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Decoration of Ancient Egyptian Clothing

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Glossary

emblem

A symbolic object used as an identifying mark.

nemes

a royal headdress characterized by folds on each side of the forehead and by pleats, two of which fall down on the shoulders and one on the back

shawabti

statuettes modeled from the different available materials in Egypt representing the deceased either in the mummiform or in the daily life dress and that bear the text of Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead to act as a counterpart of the dead person to do the labor work in the afterlife. They used to be placed in the tomb in large number, one for every day of the year.

Shen

oval shaped figure or sign, symbolic of all that the sun encircles throughout the daytime; also, sign of eternity

shendyt

pleated kilt worn by royalty

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Clothing of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs
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To display their power and association with the gods, the Pharaohs wore different clothes than the nobles and the common people.

The royal headdress called the Nemes is an important royal emblem. Originally, it was a piece of linen cloth gathered together at the back of the head. The statues of King Netjer-Khet or Djoser show that by the Third Dynasty, the kings had begun to wear it over their wigs. The Nemes became a royal headdress by the Fourth Dynasty, with or without pleating over the head, but generally with fine accordion pleating on what is called the lappets, or folds. The band of the Nemes was bound tightly above the brows and tied at the back beneath the "queue," which did not appear until the Middle Kingdom. The band of the Nemes was strengthened by a piece of hard material like a strip of leather located between the Nemes and the forehead. This was either to prevent the cloth of the Nemes from being stained with sweat or from chafing the brow.

The false beard seems to have been attached to the same piece of material. Depictions of the Nemes were striped both in reliefs and paintings and the unstriped part was in the ground color of the figure.

These features can be seen in the famous mask of King Tutankhamun as well as the Shawabti statuettes. According to some Egyptologists, the Nemes, made of linen, might very often have been of one color.

Another royal garment is the royal apron, or kilt, called the Shendyt. It is first found in the Fourth Dynasty and hardly varied throughout Egyptian history. It was wrapped counter-clockwise around the king's body. The royal apron is entirely covered with fine accordion pleating. This apron differs from the divine one, which does not have the little piece of cloth that hangs in the front.

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Statue of Khafra Protected by the God Horus
Statue of Khafra Protected by the God Horus

Triad of Menkaure
Triad of Menkaure

Bust of Ramesses the Second
Bust of Ramesses the Second

Bust of Amenemhat the Third in Priestly Costume
Bust of Amenemhat the Third in Priestly Costume

The Gold Mask of Tutankhamun
The Gold Mask of Tutankhamun

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