Introduction: Ancient Egyptian Dress and Broad Collar

In this project, I will create an ancient Egyptian's woman's dress and broad collar blending historically accurate sewing techniques with modern 3D printing technology to create the beads of the broad collar. Pictured are my sources of design inspiration: two statues from ancient Egypt and one extant garment: a dress recovered from Deshasheh.

Image sources:

Step 1: Drafting the Dress Pattern

After consulting secondary sources on ancient Egyptian garment construction, I drafted a bodice and skirt pattern for the dress on my dress form. The skirt is a rectangular tube and the dress is without any closures, therefore the width of the dress must be wide enough for the wearer to slip over their shoulders and sit comfortably over the hips. The bodice is constructed of two mirrored pieces that meet in a deep V on the chest. The bodice is tightly pleated with accordion pleats, following the pattern of the Deshasheh dress.

Step 2: Cutting the Fabric

The most historically-accurate fabric choice would be a lightweight, semi-translucent white linen (Watterson) (Vogelsang-Eastwood). My local fabric store did not carry such a fabric, so I went with this lightweight cotton-linen blend which has a similar look. The skirt is one piece cut on the fold, and two of the bodice piece is cut out. Be sure to pay attention the grain line of the fabric when placing your pattern pieces.

Step 3: Pleating the Bodice

Each bodice half was pleated with eight accordion pleats, leaving room on both sides for hemming. In ancient Egypt, these pleats were kept in place with a starch-like glue that was applied after every washing (Royal Ontario Museum). I substituted this method with the more modern one: ironing.

Step 4: Finishing the Bodice's Edges

To finish the center V edges of the bodice, I did a tight rolled hem secured with a whip stitch, as was historically accurate (drawing of ancient Egyptian stitches from Vogelsang-Eastwood, 289). The arm scythes were finished with a simple running stitch.

Step 5: Constructing the Skirt

The two sides of the skirt were sewn together, right sides together, with a running stitch with a one-inch seam allowance. Then, the seam allowance was folded over on the wrong side of the garment and tacked down with a whip stitch (see diagram for "Run and fell" stitch on the previous step). The bottom edge of the skirt was hemmed with a small rolled hem.

Step 6: Attaching the Bodice to the Skirt

The bodice pieces were attached to the skirt right-sides-together, making sure that the bodice pieces overlapped in the front at the intersection of the V neckline. The pieces were attached with a small running stitch, going over the edges of the bodice a few times to reinforce the seam. To finish the back, I secured the space between the bodice with a rolled hem.

Step 7: The Broad Collar

I based my design for the broad collar off of this one from el-Amarna c. 1350 BCE (Andrews), but with the coloring of the collar from the statue. I planned there to be 4 rows of beads, each of a different shape, and the clasps.

Step 8: Designing the Beads

I used Tinkercad to design the bead shapes I wanted to 3D print. I combined two or more of the basic shapes provided by Tinkercad to create the bead shape, then used the hollow cylinder shape to insert the holes. It took a bit of fiddling and trial-and-error to get the beads the way I wanted them to look, and to find out what designs were most compatible with the capabilities of the 3D printer.

Here's a link to the downloadable 3D file I used to print these beads on Tinkercad.

Step 9: Printing the Beads

I recommend printing the beads in small sets of no more than 8 at a time, and only print the same kind of bead at a time. Initially I tried to print a large swath of beads at one time, but this led to some printer errors. Additionally, make sure you add a good amount of supports to your beads, especially around area where the holes lie.

Step 10: Painting the Beads

I used acrylic paint to cover the beads. It took about two coats to get the pigmentation I wanted. Toothpicks were very helpful in holding and painting the beads. I think if I were to do the project again I would look for a top coat/lacquer to give the beads a sheen that would evoke the glass/ceramic beads of ancient Egypt.

Step 11: Stringing the Beads

To string the beads, I used the knotted strand necklace. It should be noted that I chose this method not for its historical accuracy, but because I felt like it was the method that would best accommodate the beads I was able to generate with the 3D printer. However, if I were to do this project over again, I would choose another method as I ran into some unexpected problems. The 3D printers is only capable of printing holes in the beads that are so small; the smaller the hole, the more likely it would collapse in on itself. However when it came to stringing the beads, the larger hole size made it very difficult to secure the beads because the beads kept slipping over the knots, resulting in tangles. I ended up switching to a sturdier hemp thread in order to achieve the desired look, but were I to do the project over again, I would tinker with the placement of the holes in the bead design in order to make this process easier.

Step 12: The Final Dress With Collar

Step 13: Works Cited

Andrews, Carol. Ancient Egyptian Jewelry, Harry N. Abrams. 1997.

"Textiles." Royal Ontario Museum Website, accessed Oct. 21, 2018,

Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian. "Textiles," Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, edited by Paul T. Nicholson and Ian Shaw. Cambridge University Press, 2000. 269-298.

Watterson, Barbara. Women in Ancient Egypt, St. Martin’s Press, New York. 1991