Ancient Egyptian clothing remained relatively unchanged for over two thousand years, with one important exception: the introduction of the tunic, a simple garment that covered the upper body. Egypt's hot climate meant that wearing clothing on the torso was not necessary, and throughout the Old Kingdom (c. 2700–c. 2000 b.c.e.) and the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000–c. 1500 b.c.e.) men dressed primarily in the schenti, or kilt, and sometimes with a skirt worn over the schenti. At the beginning of the New Kingdom (c. 1500–c. 750 b.c.e.), however, Egypt conquered Syria. Syrians were known for the quality of their weaving, and they helped introduce better cloth production, and the tunic, to Egypt.
At its most basic, the tunic was a long rectangular piece of fabric with a hole in the center for the head. Its open sides could be secured with a belt, and it usually extended just past the waistline. The tunic was usually worn with a schenti. Under the Egyptians, however, tunic design became more detailed. The sides were sewn together, forming short sleeves that were often starched so that they stuck outward, making the shoulders appear broad. Like other linen garments, the tunic was decorated with pleats and folds and was usually bleached white.
One of the most unusual styles of clothing ever worn by Egyptians, according to fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave in The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day, was an extended tunic that became a kind of robe. The rectangular fabric was more than twice as long as the wearer's height, the sleeves were very wide, and the accompanying long skirt was gathered at the waist.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Tunics were sometimes worn by the men of Mayan, Aztec, and Inca cultures. Made of a woven rectangle of cotton, wool, or plant fiber fabric with a hole in the center for the head, tunics resembled loose, sleeveless pullover shirts that hung from the shoulders to within a few inches above or below the knee. Tunics were either left open at the sides or sewn leaving holes near the top fold for the arms to slip through. Tunics could hang freely or be wrapped at the waist with a sash. Most often worn by men with loincloths, longer, ankle-length versions of the tunic were also worn by some Inca women. Like loincloths and cloaks, a tunic signaled a person's social status by the quality of its fabric and richness of its decoration.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1992.
Bray, Warwick. Everyday Life of the Aztecs. New York: Putnam, 1968.
Cobo, Bernabé. Inca Religion and Customs. Translated and edited by Roland Hamilton. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990.
Day, Nancy. Your Travel Guide to Ancient Mayan Civilization. Minneapolis, MN: Runestone Press, 2001.
Wood, Tim. The Aztecs. New York: Viking, 1992.
tu·nic / ˈt(y)oōnik/ • n. 1. a loose garment, typically sleeveless and reaching to the wearer's knees, as worn in ancient Greece and Rome. ∎ a loose, thigh-length garment, worn typically by women over a skirt or trousers. 2. a close-fitting short coat as part of a uniform, esp. a police or military uniform. 3. Biol. & Anat. an integument or membrane enclosing or lining an organ or part. ∎ Bot. any of the concentric layers of a plant bulb, e.g., an onion. ∎ Zool. the rubbery outer coat of a sea squirt.
So † tunicle † small tunic XIV; dalmatic XV. — OF. tunicle (alt. of tunique) of L. tunicula, dim. of tunica; see -CLE.