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18th Dynasty Clothing

Fashion fit for a pharaoh! Today, we'll be looking at a simple yet intriguing facet of 18th Dynasty life: clothing. For an ancient Egyptian king, clothing, crowns, and other accessories were symbols of power and status, which usually also had specific symbolic meaning. Although Egyptian fashion evolved quite a bit over the centuries, this Thutmose Tuesday we'll be focusing strictly on the type of garments a Thutmoside/New Kingdom pharaoh would have worn.

Nearly all ancient Egyptian garments were constructed from white linen, a material well-suited for living and working in a desert climate. Linen was light, comfortable, and breathable, and throughout the ancient world the Egyptians were known for their crisp, white clothing. Members of the upper-middle class and nobility even had access to a laundry service, where their dirty garments would be washed in the Nile (using lye in lieu of soap), dried, folded, and promptly returned to their owners. Working in the laundry service was not an incredibly desirable position, but the title of chief washerman of the royal household did carry some weight (it was a position slightly less prestigious than "King's Sandal-Bearer"). During the 18th Dynasty, members of the royal family and upper classes displayed their wealth and status by wearing ornate, intricately-pleated linen pieces such as dresses, shawls, and kilts. By the new kingdom, most garments were looser and more free-flowing than their more constrictive Old and Middle Kingdom counterparts.

On an average day, a Thutmoside pharaoh would have worn a short, pleated linen kilt (adored with a belt or decorative panelling), and would have either gone bare-chested or sported a light linen shirt. The king would have also donned a large decorative broad collar or other bejeweled amulet. I'm not going to get into the intricacies of ancient Egyptian jewelry today, as that topic could be it's own post entirely! On his (most likely) shaven head, the pharaoh would have worn a short wig or one of the many symbolic headdresses associated with the kingship: the nemes crown (think King Tut's burial mask), the khat crown (a favorite of Akhenaten), the blue khepresh battle crown (a staple of Ramesses II's wardrobe), and the iconic, red and white Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, all featuring the uraeus cobra, a potent symbol of the king's power. A Thutmoside pharaoh's gilded reed or leather sandals would have been adorned with images of Egypt's political/military enemies, so that whenever the king walked, he would be literally grinding Egypt's foes into the dirt.

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