In ancient Egypt, the hot climate had a considerable amount of influence on fashion. At the beginning of their civilization, Egyptians wore a simple loincloth. The material the loincloth was made from determined whether they were high-ranking officials, or ordinary people.
The pharaoh, his family, and upper class people wore nothing but the finest linen, and common men and soldiers wore leather and woven material. Some men wore one or more transparent skirts over their loincloth, which was held at the waist by a belt. The high priest wore a leopard skin over his pleated skirt as a sign of distinction.
Because Egyptian women were highly respected and honored, their clothing was more sophisticated. They too wore a loincloth with a long transparent tunic over it called a kalasiris. It came up to the chest and was held together by colored belts and shoulder straps that crossed over in front and gracefully veiled the breast. Once a style was set it stayed for a long time because changes in Egyptian clothing took place slowly.
At first wigs were used to protect people from the burning sun, but wigs became popular and were soon considered an important accessory for both men and women. Many wigs were different colors and some were even gilded.
Men, women, and children wore bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings and anklets made of gold. They also used majolica and glass to make jeweled necklaces and bracelets that resembled collars.
Makeup was considered a very important part of female beauty and had set rules. The face was first covered with foundation, then a yellow-red paste was smeared high toward the temples to emphasize the cheekbones. The lips were outlined with a brush using the paste for the cheeks. The most important part of Egyptian women's makeup was giving attention to the eyes.
First they tinged the eyelids green above, and below, then smeared a dark grey powder toward the eyebrows. The final procedure was to outline the eyes with black kohl, making them look larger and longer. Today, black kohl is still used by Bedouin women and the color "black kohl" is a popular eyeliner in any modern department store.
The Egyptians dyed lightweight materials many colors, each having a symbolic meaning:
White and blue - was associated with happiness because it was considered a symbol of Ammon, their god of the air.
Green was a symbol life and youth.
Yellow represented the skin of the gods.
In the privacy of their homes if people needed to feel more comfortable they simply cast off their garments. Their bodies were always kept meticulously clean, and hairless. Most people did not bother wearing shoes, and at first only kings, officials, and priests wore sandals. Their hair was kept clean, and either worn in braids, curls or wigs. Daily rubs of perfumed oils were used to avoid sunburn and insect bites.
Egyptian fashion, jewelry, and makeup are still as popular today as they once were in the days of the pharaohs. All across the planet it seems people are still mesmerized by the Egyptians.
Lexicon Univ. Ency. New York.
The Home Adv. Library: People and Places. Chicago.
Aladdin Books: Pyramids. New York.