The most ancient known delineation of the peoples of Western Asia dates from about 2300 B.C., about the end of the Old Egyptian Kingdom. It depicts people of the tribe or clan Aamu, whose territory lay presumably in Southern Syria. Their clothing was the same for both sexes, and consisted of a fairly large rectangular piece of material (Fig. 1) which was wound twice round the body, covering it from the armpits to the knees. One corner of this material, longer than the others, was thrown backward over the left shoulder and tied at the back to the other top corner (Fig. 2, A).
A garment similar to this, but more nearly square, was worn by men. It was hung like a cloak over the back, and one of the upper corners was brought forward over the shoulder. Men worn in this fashion it was probably fastened round the body by tapes attached to it for the purpose. Though the cut of these garments was simple, the material of which they were made was very beautiful, being patterned in various designs, usually stripes of green, blue, and red on a white ground.
On a picture five hundred years later, belonging to the New Egyptian Kingdom, we are again shown members of the Aamu tribe. Evidently the dress of the tribe had changed but little in that long interval. The women wear practically the same dress, but the men have exchanged the garment just describedcovering the whole person except the armsfor a simple loincloth, and have added to it a cloak reaching nearly to the feet, one corner being pulled through under one arm and tied on the opposite shoulder (Fig. 3). This cloak differed from the more ancient Aarnu garment only in the fact that the material was cut narrower at the top than at the bottom and was perhaps shaped at the upper edge (Fig. 4). The knotting of the ends was facilitated by broad tapes fastened to the upper corners.
Very similar to this style of dress was that of the Cheli, or Chari, who occupied the interior of Syria. Their sole dress was a cloak brought forward under one arm and tied at the breast and kept in place round the body by tapes. A slit was made to allow the arm to pass through (Figs. 5, 6), and a collar was sewn on to the cloak, adding greatly to its appearance. The cut of this cloak was a rectangle very nearly square, the shorter side being equal to the longer side of the rectangle Out of which the collar was made. The collar was sewn on to the cloak, and was frequently of a different pattern. and colour ; the seam was hidden by a broad strip of patterned braid, the long ends of which served as tapes. The materials used by the Cheli were not inferior in beauty of colour to those of the peoples we have already discussed, and even excelled them in fineness.
To the north of the Cheli, probably on the Upper Euphrates between Taurus and Antitaurus, lived the Retennu - Tehennu, divided into various clans.
The dress of this people was different in the different clans. It covered the person to a far greater degree than did that of the inhabitants of Syria, and this seems to indicate that the Retennu occupied a colder district. From the type of their dress it is-possible to distinguish three clans or ranks. One wore the apron-like garment; the second wrapped material round the body; the third wore tailored garments. These differences, however, so far as our knowledge goes, are applicable only to men’s dress. Women’s dress consisted almost entirely of several coats put on one over another and kept in place by a girdle round the hips. In addition to these women also wore a large, circular shoulder-cape, which was fastened all down the front by means of clasps. Underneath this cape they wore dark-coloured ribbons crossed over the breast, with the long ends hanging over the back.
The apron-like garment of the Retennu was made as follows: an almost rectangular piece of material of suitable size (Fig. 8) was thrown round the loins and kept in place by a girdle and perhaps also by broad tapes crossed at the breast and back. With this was worn a fairly large shoulder-cape (Fig. 9), which covered one arm down to the elbow and left the other arm bare. This cape came right up to the neck, and seems to have been fastened down the short side by means of clasps.
If we judge from the richly patterned materials used, the wrap style of costume was a privilege of the wealthier classes. These garments had the shape of a very much elongated triangle, whose tapering end was kept in place by a girdle (Fig. 7, B). With this the Retennu wore what looks like a tight but elastic collar, which for the sake of freedom of movement was pushed high up at one shoulder. They seem also to have used shoulder-capes similar to those already mentioned. The third style of dress was so entirely different from the other two that it must have been peculiar to one special clan - unless, indeed, it was the exclusive war - dress of this people (Fig. 7, A). This dress, made of very strong material (probably leather), consisted of a coat with long, tight sleeves, covering the body from the neck to below the calves. In cut it resembled the Egyptian kalasiris, with this difference - that along all seams and down the front it was covered with broad strips of coloured material and the bottom edge was trimmed with tassels attached by cords.




The Costumes of Syrian Phoenicia
Sarah Khayyat