page has ideas for accurate historical Egyptian costume, clothing and
fashions for fancy dress.
Re-enactment, theatricals and fancy dress enthusiasts often opt for
costumes based on the Land of the Pharaohs - the ancient Egyptians.
The most famous ancient Egyptians were Tutankhamun, Nefertiti and later
Cleopatra. The enthusiasts wrap themselves in a bed sheet and
become convinced that they really look like a Pharaoh. In an effort to
help you create a more authentic looking image for a Christmas, New Year or carnival festival party, I want to share with you
some Egyptian costume ideas. I have recently reviewed and revised the work
of two 1920s costume writers and the initial source
listed at the bottom of the page. The pattern guides for these
costumes are shown here and on the next 5 pages.
The bed sheet idea is not so far fetched, but with a little knowledge from
these Egyptian costume web pages you can greatly improve the look of your fancy
dress re-enactment costume.
The shapes of
ancient dress were primitive, but their very simplicity was what
made them so effective in their era. Because of their ease
of construction, the plain shapes have always been great for wardrobe departments of
theatrical productions. Many of the patterns are based on simple
rectangles, which with a few trials at draping can be artfully arranged
and topped off with an
embellished Egyptian collar, thus creating a magnificent Egyptian
costume robe. Quite a few styles can also be used as the basis for
If you are looking for an ancient Egyptian costume for fancy dress or
pageantry re-enactment, then using these guide-line images you should be able
to construct a simple costume. A shift when tied, draped or decorated
can form the foundation of your fetching outfit.
In ancient Egypt, there were 4 basic types of clothing. There
is also Egyptian
Military dress which adds one or two more styles. Decorative
ornamental collars and
eye make up
complete the Egyptian picture.
All these styles, collars and make up were worn by BOTH male and female members of
In clothing the skirt settled on the hips for men, but mostly above the
waist for women. The very earliest Egyptian costumes were of the
sleeveless tunic type. Then the robe and skirt followed and
finally the draped shawl or sari type of garment evolved.
The earlier styles did not disappear from Egyptian society - there
were just more styles as time passed.
Fancy Dress Tip - In the main, decoration on
Egyptian dress was mostly devoted to removable accessories such as
headwear, girdles (striking wrap sash belts) or
collars. But if
you need a wearable costume you have to make a basic body covering too.
the above left we have a depiction of an Egyptian
Goddess drawing from the time of 700 B.C.
high waist tunic with braces, shown on the right, looks quite easy to construct and the basic pattern is
Left - Simple Guide pattern for Egyptian Tunic with Braces.
Dependant on your inhibitions you may prefer to make the
straps shorter and the bodice higher. (This may be a prudent move
as you don't want to start any New Year arrested for causing an affray
through your undress).
Please note this is a shape guide pattern only
to give you an indication of the silhouette to follow. You may find you
need longer, or shorter braces, or tunic.
Adjust the pattern to your body.
Finding a print fabric that looks Egyptian presents
If you really want Egyptian looking printed fabric, then
consider adding colour yourself. The fabric can be quite
stiff coarse linen, fine batiste, old or new linen sheeting. Lighter
weight cotton lawns, such as the gossamer fine muslin material used in the later Egyptian
periods, might give extra softness for draped styles.
Make a stencil based on the images of decorative
ornament (available on
another webpage here). Try using a neutral tone
cotton fabric or white linen material for the base fabric of your
decorative work. Either then stencil, print a design you make
yourself, or freely paint fabric paints in an Egyptian stylised pattern.
Use the decorative ornament plates here as reference guides.
Fast Fancy Dress Tip - Frightened of making a stencil?
There is a very easy way to paint on the fabric. Trace an Egyptian
costume design outline through dressmaker's carbon paper directly onto the
fabric. Then simply and quickly
fill in the carbon outline shapes with fabric paint. Use no more than 3 bold
colour combinations in one outfit. Try colour permutations such as
golden orange with turquoise or teal blue; malachite green with ruby
wine red, or gold with green. Use black as an outline to highlight
and emphasise pattern shapes. Add a touch of gold where this would lift
the final look of the item.
Still frightened? Use Bondaweb with Egyptian coloured
fabrics, suede, leather or satin ribbons and press shapes directly to
the fabric. See the instructions for doing this on Bondaweb craft packs
available for a couple of pounds or dollars.
Carefully used, one Bondaweb pack is probably enough to complete one
Essential Essence - Egyptian Fancy Dress Tip Most
of the planning of any Egyptian re-enactment outfit should go into making
a headdress that you can get to stay on the head! Alternatively,
make a collar that is as
stunning as any worn by Tutankhamun! This famous boy king whose
tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, is also known as Tutankhamen or plain King Tut.
Use the inch measurements on the pattern shapes as a guide
alongside your own measurements in inches. This sort of pattern is
easy to draw straight onto doubled fabric using tailor's chalk and an
Tip - Remember that most pattern making involves symmetry - so for
these styles lay the pattern on double fabric. Cut following the
back neck and scoop out the front neck afterwards.
Never make a garment to your exact measurements. Always add seam
and hem allowances, plus some wearing ease. This is usually about 3-4
inches ease to hips for walking/sitting, 5 inches to the chest measurement for
bending the back and 2-3 inches to the waistline for comfort. In
loose, non shaped garments like these tunic styles, exact figures are less important.
For fancy dress purposes, or one night only pantomimes, religious
and school plays you can keep the raw edge finishing simple. Try using
bias binding pressed in and stitched down; create an even bound edge; or make fabric facings from the basic pattern. If in a desperate hurry you
could even use a fabric glue such as Copydex or PVA to stick decorative
braids along the raw, zig zagged or overlocked edge. The braces
could be made of braids, webbing or thick ribbons to save time.
Use your imagination!
The original ancient Egyptian costumes were made from fairly thick
Avoid obvious synthetics for your fabric base.
The fabric you choose may be quite stiff coarse linen, fine batiste, old
or new linen sheeting, or lighter weight cotton lawns such as the
material used in the later Egyptian periods.
You may even use old
curtains or sheers if effect is more important than authenticity.
Some of the modern permanently pre-wrinkled fabrics of today might be most
suited to the pleated effect styles.
In every stage of making your costume use you imagination and adapt
and invent whilst keeping the essence of the styles worn. Figure A
probably began as a simple uncut piece of fabric made into a simple tube
to fit the body. Weaving was a time consuming craft thousands of years
ago, so keeping fabric as near to the original woven shape prevented
waste of material.
(Please do not write for further pattern clarification. If you do not understand this simple free pattern guide method then you
should purchase a ready prepared fancy dress pattern from a company like
Simplicity or Butterick.
Alternatively buy or hire an outfit from
a costume company such as buycostumes.com or Recollections.)
The next stage of making an ancient Egyptian simple tunic style costume, is making the collar.
This page contains some costume plates sourced from the book Ancient
Egyptian, Assyrian and Persian Costumes & Decorations by Mary G. Houston
and Florence S. Hornblower. The book was published by A & C. Black of
London in 1920. F. S. Hornblower coloured both the figures and
Decorative Ornament plates where colour was needed.
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