Egyptian writing remained a remarkably conservative system, and the preserve of a tiny literate minority, while the spoken language underwent considerable change. Egyptian stelas are decorated with finely carved hieroglyphs.

The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age, around the 32nd century BC (Naqada III), with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late use of hieroglyphics are found in the Roman period, extending into the 4th century AD.


Artistic representations, supplemented by surviving garments, are the main sources of evidence for ancient Egyptian fashion. The two sources are not always in agreement, however, and it seems that representations were more concerned with highlighting certain attributes of the person depicted than with accurately recordings their true appearance. For example, in art created for men, women were often shown with restrictive, tight-fitting dresses, perhaps to emphasize their figures.

As in most societies, fashions in Egypt changed over time; different clothes were worn in different seasons of the year, and by different sections of society. Particular office-holders, especially priests and the king, had their own special garments.

For the general population, clothing was simple, predominantly of linen, and probably white or off-white in color. It would have shown the dirt easily, and professional launderers are known to have been attached to the New Kingdom workmen’s village at Deir el-Medina. Men would have worn a simple loin-cloth or short kilt (known as shendyt), supplemented in winter by a heavier tunic. High-status individuals could express their status through their clothing, and were more susceptible to changes in fashion.

Longer, more voluminous clothing made an appearance in the Middle Kingdom; flowing, elaborately pleated, diaphanous robes for men and women were particularly popular in the late 18th Dynasty and the Ramesside period. Decorated textiles also became more common in the New Kingdom. In all periods, women’s dresses may have been enhanced by colorful bead netting worn over the top. In the Roman Period, Egypt became known for the manufacture of fine clothing. Sandals of leather or basketry are the most commonly attested types of footwear. Examples of these, together with linen shirts and other clothing, were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun.