Avant Tut interest in all things Egyptian Redux

Egyptomania is part of a broader afromania within my cultural imagination, but I will be focusing more on “black Africa” for the book. Nevertheless my recent perusing has revealed a much deeper and richer vein of unexposed and unstudied material that warrants further research and reflection. Unfortunately, there is so much that will be left on the cutting room floor when Afrochic is published. Here, therefore, is another tidbit that I wanted to shine a little light on – one day I may get to explore fin-de-siècle Egyptomania more thoroughly:

While touching upon dress I only mention that we have a little Egyptian figure whose dress is “accordion pleated” from throat to feet; it also wears a little “accordion-pleated ” cape. So the fashions and arts of dress come round.

“Art.” by Mrs. Emily Crawford.
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893.. Chicago, ILL: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 87-89.

Tidbit regarding dress at the Woman’s Building of the 1893 Columbian Exposition

While touching upon dress I only mention that we have a little Egyptian figure whose dress is “accordion pleated” from throat to feet; it also wears a little “accordion-pleated” cape. So the fashions and arts of dress come round.

From “Art,” by Mrs. Emily Crawford in The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893.. Edited by Mary Kavanaugh Oldham. (Monarch Book Company, 1894), 87-89.

Avant Tut interest in all things Egyptian

Turns out that Simcox is the surname of Clara E. Simcox, aka Madame Simcox, a New York dressmaker. There isn’t a lot floating out there on the web about her but she is on my radar now.

Avant Tut interest in all things Egyptian

As we read about haute couture, and I reveled in the gloriousness of this practice of hand fabricated garments, I recalled one of my favorite opulent gowns from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection: this Egyptian Revival 1912 gown by a New York dressmaker that went by the moniker Simcox. I discussed in this garment in my presentation on Egyptomania and fashion for the Common Threads symposium last spring. This piece predates the discovery and opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, but it was from the year that the famous bust of Nefertitti was unearthed. The beaded embroidery embellishing the gown contains several Egyptian motifs, especially on the front bodice.

50 Years Later: How Cleopatra Continues to Influence Fashion Today

Style & Design

Fashion is all about drama and Cleopatra’s life was full of it, from her legendary affairs with some of the most powerful men of their time to her struggles to maintain influence as ruler of Egypt. Even her death was not a quiet affair—a series of miscommunications led to both her and her lover Mark Antony committing suicide while believing that the other had already died, in a Romeo and Juliet-like twist. As a figure that was exotic (queen of a distant-seeming land) and yet accessible (she was not ethnically Egyptian but Macedonian), she was and has remained a singular influence in the world of style.

The extent of her beauty, based on statements from her contemporaries and numismatic artifacts, is debatable. But Cleopatra was by all accounts an exceptionally charming woman, one who intuited how to present herself in the most strategic manner. Similar to stars of today, Cleopatra…

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Egyptomania…encore!

AMW with nefertiti hat

I didn’t have the chance to discuss this photograph of Anna May Wong wearing a hat referencing the one worn by Neferetiti in her famous portrait bust in my recent talk about Egyptomania and fashion — and I don’t even know why Wong was photographed wearing it — but it’s such a great image so I couldn’t resist acknowledging it in some public manner.