The concept of beauty and its association with human beings can be traced to the Christian Bible, when Eve, the first woman created by God according to Christian beliefs, placed a flower over her ear to make herself more beautiful and attractive to Adam, the first man. The Bible also provides other historical accounts of the lavish consumption of luxury materials like gold, silver and myrrh during the times of King David, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, particularly between 1010 bc and beyond 100 bc. These give evidence of the early appreciation of the notion of luxury and beauty by man.
However, the concept of luxury and its association to appearance, beauty and fashion evidently became prominent during the ancient Egyptian civilization of this period. Early Egyptian art reveals the intricate detailing and prominence of clothes and accessories such as headgears, crowns and jewellery, made of fine materials like gold. Also, the Pharaoh exemplified luxury dressing and opulence through his total control of all aspects of society, including appearance. His perception as both a leader and a representation of God heightened fashion opulence in this era as his subjects related to his appearance. The royal Pharaohs dressed flamboyantly and engaged the services of the best artistes, jewellers, craftsmen and designers to fabricate their wardrobe. The finest materials were used to produce their fashion goods, including footwear, which were often made of pure gold.
In this society, tradition and religion were deep-seated and clothing and appearance played a key role during religious and social ceremonies. Also the Egyptian belief in life after death and the elaborate rituals that were performed during burial ceremonies of dead nobles (involving dressing and mummifying them), reinforced the role of luxury in clothing and beautifying corpses. For these ceremonies, the best and most talented designers and craftsmen were used.
The visual representation of fashion was a key aspect of early Egyptian society, and men and women both wore jewellery, and made-to-measure attires, mostly in linen. The colours and styles of jewellery were specifically selected to complement each type of clothing similar to the fashion pairings of today. Personal hygiene was also important in this society shown through a highly developed cosmetics sector. Men and women used make-up, notably on their eyes. Their product assortments also included pomades and moisturizers with ingredients ranging from honey, salt and milk. Perfumes and oils were used on skin and local tree formulas for tooth hygiene. The women also used strict beauty procedures and treatments like massages to stay slim and fresh. It can be concluded that members of this society were almost obsessed with perfecting their bodies, and may be compared to the fitness and well-being consciousness of our current society.
Evidence of this society's important attachment to luxury, beauty and fashion can also be seen in the paintings of the period, which clearly showed the social class system that ruled the society and the material opulence that was associated with the upper social class. Naturally, the luxuries of the day were reserved for members of the royal families and the upper social class and an individual's style of dressing indicated their position in society. Also, the house designs and tombs and pyramids constructed during this era reflected the society's social status consciousness. Several discoveries have ascertained the high level of luxury consumption in this era, including a recent discovery, a shirt made of luxury linen around 1360 bc, which was displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, in early 2006.
The ancient Egyptians can be considered purveyors of the current global taste in luxury fashion goods. The elaborate designs and luxurious style of ancient Egyptian fashion has been a source of inspiration for several luxury fashion designers of today, including Salvatore Ferragamo and John Galliano, in addition to the numerous Hollywood movies that have been produced to recapture this period. Although no evidence of this exists, it can be imagined that the talented craftsmen and designers of the day had distinctive styles, or what are currently known as 'signatures', which differentiated their work and possibly brand names.
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