Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Intriguing Textile Information Resource

Now for something completely different....

This link will take you to something called an "Information Pack" that was prepared by the Petrie Museum about the surviving garments and textile remains in its collection from Ancient Egypt. (There are other routes to the document in question, just Google for "Petrie textile pack.") The Information Pack was supposedly prepared for 14-16 year olds who are studying textiles, but what makes it interesting from a costumer's standpoint is that it provides directions on how to make replicas of various items in the collection, which include several linen garments that might have been either inner or outer garments, a sprang cap, a beaded overdress, and lots more.

There are several examples of a type of linen tunic, referred to as a "Deshasheh dress", that is styled a lot like the so-called "Eura dress reconstruction" (illustrated here in a paper by Jenny Kangasvuo). Unlike the Eura dress, the Deshasheh dress consists of only three pieces--two sleeve pieces (each of which wraps around the shoulder and down to form half of the bodice as well) and a cylindrical piece that covers the rest of the body.

I have been making a lot of shifts lately; round-necked, tie-necked, keyhole-necked, and the Manazan shirt with its interesting collar closure. Maybe the Deshasheh shirt should be next? I'm seriously thinking of adding it to my projects list for 2010. There are other interesting designs that would be fun to make up in linen (the fabric most used by the ancient Egyptians!) too.


  1. There is a little booklet that covers much the same ground, but has a little more on loin clothes, kerchiefs, and variations on wrapping dresses, that might be useful:

    Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood "Patterns for Ancient Egyptian Clothing" (Netherlands: CIP, 1992).

    I'm not sure how much information is repeated in her 1993 book though.

    And there is a line drawing of one of Tutankhamun's socks in:
    Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood "Tutankhamun Textiles and Clothing in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo" (Rotterdam: Barjesteh van Waalwijk van Doom & Co's Uitgeversmaatschappi, 1997)

    Hall's Egyptian Textiles is online with GoogleBooks. It goes into more detail about the textile side of things, rather than the clothing pattern side.

    (I never thought I'd ever use the pile of photocopies on Ancient Egyptian I've been hoarding. Thank-you for proving me wrong!)

  2. I think I have the "Patterns" book somewhere, but am not feeling up to tearing apart my bookshelves to find it.) :-) However, I'm not sure it's still in print; thus, it wouldn't necessarily help other people who might develop an interest in ancient Egyptian costume now.

    What I thought was useful about the Petrie Information Pack is: 1) the fact that it's absolutely free for download; 2) the fact that it gives specific directions on the construction of historic replicas, and 3) the fact that it's pretty easy to obtain photographs of the artifacts the Information Pack is describing, so you know whether you're on the right track. The Information Pack also supplies thread counts and (where appropriate) color information for the specific Petrie artifacts, which is more useful for a costuming standpoint.

  3. Quick update, since I managed to borrow a copy of "Pharonic Egyptian Clothing" (the 1993 Volgelsang-Eastwood book).

    It is a much more extended version of the 1992 booklet, aimed at museum staff rather than costumers, which discusses the extant items a lot more. It also seemed to discuss the pleating on some of the Deshasheh-style dresses dresses a bit more, like how it seems they were folded in half and then pleated (because on the left-hand and right-hand sides of the body, the pleats run in opposite directions.)

    Sorry, thought I should let you know since I found the book entirely by accident.

  4. I would love to see "Pharonic Egyptian Clothing", but right now I don't want to see it quite enough to buy a copy or spend the time ILLing it, especially in light of the Viking age/early period stuff I'd rather see first. (I don't work anywhere near our "local" library, the ILL librarian isn't available Sundays, and my Saturdays are oversubscribed).

    But it sounds as though it's a very good book. Thanks for the comment!