September 2017’s Historical Sew Monthly theme is “Seen Onscreen”. It was finally mid-September when I finally got my full sewing space back, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to make something for this challenge (actually on time…rather than all the others that have been very, very late) but I figured I’d give it a go anyways.
September: Seen Onscreen – Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.
When I was brainstorming last December about what I’d do for this challenge I had a few ideas:
- 1780s chemise a la reine? (Marie Antoinette)
- This I discounted quickly because although I love it… and still want to make it someday, I still don’t have anywhere to wear it.
- Tudor? (Other Boleyn Girl)
- This one is high on my wish-list, but there was NO way I could do the research and pattern drafting, and construction in two weeks to meet the deadline. I did mentally put it in my consideration for the November challenge (HSF inspired).
- Italian (The Borgias)
- This was a strong contender… since I was recently thinking of how to expand this wardrobe. Still, what I really want for this outfit I don’t have the fabric for right now, and I have way too much fabric to go through before I go buying new fabric…
- Egyptian? (Tut TV show)
- Finally, this is what I came up with. Last year when the SCA kingdom I’m a part of was going to elevate a Queen with an Egyptian persona, a number of us considered doing Egyptian costumes to honour her. Ultimately, we all got distracted when two friends with German personas were chosen to be our next Baron and Baroness and all did German Renaissance costumes instead… but I had already done a bunch of Pinterest searches and things like that to start me out…. AND I assisted Mistress Caterina in fitting the Queen with new garb… so I had an idea about construction of a costume as well….
As always, I started searching on Pinterest for inspiring images. The Queen told us that her persona was Early Kingdom, but over time I found more inspiration from later. Movie and TV inspiration also came up in my early searches, and many movies were very different from the historical images (largely statuary and tomb paintings). However, I could see a direct connection between some of the Middle Kingdom historical images and screenshots from the TV three-part miniseries Tut. (Wikipedia) Unfortunately… I never saw the show, and can’t view the episodes or behind the scenes videos on the Spike website because I’m out of their region. I COULD however see a few of the trailer/clips on YouTube. While certainly there is a lot of “Hollywood” in these costumes, I can also see where some of their inspiration comes from the historic images.
The two female characters most featured in the show seem to be Ankhe, sister and wife to King Tut, and Suhad, an Egyptian commoner who loves the king.
There is also a really nice featurette on the costumes of Tut, which I wish would show more details of the costumes… but still it’s a nice addition without having seen the show or being able to see a lot of photos up close.
The Commoner – Suhad seems to have four costumes.
First meeting dress
This appears to be the dress she’s wearing when she first meets King Tut. I like this least of all, and don’t see the connections to historically-informed design in it (though it might be that I haven’t seen the right inspiration images.. or simply that it’s a creative design choice for the costumer).
This is the dress on the left, when she’s speaking with the Queen-sister.
Pink surplus dress
This costume I think would be very wearable… I’d actually be able to wear a bra with this one!
This dress has a surplus (wrap over) bodice with a high (empire) waist, and has a cut-on sleeve which would be pretty flattering I think. Certainly warmer than some of the other designs!
Closer shots of this dress suggest it’s a striped fabric with deep pleats.
Again in this photo she is shown on the left, with the Queen-sister in gold.
This design seems really nice as well, and here I can see more of the historic influence I’ve seen in photos of ancient artwork. In this larger photo, it appears that this gown is made of more finely pleated (more finely than the pink dress above) linen gauze or finely woven linen. The main dress is orange, while the trim on the front skirt is white/off white. At the neckline, it’s either a lining that is poking through, or an uneven trim in the same white linen.
The skirt portion and bodice portion are both sewn onto an unpleated waistband at the empire waistline, and there’s a sewn-on beaded belt with a centre gold-tone motif.
I think I can see something in the larger photo that looks like some kind of buckle on her side under her arm… I wonder if there’s a closer photo to give an idea of how they got the actress in and out of this….
Wrap front dress
The dress I like the best is the wrap front dress. From the character profile video above, I made this 3 second gif on giphy.com of the dress moving to show that it is a wrap-front somehow… though I suspect it’s a mock-wrap.
This dress is off-white, with a similar empire waistline like all of the other dresses. The fabric is either polka dot or checked, and has a sheen to it suggesting a woven pattern. It too is pleated, and looks very fine – there seems to be an evolution as perhaps she becomes more important to the King.
The neckline of this dress seems very similar to the orange dress, with the straps not tucked at the shoulders. Likewise to the orange dress, I can see the connections between this dress and the historic images.
The queen and sister to the king seems to have a LOT more costumes – which makes total sense.
- A white dress with the same sleeves as the pink surplus dress that Suhad wears (as shown in the first-meeting dress photo above)
- A gold dress as above while Suhad is in the pink surplus dress – this one I think is much more fantasy costume than something based on historic styles… though I could be wrong here too.
- A white dress almost exactly like Suhad’s wrap-front dress
- A white fluffy coat which looks like pure fantasy
- A seafoam or light teal dress which must need meters of double-sided tape to keep in place…
- A gold beaded or macrame type of textured dress which has a similar neckline to the orange dress above… but it has a lot going on and I won’t be using it for inspiration.
- A green and gold dress.. more double-sided body tape dress.
- A pleated darker green dress with gold trim… I kind of like the look of it from the front… BUT… it has a hood. That’s right. A hood. What????
- A seafoam striped wrap front dress worn with a type of corset…. (another whaaa? here from me). This is also worn with a darker seafoam/light teal bathrobe at some point.
- Another white and gold dress similar to the orange dress but without the smooth non pleated waistband – worn with another teal bathrobe. I would show it here, except you can’t see enough of it with the bathrobe.
Purple and teal
With all of the outfits I DON’T like.. there are two of the queen’s outfits that I DO like. The first is this purple and teal striped outfit. There’s a dress here with the same empire waistline, v-neckline, and lovely belt-like embellishments. It’s worn with another bathrobe-like over garment in the same purple and green striped fabric. This larger photo shows more of the over garment.
My favorite of the Queen’s outfits is this two-tone teal outfit. Like many of the other outfits, it’s worn in one scene with an overgarment (below) but is also shown on its own. This badly photoshoped image shows the dress with a very low v-neckline (down to her natural waist I suspect… but that bad photoshop makes things suspicious) but then it has the empire waist “belt”.
The skirt is teal (silk?) with a deep inset of heavily pleated green/teal fabric. In the photo to the left, if you click it to enlarge, it appears that this green fabric is semi-sheer, and metallic. I have some of this kind of fabric (though not nearly enough) bought when Ant Hill fabrics was going out of business – it was silk and metallic threads, which gave it a wonderful shot, metallic gleam. The metallic threads also wonderfully held the pleats.
The bodice is made of this same green/teal metallic fabric, and is cut very similar to Suhad’s wrap-front dress and many of the other gowns.
The over garment worn with this gown is another ‘bathrobe’ – in what appears to be the same or very similar teal silk (as the skirt) with an olive green silk trim on the sleeves, front opening, and on the shoulders.
The miniseries is set during the reign (and possibly before he took the throne at the age of 19?) of King Tut. Tut died after reigning 10 years in 1324 B.C. This time frame is referred to as the “New Kingdom”.
The image that I find most relevant to the costumes from the miniseries is this one of an offering bearer. The site I found it on identifies it as a Middle Kingdom piece, from circa 1981–1975 BCE. Thats a 600+/- year difference… but still is one that I really like the look of. Another view can be seen here, and here.
The Canadian Museum of History unfortunately identifies this statue as Old Kingdom. Confusing!
Wikipedia states that the most common textile for all classes was linen, and it could be dyed with plant dyes. That suggests a colour range for me as well. (Though I might go bolder or darker as suits my taste…) When I think of Egyptian costumes I generally think lots of white, with red, cobalt, gold, turquoise and black… Most of the statutory seems to reflect this as well… though pigments for painting can be different than pigments for clothing.
Women’s fashion is described as only slightly changing through the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. The site states that:
“women often wore simple sheath dresses called kalasiris.” “The dresses were held up by one or two straps and were worn down to the ankle, while the upper edge could be worn above or below the breasts.”
“On statues the straps cover the breasts, but in painting and relief the single breast depicted in profile is exposed. The dress hugs the body with no slack. Also when women are shown in movement, sitting or kneeling, the dress still clings to the outline of the body as if elasticated. However Egyptian clothes were mostly made from linen, which tends to sag. Surviving dresses consist of a body made from a tube of material sewn up one side, supported not by straps but by a bodice with sleeves. In contrast to dresses shown in art, such linen garments tend to be baggy, and would conceal rather than reveal the body.”
This New Kingdom image from Ancient.eu of Ahmose-Nefertari (c. 1562-1495 BCE) shows a very different style, though I suspect that if the overdress is nearly sheer linen, then she could still be wearing the sheath dress under it. I could see this overgarment being quite unstructured (like this layout or this one from Pinterest) in comparison, and think it would give good ‘coverage’ for some modern modesty even if it was quite sheer. I just don’t know if the linen I have is sheer enough for this!
There are also statues that have this more covered look, like:
- This statue of Ptahkhenuwy and his wife from the Museum of Fine Art (she’s wearing a sheath dress, but it appears looser fitting than the statue above)
- This statue of Raherka inspector of scribes and his wife Meresankhn shows her wearing a nearly identical looser sheath to the one above.
- Likewise the two women in the statue of Mersuankh and his two daughters shows a similar looser sheath.
- The statue of Nykara and His Family from the Brooklyn Museum shows a much more fitted dress – but still less revealing than the initial statue.
- The gown worn by this statue of Koromama is more like the painting of Ahmose-Nefertari, with longer “sleeves” with the sheath dress.
There are also artifacts reported (on Pinterest… I didn’t go much further than that) to be historic garments from ancient Egypt.
- The Tarkan Dress
- Deshasheh Dress
- Another view of one of the two dresses above
- Nakhti tunic, view one, and view two
- All of these above have necklines very much like the first and second loose gowns made by Daisy Viktoria below.
- Beaded sheath dresses number one, number two, and number three
- All three of these are nearly exactly the same in shape as the statue above.
I looked for other costumers doing historically-informed Egyptian costumes (from any kingdom!) and came up pretty short… mostly because web searches were just inundated with “sexy Cleopatra” and “sexy mummy” and “sexy… ” well you get it, Halloween costumes.
The best ones I could come up with were from Daisy Viktoria – aka Fairy Queen Costuming. On her website she shows multiple photos of some of these outfits, including the backs. With the very fitted styles, they have laced backs, which are nearly obscured by the belts. The very fitted styles also seem to support the breasts just by how tight the straps are. The longer dresses all have back walking slits, which seems very practical.
The individual pages where you can see Daisy Viktoria’s different gowns are here:
On the SCA Egypt Facebook group I was also directed to the Fashion-Era.com website, where there are a few different layouts for making garments – though largely the looser over-garments rather than the very fitted garments from the movie or some of the statues.
The website however only shows the illustrations – however costumer Therese McGee shows her version on the Facebook group.
A note on photos
I noticed that in my older posts, a lot of the links have broken over time. Rather than lose them over time, I’ve opted to copy the images to WordPress. All are easily found online, through Pinterest or Google searches. No infringement is intended for this research/study.
From film to fabric….
So, which direction to go? The extant garments are drastically different from the movie images that appear to be based on the statues wearing very revealing and fitted gowns as well as the related paintings. I was quite concerned about how to support my breasts in the very strappy, fitted gowns, especially given the tight time frame I had to work with.
I decided to look at the looser sheath gowns to start, and adapt from Daisy Viktoria’s work with the sleeved loose gown to start. Once I am able to work with this… I’ll perhaps look into the more fitted gown.
Stay tuned for my next post about the gowns themselves! If you want to be alerted when the post comes out… follow me on Facebook!