extant garments


Tunic with Dionysian Ornament

Panopolis (Akhmim), Egypt, probably 5th century (Coptic period)

Undyed linen with tapestry-woven wool decorations, 175 cm high and 135 cm wide (68 ¾ in by 53 in)

Tunics were typically made of undyed linen with decorative patterns worked in colored wool threads. The medallions and ornamented bands, called clavi, were decorated with images from nature, the classical world, or Christian themes. Here Dionysos, the Greek god of wine, is depicted in the underwater realm of fishtailed Nereus and his daughters.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (26.9.9)


LIVING FASHION - Interview with Jacoba de Jonge. She tells how she got started collecting antique clothing. Lots of gorgeous examples of 18th and 19th century extant garments. You almost have to be a speed reader on the subtitles, though. LOL

Loincloth of the Nubian soldier Maiherpra

New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Thutmose III, 1479–1425 B.C.

Made of gazelle skin; found in the hollow of a rock over tomb KV 36 (Maiherpra) in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes, by Howard Carter in 1903.

Although primarily reserved for kings, the royal valley also sheltered the tombs of especially favored commoners. One of these tombs belonged to the “fanbearer on the king’s right” and “child of the inner palace,” Maiherpra. These titles indicate that he grew up in the palace and was a personal attendant of the king. Maiherpra’s tomb was discovered in 1899 with two sets of coffins, Maiherpra’s mummy, and a beautifully illustrated Book of the Dead, all now in Cairo. Three years later, another find was made in a hollow in the rock over the tomb: a small wooden box, painted yellow with hieroglyphic inscriptions in blue paint naming Maiherpra. The box contained two garments, each made of a single gazelle skin.

One of these was presented to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, from which it was later stolen. The other, along with the box, is now in Boston. A remarkable piece of work, the entire gazelle skin (except for the border and a horizontal patch of leather left plain near the top) was made into a fine mesh by cutting it with staggered rows of tiny incisions, about forty to the inch, and then pulling the skin out to expand it. The resulting garment would have been light, breezy, and flexible when worn.

This garment was the source of much hopeful speculation when it was presented to the Museum in 1903, as its function was misunderstood. Its shape reminded students of Biblical archaeology of the ephod, described in the Old Testament (Exodus 28: 6- 12) as the ceremonial vestment of the Israelite high priest, and for many years thereafter it was vaunted as the only surviving example. As an ephod, it would have been worn like an apron, just as described in the Bible. But it is unquestionably a loincloth. Leather loincloths are often depicted in New Kingdom tomb paintings, and so we know how they were worn.

The top would have been tied around the waist with the patch covering the buttocks, the rounded lower portion pulled up between the legs and tied in front. Most often such loincloths are associated with soldiers and Nubians. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Maiherpra himself was both a soldier and a Nubian: his name means “lion on the battlefield.”

Source: Museum of Fine Arts Boston.  The plain cypress box the loincloth was found in is also in the MFA.


Gown and coat survived the San Francisco earthquake in 1906:

“Just in time for the 108th anniversary of the worst disaster to ever hit San Francisco, historians have uncovered a delicate and beautiful coat and gown that were worn by a fashionable woman here on the eve of the great 1906 earthquake and fire.

The outfit, a black silk taffeta dress and an accompanying white coat with silk braid, was rescued from the disaster and has survived in remarkably fine condition, a bit of style from the attics of the past. The dress and coat, wrapped in two boxes, were shown publicly for the first time at the annual commemorative earthquake lunch Thursday.”

Rest of the story here