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Ancient Egyptian Costumes.  Fancy Dress Patterns

Ancient Egyptian Costumes
Part 1 - Early Egyptian Tunics

By Pauline Weston Thomas for

Ancient Costumes - Egyptian Dress Costume Plates
Part 1 - Early Egyptian Tunics


Ancient Egyptian Costumes & Decoration

Goddess Egyptian costume for fancy dress or pageantry re-enactmentThis page has ideas for accurate historical Egyptian costume, clothing and fashions for fancy dress.

Re-enactment, theatricals and fancy dress enthusiasts often opt for costumes based on the Land of the Pharaohs - the ancient Egyptians.  The most famous ancient Egyptians were Tutankhamun, Nefertiti and later Cleopatra.  The enthusiasts wrap themselves in a bed sheet and become convinced that they really look like a Pharaoh.  In an effort to help you create a more authentic looking image for a Christmas, New Year or carnival festival party, I want to share with you some Egyptian costume ideas.  I have recently reviewed and revised the work of two 1920s costume writers and the initial source is listed at the bottom of the page.  The pattern guides for these costumes are shown here and on the next 5 pages.

The bed sheet idea is not so far fetched, but with a little knowledge from these Egyptian costume web pages you can greatly improve the look of your fancy dress re-enactment costume.  Follow me...

The shapes of ancient dress were primitive, but their very simplicity was what made them so effective in their era.  Because of their ease of construction, the plain shapes have always been great for wardrobe departments of theatrical productions.  Many of the patterns are based on simple rectangles, which with a few trials at draping can be artfully arranged and topped off with an embellished Egyptian collar, thus creating a magnificent Egyptian costume robe.  Quite a few styles can also be used as the basis for biblical costumes.

However, if you find sewing daunting, then there are ready made Egyptian costumes available.

Ancient Egyptian Costume

If you are looking for an ancient Egyptian costume for fancy dress or pageantry re-enactment, then using these guide-line images you should be able to construct a simple costume. A shift when tied, draped or decorated can form the foundation of your fetching outfit.

In ancient Egypt, there were 4 basic types of clothing.  There is also Egyptian Military dress which adds one or two more styles. Decorative ornamental collars and eye make up complete the Egyptian picture.

  1. Egyptian tunics on this page
  2. Robes - on the next page
  3. Skirts - petticoat skirt with or without shawl cape shown here
  4. Garment drapery shawl/sari type shown also on page 3
  5. Military dress/Warrior male costume here
  6. Collars - ornamental collars to decorate all robe styles. Ornamental collar plates here
  7. Egyptian eye make up - eyeliner fashion here.

All these styles, collars and make up were worn by BOTH male and female members of Egyptian society. In clothing the skirt settled on the hips for men, but mostly above the waist for women.  The very earliest Egyptian costumes were of the sleeveless tunic type. Then the robe and skirt followed and finally the draped shawl or sari type of garment evolved.

The earlier styles did not disappear from Egyptian society - there were just more styles as time passed.

Fancy Dress Tip - In the main, decoration on Egyptian dress was mostly devoted to removable accessories such as headwear, girdles (striking wrap sash belts) or collars.  But if you need a wearable costume you have to make a basic body covering too.

Costume & Fancy Dress Patterns

First Styles - Tunics

700BC Egyptian Tunic & Braces Free Pattern Guide

To the above left we have a depiction of an Egyptian Goddess drawing from the time of 700 B.C. Egyptian dress

700BC Egyptian Tunic & Braces Free Pattern GuideThat high waist tunic with braces, shown on the right, looks quite easy to construct and the basic pattern is shown left. 
Left - Simple Guide pattern for Egyptian Tunic with Braces.

Dependant on your inhibitions you may prefer to make the straps shorter and the bodice higher.  (This may be a prudent move as you don't want to start any New Year arrested for causing an affray through your undress).

Please note this is a shape guide pattern only to give you an indication of the silhouette to follow. You may find you need longer, or shorter braces, or tunic.   Adjust the pattern to your body.

Finding a print fabric that looks Egyptian presents more problems.

If you really want Egyptian looking printed fabric, then consider adding colour yourself.  The fabric can be quite stiff coarse linen, fine batiste, old or new linen sheeting.  Lighter weight cotton lawns, such as the gossamer fine muslin material used in the later Egyptian periods, might give extra softness for draped styles.


Adding Colour Speedily to Fabric

Make a stencil based on the images of decorative ornament (available on another webpage here). Try using a neutral tone cotton fabric or white linen material for the base fabric of your decorative work.  Either then stencil, print a design you make yourself, or freely paint fabric paints in an Egyptian stylised pattern. Use the decorative ornament plates here as reference guides. 

Fast Fancy Dress Tip - Frightened of making a stencil?  There is a very easy way to paint on the fabric.  Trace an Egyptian costume design outline through dressmaker's carbon paper directly onto the fabric.  Then simply and quickly fill in the carbon outline shapes with fabric paint.  Use no more than 3 bold colour combinations in one outfit. Try colour permutations such as golden orange with turquoise or teal blue; malachite green with ruby wine red, or gold with green.  Use black as an outline to highlight and emphasise pattern shapes. Add a touch of gold where this would lift the final look of the item.

Still frightened?  Use Bondaweb with Egyptian coloured fabrics, suede, leather or satin ribbons and press shapes directly to the fabric. See the instructions for doing this on Bondaweb craft packs available for a couple of pounds or dollars.  Carefully used, one Bondaweb pack is probably enough to complete one pre-planned collar/headdress/cuffs.

Essential Essence - Egyptian Fancy Dress Tip  Most of the planning of any Egyptian re-enactment outfit should go into making a headdress that you can get to stay on the head!  Alternatively, make a collar that is as stunning as any worn by Tutankhamun!  This famous boy king whose tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, is also known as Tutankhamen or plain King Tut.

Costume & Fancy Dress Patterns

First Style - Tunics

3 Easy Ancient Egyptian Tunic Style Pattern Guides -

Fancy Dress - Amateur Dramatics - 3 Free Easy Egyptian Costume Pattern Guides for Tunics

Figure A - 1700 B.C. - Egyptian Tunic with Braces

Figure B - 1500 B.C. - Egyptian Tunic with Short Sleeves

Figure C - 3700 B.C. - Egyptian Sleeveless Tunic

These tunic styles were the first great types of ancient Egyptian costume. The garment measurements will fit a slim figure. 

Tunics B and C are pulled on over the head.
Tunic A is stepped into and pulled up to fit.

Making the Early Egyptian Tunics

Use the inch measurements on the pattern shapes as a guide alongside your own measurements in inches.  This sort of pattern is easy to draw straight onto doubled fabric using tailor's chalk and an imperial ruler.

Tip - Remember that most pattern making involves symmetry - so for these styles lay the pattern on double fabric.  Cut following the back neck and scoop out the front neck afterwards.

Never make a garment to your exact measurements. Always add seam and hem allowances, plus some wearing ease. This is usually about 3-4 inches ease to hips for walking/sitting, 5 inches to the chest measurement for bending the back and 2-3 inches to the waistline for comfort.  In loose, non shaped garments like these tunic styles, exact figures are less important.

For fancy dress purposes, or one night only pantomimes, religious and school plays you can keep the raw edge finishing simple. Try using bias binding pressed in and stitched down; create an even bound edge; or make fabric facings from the basic pattern.  If in a desperate hurry you could even use a fabric glue such as Copydex or PVA to stick decorative braids along the raw, zig zagged or overlocked edge.  The braces could be made of braids, webbing or thick ribbons to save time.  Use your imagination! 

Fabric Choices for Egyptian Costumes

The original ancient Egyptian costumes were made from fairly thick linen. 
Avoid obvious synthetics for your fabric base.
The fabric you choose may be quite stiff coarse linen, fine batiste, old or new linen sheeting, or lighter weight cotton lawns such as the material used in the later Egyptian periods. 

You may even use old curtains or sheers if effect is more important than authenticity.  Some of the modern permanently pre-wrinkled fabrics of today might be most suited to the pleated effect styles.

In every stage of making your costume use you imagination and adapt and invent whilst keeping the essence of the styles worn.  Figure A probably began as a simple uncut piece of fabric made into a simple tube to fit the body. Weaving was a time consuming craft thousands of years ago, so keeping fabric as near to the original woven shape prevented waste of material.

(Please do not write for further pattern clarification. If you do not understand this simple free pattern guide method then you should purchase a ready prepared fancy dress pattern from a company like Simplicity or Butterick. 
Alternatively buy or hire an outfit from a costume company such as or Recollections.)

Egyptian Collars

The next stage of making an ancient Egyptian simple tunic style costume, is making the collar. 

Decorative ornament plates and collars are discussed on the collar page where you will find lots of tips for making Egyptian collars for fancy dress costumes. Capture the essence of Egypt by adhering to typical ancient Egyptian colours.  Add a great collar and fantastical head dress; lather on a bottle of fake tan too for an appealing bronze tone and you'll walk away with first prize!

Read more about Egyptian Ornament - You can see some decorative elements for Egyptian collars here.


This page contains some costume plates sourced from the book Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Persian Costumes & Decorations by Mary G. Houston and Florence S. Hornblower. The book was published by A & C. Black of London in 1920.  F. S. Hornblower coloured both the figures and Decorative Ornament plates where colour was needed. 

Page Added 15 Nov 2007. Ref:- P658



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