When I first started this blog, I was an unemployed costumer attempting to create period gowns and costumes with very limited means. Although now employed, I still try to be as thrifty as possible. I am still "The Broke Costumer"!

In addition to posts about the outfits I make on a budget, this blog includes short research articles on fashion, history, accessories, styles, or whatever interests me at the moment.

I hope you enjoy my journey into the land of inexpensive costuming and short articles.

Friday, May 13, 2016


Zita Johann as Ankhesenamon
The pyramids, warm, shifting sands, palm trees.  We all romanticize ancient Egypt.  I became fascinated with Egypt as a kid, when I saw the 1932 version of The Mummy with Boris Karloff.  I loved the scene where they went back in time and explained how his love for Princess Ankhesenamon led to his horrible fate. After that, I eagerly watched all the mummy movies from the 30s-60s, no matter how awful they were.  I was thrilled when they revived them in recent years with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. My favorite parts are still the flashback scenes of ancient Egypt.

Patricia Velasquez as Anck-Su-Namun in The Mummy, 1999

Egyptomania ran rampant after the expeditions that eventually led to the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by the archaeologist Howard Carter. The revival during the 1920s is sometimes considered to be part of the art deco decorative arts style.  However, Egyptian Revival was not a new concept. "The first major Egyptian Revival period was after Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt (1798-99) and the subsequent occupation by the British. During this time, Europeans became fascinated with the ancient Egyptian architecture and furniture. Egyptian ornamentation like scarab beetles, sphinxes, winged lions and lotuses, often with gilding, were applied to modern forms to create the  hybrid style referred to as "Egyptian Revival". excerpt by Grace Hummel on ebay buying guides.
Victorian Tour Group
Since the early nineteenth century, the fascination with ancient Egypt seems to have affected every field of American culture. Some of the most important areas of culture influenced by Egyptomania are literature, architecture, art, film, politics and religion. There were two important waves of Egyptomania in the nineteenth century, especially in arts and design, which were both caused by publications about Egypt that became very popular. Because of these publications, people became more and more interested in Egyptian culture and everything related to it. Ancient Egyptian images and representations were integrated into a wide variety of cultural sectors.  Egyptian images and symbols also served for more trivial purposes, such as dessert services, furniture, decoration, commercial kitsch or even advertising.There were parties and public events that had Egypt as a motto, where people wore special costumes. In general, people were fascinated by everything that had the label Egypt attached to it. And even today, this kind of fascination for Egypt and all things Egyptian still exists. The popularity of Egyptology in educated circles led to strange phenomena, as for instance when amateur Egyptologists would organize "Mummy Parties", social gatherings with a pseudo scientific outlook, which consisted mainly of "unwrapping" a mummy purchased for the purpose by the host.  source  

Tourism in Egypt  
"In the 1820s, the encyclopedic Description de l'Égypte, compiled by the scholars who had accompanied Napoleon's expedition, brought the monuments and people of the Nile to the European public. In the 1840s, steamships made travel to Egypt convenient, bringing tourists there and unleashing a flood of travel books eagerly read by those who could not afford the journey. Finally, in 1922, King Tut's tomb and its treasure were discovered. These events brought Egypt to the masses, and the masses to Egypt, fueling Egyptomania."  Bob Brier, Egyptologist

Cruises down the Nile and tours led by Egyptian guides became quite popular.  Old photos show hoards of people climbing over these landmarks, something that would never be done today. Source  for Left photo c.1900;  Right photo, L'Egypte avant les touristes - Le Sphinx en 1850.


Early Fancy Dress Costume Parties and Balls
"Modern interpretations of Egyptian costume have an air that is dashing and bizarre; in reality the Egyptians were conservative in costume as in all else." -- Mary McAlister, "Ancient Costume and Modern Fashion," Art and Archaeology 15, April 1923



Above left, the Hon. Mrs. Algernon Bourke, Devonshire House Ball, July 2, 1897. Above right, Lady Paget 1899. Read about her Here                    
 Left, Princess Henry of Pless, also as Cleopatra (or possibly the Queen of Sheba), at the Duchess of Devonshire’s Diamond Jubilee Costume Ball, July 2, 1897 source

Right, Mrs. John C. Mallory (Jean Turnure) as an Egyptian princess, at the Vanderbilt Costume Ball, March 26, 1883, New-York Historical Society.

Above, fashion plates with Egyptian fancy dress costumes.  Right, my favorite 1920's detective, Miss Phryne Fisher, partying as Cleopatra.  Esse Davis -Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries


 Left 1923 and Center 1932  from the Met Museum.  Right 1923 Bradley's Chepstow Place, London.


Above Left, 1920s Silk satin, beaded in turquoise, gold, & red w/ 2 tiers deep fringe, Augusta Auctions. 
Above Center, 1930s Lamé Dress Egyptian Revival Gown by PenniesLondon   Above Right, Robe du soir, 1923. Catalog drouot   
Left, applique embroidered Egyptian silk coat, late 1920s, unlabelled. Made for the elite tourist trade, these silk coats were popular purchases on the Grand Tour. Below Left, 1926 beautiful beaded gown, US Library of Congress
Below Center, Egyptian Revival Beaded Dress, 1920s, Augusta Auctions
Below Right, 1920s bathing suit, Met Museum of Art

Accessories/Jewelry  "The Egyptian Revival in the 1920s major contributions were to the jewelry world, combining the streamlined geometric of Art Deco with ancient motifs for a fairly modern flair.  Many pieces of jewelry were produced during this time period, most notably are Pharaoh's heads, Queen Nefertiti, scarabs, winged sun disks, snakes, lotus blossoms, hieroglyphic writing and pyramids. The jewelry was made in precious metals like gold, platinum and silver as well as pieces made of lesser compositions of brass, white metal, pewter and glass. Most of these pieces were further enhanced with polychrome enameling, precious and semi precious stones, glass and celluloid.excerpt by Grace Hummel on ebay buying guides

Above -Art DECO Neiger brooch Egyptian Revival pin Czech 1920s
Below left- Vintagejewelrylane.com         Below right - Rubylane.com

Above left - 1920s art deco beaded purse.  ebay.com
Above right - celluloid frame with a winged scarab and a beaded purse with Egyptian hieroglyphs and a wonderfully complex fringe.celluloidpurses.com
Below left - 1920s beaded bag with Sphinx and lotus.  celluloid frame. tumblr.com
Below center - Tania enameled watch 1925.  Below right - Stahel Zurich 1920s Heritage Auctions

Left, Gold, enamel and scarab brooch, c.1880 from Sothbys. Center, Tadema Gallery.  Right, gem set scarab brooch, circa 1900.  Emeralds, sapphires, pearls, rubies and diamonds.  prices4antiques.com

Beauty Products  "Just before the 1920s began, the perfume companies started producing perfumes, cosmetics and powder boxes with Egyptian motifs or figures, which were one way for the average woman to bring some of the exotic into her boudoir."  excerpt by Grace Hummel on ebay buying guides

 Images below from Google Search and Ebay

Songs   From the 1920s came some of the best dance tunes.  One of my favorites is Egyptian Ella.    Listen Here  to an actual 1931 recording of the song, set to a slide show of photos from Egypt. (youtube)

Theater and Cinema
From Victorian stage through the early 1960s epic technicolor productions,we have watched Egyptian drama from the audience.  "The 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb unleashed a wave of Egyptomania that endured until World War II, influencing the whole Art Deco movement and inspiring writers from Thomas Mann to Agatha Christie. The Mummy (1932) and its successors preserved the idea of mysterious Egypt, while Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra (1932) saw history as an excuse for spectacle, a tradition continued by Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra (1963)" Source

There were countless stage productions centering around Cleopatra, which carried over into silent movies of the 1920s and beyond.  Lillie Langtry portrayed her in 1890.  Source 

Left, Constance Collier in a 1907 stage production.  Center, Theda Bara in the 1917 silent film. Right, Helena Modjeska as Cleopatra in 1879

Claudette Colbert in 1934 and Vivien Leigh in 1945. There were many more Cleos in addition to these lovely ladies. 

 But what about the gentlemen? Left, Rudolph Valentino in "The Sheik" 1921.  Right, Victor Mature in "The Egyptian" 1954   I googled movie stills.

Yul Brynner in the "Ten Commandments"1956

          "The Loves of Pharaoh" 1922 silent movie from Denmark

 Boris Karloff "The Mummy" 1932

The 70's brought us the Agatha Christie movie "Death on the Nile" and Steve Martin sang about "King Tut".  In the 80s we were taught how to "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles. The 90s brought us hunky Brendan Fraser in the Mummy movies.
I am glad to see Egyptomania has not completely died out.  How many of you have been here recently?