Sumerian Costume

Early Sumerian (c. 3500–2500 BCE) and Later Sumerian (c. 1500 BCE) are the two distinct periods of Sumerian culture (c. 2500-1000 BCE). Absolute patriarchy and hierarchy characterised social classes. Wool, oil, and trade in general were the three mainstays of Sumerian commerce. The most significant material was wool, which was used to make clothing, tapestries, and decorative things. Producing textiles was a female-dominated industry. They spun the wool, wove the fabric, and then Sumerian men coloured the finished product. Kaunakes, a fleece-like material, was used to make skirts for both men and women. With respect to hierarchical standing, skirt length varied. Short skirts were the norm for slaves, soldiers, and servants, while long skirts were reserved for royalty and deities. To keep the skirts up, they were wrapped around the torso and fastened at the waist with a belt. The growth of weaving as a craft throughout the third millennium BCE helped to characterise the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia. The process of weaving makes it possible to create rectangles of cloth big enough to cover the body. Statuettes and bas-reliefs from the Sumerian culture depict people wearing both woven and tufted skirts, illustrating the change from non-woven to woven clothing.

Historical Background

The ancient civilization of Sumer, where there was a human population as early as 4,500 B.C., served as the incubator for numerous inventions that have had enduring, irreversible effects on society, such as writing. Even though ancient Sumer had great developments, its inhabitants’ daily clothing was frequently quite simple and composed of flax and wool. In prehistoric Sumer, both men and women frequently wore knee-length skirts. These skirts were created from sheepskin. These skirts were made of skins inside and out, with woollen clusters on the outside. These skirts were fastened by the Sumerians with large pins. While unprocessed wool and hide were important early components of Sumerian apparel, wool-based fabric began to gain popularity around 2,500 B.C. The ancient Sumerians typically used materials that were the easiest to get for making clothes. Like sheep’s wool, flax was a particularly popular fabric in Sumerian clothing. A plant called flax has rough stems. The fibres in these stalks can be used to produce textiles. Flax plants produce a variety of fibres. Some had a texture that was incredibly soft and silky, while others had the exact opposite.

Animal hides were sewn together to create some of the first Sumerian garments. The fleece would obviously hang because they didn’t take it off when they did this. When Sumerian women began weaving regularly, this was eradicated. However, priestesses had to adopt the vintage appearance. Priestesses wore specifically made wool clothing that looked like the more traditional fashions. Both male and female Sumerian attire heavily emphasised accessories. Ancient Sumerians frequently wore bracelets, pendants, headdresses, and necklaces. Silver and gold were frequently used in their jewellery. For religious events, they frequently used these embellishments to finish their clothes. In particular, carnelian, a reddish-orange gemstone, was commonly incorporated into jewellery along with other stones.

Male Costume

Historically, Sumerian males only ever wore wool kilts to cover their lower bodies when dressing. They eventually transitioned from their simple daily attire to something a little more ornate, notably long wraps that extended from their lower thighs all the way up to their shoulders. These coverings were typically created from soft flax when it was hot outside. They donned woollen garments throughout the colder months. These covers frequently included decorative trimming along their borders as well.

In contrast to women, guys dress differently. The majority of men wore either a short or long, simple-material belted skirt with a fleece hem and a tasselled knot at the rear. A version is a skirt with a belt with a tasselled knot at the rear and multiple rows of tufted or fleeced material that are occasionally overlapped. A third form of skirt is shorter than the other two designs and has a belt, long tufts of fabric hanging from the waist, and a plain triangular piece of fabric at the front that may conceal a skirt underneath with tufts wrapped around it. Male characters either had long hair and beards or were clean-shaven.

Female Costume

The Sumerian ladies wore long garments that typically exposed their shoulders and single arms. Usually, their left arms were covered. Typically, this clothing reached their ankles and enveloped their entire bodies. The dresses were frequently designed to precisely accentuate their bodies. Although the female figure was not as common as the male, there are enough instances on seals to provide a good representation of feminine attire. The fringed garment was the most popular style, just like the male dress. The other women are dressed in long, fringed outfits with one shoulder left uncovered. They all wore their long hair in the back in a bun with a band around their heads as their haircut.


Throughout the protoliterate period, Sumerian costumes were diverse and unique. The wealthy and aristocratic classes owned it. They were the first to assign specific fashions (uniforms) to particular official roles in both the military and the church. As well as separating Sumerians from others from nearby places, clothing also distinguished between mortals and deities. In terms of fashion, the Sumerians were the forerunners of antiquity, much like Western clothing rules the world today.

Updated on: 20-Dec-2022


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