Ideal or reality

Our knowledge of Egyptian clothing has come almost entirely from studying the many hieroglyphs left in the tombs of kings and nobles. This has led some historians to question whether our knowledge of Egyptian clothing is based on reality or on idealized images. It seems likely that hieroglyphs would offer the best possible picture of clothing, making the colors brighter and the fit more pleasing—like photos in a fashion magazine do today. The few physical remnants of clothes that have been found are in fact heavier and more clumsy in their construction than those depicted in the hieroglyphs.

One of the facts about Egyptian clothing that has most intrigued historians is the lack of change seen in the clothing over many centuries. Basic garments such as the schenti and the kalasiris were virtually unchanged for more than twenty centuries. This lack of change has led historians Michael and Ariane Batterberry to conclude, in their book Fashion: The Mirror of History, that the Egyptians' costume habits shouldn't be considered fashion, which refers to styles of clothing that frequently change, but rather a symbol of this culture's consistently simple, beautiful, and enduring sense of style.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Contini, Mila. Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. Edited by James Laver. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

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