Ancient Egyptians wore clothes made almost entirely of linen, which was created from the flax that grew along the Nile river. The light, airy material was cool in the hot desert. They also took great care with their appearances. Egyptian women painted their nails, put cream on their faces to prevent wrinkles and wore makeup and jewelry. Men wore makeup and jewelry too. In Egyptian society, the nicer you looked, the more prestigious your social status.
Egyptian history can be loosely divided into three kingdoms called Old, Middle and New. In the Old and Middle Kingdoms (around 2686-1786 B.C.), elite women dressed in long, simple white sheaths with wide shoulder straps. By the time the New Kingdom rolled around in 1570 B.C., the dresses became more elaborate. Although still primarily white, the dresses were sometimes decorated with beads and gold thread and looked like saris, with one slender strap rather than two wide ones. These dresses were usually held together with belts. When Amenhotep III came to power in 1390 B.C, the linen was so light and airy that it was transparent. Working women wore shorter dresses, and female servants likely wore no clothing at all, save panties and jewelry.
Priests and the pharaohs often wore animals skins, leopard skins in particular. Lower-ranking priests wore floor-length, white robes that were secured with one strap over the shoulder. Most other men wore a kilt-like skirt, sometimes with a shirt that came to the knees. Sometimes, these articles of clothing were decorated with beads and designs made of gold thread. Working men wore just a loincloth, which was made of either linen or leather.
Children usually didn't wear any clothing at all in the summer. In the winter, they would wear simple wraps or cloaks. Women and men often pleated their clothing at the belt. On their feet -- when not going barefoot, as they often did -- men and women wore simple sandals that were composed of woven strips of leather or rush. Usually, only the wealthy could afford sandals.
Jewelry was very important to ancient Egyptians. They believed that jewelry enhanced appearance, indicated social status and protected from evil. Jewelry was often meaningful and depicted religious and protective symbols. Jewelry was gold or silver and inlaid with gemstones such as amethyst and turquoise. Glass was also used to decorate jewelry. Finally, many elite Egyptians wore elaborate wigs made of human hair, usually to important functions or festivals.
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