Ancient Egyptian clothing remained relatively unchanged for over two thousand years, with one important exception: the introduction of the tunic, a simple garment that covered the upper body. Egypt's hot climate meant that wearing clothing on the torso was not necessary, and throughout the Old Kingdom (c. 2700–c. 2000 B.C.E. ) and the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000–c. 1500 B.C.E. ) men dressed primarily in the schenti, or kilt, and sometimes with a skirt worn over the schenti. At the beginning of the New Kingdom (c. 1500–c. 750 B.C.E. ), however, Egypt conquered Syria. Syrians were known for the quality of their weaving, and they helped introduce better cloth production, and the tunic, to Egypt.
At its most basic, the tunic was a long rectangular piece of fabric with a hole in the center for the head. Its open sides could be secured with a belt, and it usually extended just past the waistline. The tunic was usually worn with a schenti. Under the Egyptians, however, tunic design became more detailed. The sides were sewn together, forming short sleeves that were often starched so that they stuck outward, making the shoulders appear broad. Like other linen garments, the tunic was decorated with pleats and folds and was usually bleached white.
One of the most unusual styles of clothing ever worn by Egyptians, according to fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave in The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day, was an extended tunic that became a kind of robe. The rectangular fabric was more than twice as long as the wearer's height, the sleeves were very wide, and the accompanying long skirt was gathered at the waist.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.