I am doing a series of posts on the history of hair, makeup and fashion through the ages, and the best place to start, is with the Ancient Egyptians. They were a very fashion conscious bunch, and experimented with different hairstyles, wigs and makeup.
Men and women shaved their hair and eyebrows as part of religious customs, but also because it was practical and hygienic in the severe heat. Ornate wigs were worn as protection from the sun, and would also indicate rank and status. These wigs were made from wool, palm leaf fibres or human hair and were often dyed black and sometimes left a natural brown. In the 12th century bC, henna and indigo were used as dyes to create red, green and blue wigs, and beeswax was used to set the multiple braids, as you can imagine, it wasn’t a very natural look.
For simpler hairstyles, braids were added into own hair instead of wigs, and decorations such as flowers, ribbons, ivory combs, metal pins and golden diadems were worn.
The cones that one see on top of wigs in Egyptian illustrations, are cakes of perfumed wax. These were worn on social occasions, where the heat would melt the wax and create a cooling effect as well as release their fragrance, I can just imagine how sticky that must have been!
Makeup is a big part of the Egyptian look, the distinctive kohl liner served to protect the eyes from disease and the glare of the sun as well as repel flies. Galena, Antimony and Malachite was used as Kohl. For eye-shadow, green Malachite powder, yellow Jasper and saffron was used. The face was lightened with chalk powder or ceruse, which contained white lead as pigment. Cheeks and lips were reddened with red ochre and wine.
Simple tunics were worn with beaded collars, or fabric was draped pleated and tied around the body. A good website for historical information and ideas on how to recreate Egyptian costume for fancy dress is Fashion-era . Fashions in Hair and Fashions in Makeup by Richard Corson are both excellent books with Encyclopaedic information on styles through the ages.
In the next installation, I will share my Egyptian photo-shoot. Keep posted!