Stunning bead-net dresses: The zenith of ancient Egyptian fashion

bead-net-dresses-ancient-egypt_1Source: Ancient Origins

Women and men of ancient Egypt were known to embrace fashion as an important part of life. Clothing, makeup and jewelry were not only used to augment one’s beauty, but were also meant to represent the wearer’s social rank and class. Egyptians were especially adept at the art of weaving and dress-making. In fact, the world’s oldest woven dress is the now-tattered Tarkhan Dress, originally made in 3,482 BC in Egypt.

Historians are quick to point out that this rich civilization was actually the pioneer of high fashion. One instance of this is the bead-net dress, a strikingly bold garment that the wealthy ancient Egyptian women often wore during festivities. As its name suggests, the attire was crafted with several thousand faience beads of different colors arranged in a variety of geometrical patterns. Discovered only in the 1920s, it was worn by priestesses and upper-class women, along with beaded collars and headdresses.


Credit: Valerie Hector

Women from the lower classes, however, had to settle for ornate waist-strings. According to experts, bead-net dresses were created in two basic ways: one involving the sewing of beads onto an already-made linen dress, and the other which entailed stringing the tiny multi-colored orbs directly onto a net mesh. As pointed out by historians, these garments were at times among the things that were buried with the deceased.

A clear evidence that women also wore these precious garments in daily life can be seen in a number of Egyptian statues and murals. For instance, the figure of sky goddess Nut, dating back to somewhere between 3,000 and 2,000 BC, actually shows the deity donning a beaded dress. References in Egyptian literature to the bead-nut dress include the Threes Tales of Wonder, a short story collection also called Tales from the Westcar Papyrus. One particular piece in the collection, known as The Story of the Green Jewel, depicts King Snefru on a boat rowed by pretty girls wearing spectacularly-detailed beaded garments.


Source: Pinterest

So far, archaeologists have unearthed 20 ancient Egyptian bead-net dresses, all of which are currently kept in museums around the world. One such dress was found during a 1923/4 excavation inside a Fifth or Sixth Dynasty-era tomb near the city of Qau. The team involved in the digging originally thought the artifact, which had tiny stones that made sounds every time the dress moved, might have been worn by a dancer. Following further analysis, however, the researchers realized that the attire was actually too heavy to be suitable for dancers.

The dress currently exists in London’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. Uncovered in a Khufu-era tomb in Giza, another of these bead-net dresses is housed at Boston-based Museum of Fine Arts (pictured below).


Credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Via: Ancient Origins


1 Comment on "Stunning bead-net dresses: The zenith of ancient Egyptian fashion"

  1. Dear Dattatreya Mandal,
    I hope this message will reach you. From this article of “Stunning bead-net dresses: The zenith of ancient Egyptian fashion”, I would like to learn how to get the approval to use the images of the dress for the book I am working on, which is about Apparel Manufacturing. The chapter this image will be used is for introducing hand bead work, and the brief history of it. I hope I am doing the right step to approach you for this and hope you can give me some guild if I need to go through other procedures to get approval to use these images.
    Hope to hear from you and I thank you for your time!!!!

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