Assyrian Costume

Assyria was a civilization with its centre on the Upper Tigris river in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and at various points in history it came to govern local empires. Assur, a historic city, served as the name of the nation’s first capital. The geographical area or heartland where these empires were based is also referred to as Assyria. The tunic and the shawl were the two main costumes worn by the Assyrians. These two styles may be worn separately or together, and adjustments were made by changing the tunic or shawl’s proportions. Depending on the rank, the tunic’s sleeves either seemed to be short, ending at the ankles, or knee length. Five different styles can be identified in Assyrian shawl patterns. Many of the fashions were appropriate for pageants and religious plays. Shawls with fringes were a defining feature of traditional Assyrian attire. A lengthy shawl with fringes was the customary rank badge. Lower grades wore no shawl at all, whereas intermediate ranks wore shawls with short fringes.

The military costume was comparatively consistent, consisting of long tunics belted at the waist, round caps, conical helmets that were thought to have Scythic characteristics, short, fringed tunics, wide belts, and helmets. The long tunic with a fringed hem and a long fringed shawl—or a plaid tunic with a wide belt over it—was the traditional attire for Assyrian women. They had horns and a gold crown. The most common headgear was a cap and tiara, an ugal (headdress), drop and cross-shaped earrings, a necklace made of coloured stones, and bracelets finished with animal heads that were considered to be of the Scythy style or had a rosette in the middle.

Historical Background

In Assyria, the same costume, with some modifications, was worn by both males and females. They also made use of needlework, sometimes known as “Babylonian craft.” These materials had bright colours, and royalty adorned their clothing with gold. Higher Court and State officials were required to wear a long, fringed shawl or shoulder shawl with the ends coiled around them as their standard insignia of rank. While the amount of trimming on the full-length skirt might occasionally be used to determine rank, the shawl was a far more direct indicator. The length and richness of the fabric—possibly along with the colour of the fringes and the way the shawl was worn—indicated the wearer’s position, as did the plain or crossed style. The master of ceremonies was identified by a twin shawl worn crosswise, each with equally long fringes.

The most popular outfits for various headdresses are knee-length and full-length tunics with short sleeves. The earliest style of clothing consists of a highly ornate shawl drapery that is worn alone, without a tunic. Later, several of the newest styles of tunic with variously fringed shawl curtains are added. Wool was most frequently used for clothing, while linen, which had been around for a while and was frequently used for higher-quality items, was also popular. Sennacherib brought cotton to Assyria in about 700 BC, and it wasn’t until then that it was widely available and used to make cloth. Leather and papyrus were two additional materials used occasionally.

Metal, animal skins, and furs were also used, mostly for military and hunting costumes. Their sandals had a leather sole, laces around the ankle, a ring for the big toe, and either heelstraps or heel caps. A leather buskin that was laced from toe to knee was worn by the soldier. Only people of rank were allowed to use fans and umbrellas, which were used as sun protection. Bearers carried both of them.

Male Costume

Nearly all of the depictions of clothing that Assyrian art has left us are of men’s attire. The Assyrians have a heavily hirsute appearance due to their meticulously maintained masses of curled hair and beards. The men’s hair was long and styled in tight corkscrew curls, and it is known that they used gold dust to powder their hair. Intricately patterned tunics and shawls, many of which were tapestry-woven or embroidered, were worn by monarchs. With its daggers, the Assyrian court costume was inserted via the belt.

Female Costume

Around 700 B.C., the working Assyrian woman wore a long tunic and a long shawl with fringes. One corner of the shawl should initially be tucked under the left armpit, according to the rules for wearing this design efficiently. The shawl should then be pulled across the back and wrapped once around the torso under the right armpit. The fringed shawl should then be pulled up over the right shoulder and across the back until a corner drops down in front of the shoulder. An affluent Assyrian (usually a queen) dons a long tunic with fringe trimming that is comparable to her husband's but has longer sleeves.


The Assyrians used standard terminology to describe garments. In order to convey fashion nuances, simplicity was usually used, leading us to feel that the actual outfits were more intricate. The Assyrians went to great lengths to depict the ornamental designs that adorned clothing, but they also left us with many unanswered questions about fashion. It is challenging to pinpoint what clothing was worn in addition to outer garments, especially items that covered the shoulders, limbs, and breasts. The representation of clothing folds was another aspect of the Assyrians that has been missed in the arts and sculpture of that time. However, there is no denying that the Assyrian garments are an improvement over the Babylonian ones.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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