Thursday, January 3, 2013

History's Runway: An Egyptian Tunic, 670-870

Egypt, 670-870
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The history of fashion is as long as the history of humankind. As long as there’s been nudity, we’ve sought attractive ways to cover ourselves. To this end, textiles have been made for centuries. For example, in the late Roman Empire and in Byzantine Egypt, textiles were made commercially by weavers for sale to households, and, often by commission. These lush fabrics were used to create tunics—garments which were similar for both men and women.

While initially a garment constructed of one piece of fabric, by the Fifth Century, tunics were made in three pieces and adorned with a belt. One of the most popular patterns were stripes, both in Rome and Coptic Egypt.

This tunic of red wool, dating between 670 and 870, heralds from Egypt. It is adorned with white vertical strikes at the sides and, at the neck, features a woven tapestry of colored wools and linen thread.

Like later tunics, this one is made up of several pieces which have been seamed and cuffed. The sleeves are open under the arms. Though stained and slightly decayed, it’s an exceptional example of fashion of the Seventh to Eighth Century Egypt.

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