Egyptian Costume

Numerous diverse materials and fabrics, including linen, cotton, wool, silk, loincloths, and leather, were utilised to create clothes in ancient Egypt for a variety of purposes. The Ancient Egyptians wore robes, shirts, aprons, sashes, tunics, and loincloths, among other clothing items. Because of Egypt’s hot summers and mild winters, they mostly dressed in linen, a light plant fibre. Flax was spun or weaved to create linen, two laborious operations. They split the flax strands and ran them through spreaders to complete the spinning process. As a result, the linen is continuously pulled and stretched out until it receives its final twist for strength, at which point it is coiled on a bobbin and dried. Sandals and other types of footwear were often only worn on special occasions and were made of leather. (Old Egyptian Costumes and Fabrics: Crystalinks) Men typically wore plain clothes like loincloths with shirts, but as fashion changed over time, they started donning tunics or blouses with sleeves. Women wore sheath dresses, known as Kalasiris, which were comparatively more conservatively styled. These gowns had straps over the shoulders and were long, reaching the ankles. Though the majority of their attire was white, some of it was coloured, and shawls or robes might be worn over the dress if desired.

Historical Background

Egypt, which connects northeastern Africa and the Middle East, has a long history of costumes and culture. Along the rich Nile River Valley are numerous sites that date back thousands of years, such as the enormous Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, the hieroglyph-lined Karnak Temple, and the Valley of the Kings Tombs at Luxor. Ottoman landmarks like the Muhammad Ali Mosque and the Egyptian Museum, which is filled with artefacts, can be found in Cairo, the country’s capital. Egypt is currently the 30th fastest-growing economy in the world in the apparel sector. Costume from the end of the Neolithic era (before 3100 BC) until the fall of the Ptolemaic Kingdom following the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC is referred to as "ancient Egyptian clothing." Egyptian attire was vibrantly coloured in all different shades. Ancient Egyptian clothing was intended for both comfort and beauty, and it was adorned with priceless gems and jewels. Egyptian costumes were developed to stay cool in the scorching desert.

Material used in Egyptian costumes

The majority of the costumes’ materials were linen. The most ancient varieties had a fairly thick, coarse weave; however, later styles employed a delicate, thin linen that was loosely woven and appeared almost transparent. It made people feel more at ease amid the subtropical heat. All Egyptian communities valued the use of spinning, weaving, and stitching. Although clothing could be dyed using plants, it was typically left in its original color. Wool was well recognised but was seen as unclean. Animal fibres were the domain of the rich and the subject of taboos. In temples and shrines, they were not allowed; however, they were occasionally used for overcoats. Peasants, labourers, and others in poor circumstances frequently wore nothing except the shenti (made of flax). Many times, slaves performed their labour while unclothed. The khat, a head covering, or the nemes, a striped garment worn by men, was the most popular headgear.

Male Costume

Men’s clothing began to become more basic in the Old Kingdom around 2130 BC. The shendyt, a type of wraparound skirt worn by men, was belted at the waist and occasionally had gathering or pleating at the front. Men’s skirts at the time were brief. The skirt was worn longer as the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (1600 BC) emerged. Then, in or about 1420 BC, a light tunic or top with sleeves and a pleated petticoat appeared. The traditional clothing for men in Egypt consists of a long shirt called a “gallibaya,” optional pants, one or more outerwear items, a hat, and shoes. In different parts of Egypt, males typically wear a long, loose shirt known as a “gallibaya” or “galabiya.” Its trapezoidal neckline and long, narrow sleeves are both present.

The term “kamis” or “gamis” refers to a wide garment with extremely wide sleeves that locals also wear in addition to the gallibaya. The kamis is a resource used by Egyptian farmers, or fellahin, in costume making. The “kaftan,” which is layered over the gallibaya, is the most popular overcoat in Egypt. It has long, wide sleeves and a coat-like silhouette. In different parts of the country and throughout history, locals wore a variety of extra outerwear over the kaftan. Egyptian men have traditionally worn a variety of headdresses. The pieces provided shelter from the sand, the scorching sun, and other extreme weather conditions.

Female Costume

The majority of ancient Egyptian women of the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms wore a straightforward sheath costume known as a kalasiris. In ancient Egypt, women’s dress was more traditional than men’s. The upper edge of the dresses could be worn above or below the breasts, and one or two straps held them up until they reached the ankle. The length of the dress indicated the wearer’s socioeconomic position. The outfit was additionally adorned with feathers or beads. Women might choose to wear shawls, capes, or robes over their dresses. The shawl measured roughly 4 feet wide by 13 or 14 feet long and was made of quality linen. This was also primarily worn pleated. Outdoors, peasant women would dress in a gallebaya; however, in the city, they would don a gallebaya along with multiple layers of clothing, a hat, and shoes.

A woman would wear a tob sebleh, a wide woman’s dress, when going out in public. It is a cotton-made, full-length dress that is extremely wide. Under their robes, Egyptian women wear pants. These thin, loose-fitting cotton pants are tied below the knee and end at the ankle. The name of the bottoms is “tshalvar” or "shintijan.” There are numerous items of female outerwear as well. The female version of the garment, known as “yelek,” is similar to the masculine kaftan. It has longer sleeves and a tighter fit. Yelek is buttoned down from the bosom to the waist and has an open neck. The garment’s hem has slits on either side. Yelek is always layered over a gallebaya and loose pants.


In conclusion, when people hear the term “Egyptian traditional costume,” they tend to picture ancient Egyptian clothing. However, the traditional clothing worn by Egyptians now is very different from the wraparound clothing that barely covered their bodies in ancient times. Many characteristics of Ottoman Turk, European, and Muslim countries’ clothing styles were passed down to the local population. However, certain Egyptian tribes continue to wear garments according to a centuries-old custom.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022

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