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Researchers in Museums


Engaging the public with research & collections


Question of the week:

How do we find out about clothing in Ancient Egypt?

By rmjllil, on 20 May 2015

At Petrie Museum you find one of the oldest garments from Egypt on display in the world, the Tarkhan dress (pictured below) made of linen from around 3000 BC. There is also a reconstructed bead net dress that may have been worn for dancing in Dynasty 5 (c. 2400 BC). A visitor who was fascinated by these two garments asked me: how do we learn about Egyptian clothing? One of the most common ways to find out how people were dressed in the past is to study clothing in art. This quickly gives us a good idea of what people probably wore. However anyone interested in the actual materials used would have to investigate the physical remains of textiles from that time. Such studies can also help us understanding how the clothes were worn. For example, two large rectangular pieces of linen (displayed at museums outside the UK) have been recognised as dresses thanks to analyses of the stress marks and areas of wear on them which were identical to other pieces of clothes that were wrapped several times around the body.

If you’re interested in finding out more about research on the textiles that have survived I would recommend the book Pharaonic Egyptian clothing by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (1993).

tarkhan dress

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How do we find out about clothing in Ancient Egypt?

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