either made of leather or papyrus (woven reeds).
Wigs were worn by both men and women. They were made of braided linen strips glued with beeswax. Women often wore false braids to fill out their own hair. Coverings of fine linen protected hair from the always-present dust and sand.
Egyptians spent a great deal of time making themselves attractive. First, they bathed in baking soda and water. Then large amounts of perfumed oils were applied to protect their bodies from the sun and hot, dry air. Women made perfumed wax balls which they placed in little hats on their heads. As the heat of the day softened the wax, little drops of melting oil ran down their necks and backs. This oil kept their bodies moist.
The ancient Egyptians decorated their usually plain clothing with elaborate costume jewelry. Both men and women wore jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, anklets, rings, and beaded necklaces. Wealthy nobles had jewelry made of gold, silver, or precious stones. Their colorful jewelry stood out against the white linen clothing they wore. They incorporated many minerals into their jewelry including amethyst, garnet, jasper, onyx, turquoise, and lapis lazuli, as well as copper, gold, and shells. Because the Egyptians were very superstitious, frequently their jewelry contained good luck charms called amulets. The most common amulets are lotus flowers which are the symbols of rebirth.
Cosmetics were not only an important part of Egyptian dress but a matter of personal hygiene and health. Egyptians may have invented make-up. No one, rich or poor, would go without some kind of make-up. Eyelids were painted in dark shades and so were the areas around the eyes. Eye paint, called kohl, is probably the most recognizable of the Egyptian cosmetics. Egyptians also used rouge on their cheeks and sometimes on their lips. Fingernails were also painted when in women went out in public. Oils and creams were of vital importance against the hot Egyptian sun and dry winds.
Dressed in bright white linen, decorated with brightly colored jewelry, wearing a fancy wig, or a colored headresses and make-up, a properly dressed Egyptian must have been very spectacular to see. It is no wonder that the Egyptians also owned a lot of mirrors!