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.
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.
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.
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.