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Rawi's Heritage Review Showcases 7,000 Years of Egyptian Fashion

Covering 7,000 years of Egyptian history, this year’s edition of Rawi magazine is a 200 page volume that addresses clothing from the Old Kingdom to modern Egypt.

When you watch a movie or show, one of the tell-tale signs of which period in time you’re observing is fashion. Bell bottoms? Got to be the 70s. A red fez? Ottoman era, or maybe a little bit afterwards. Calfskin rag? Paleolithic period. But in Egypt, while we have a clearly extensive history, we don’t know as much about our fashion history as we think we do - there’s so much more to cover over thousands of years. In fact, entire eras have gone largely undocumented for a variety of reasons. Now, Egypt-based periodical Rawi hopes to change that.

“It's one of the topics we get asked about a lot. In illustrations, it’s hard to dress people correctly. We have very little information about the Mamluk wardrobe, for example, due to religious reasons that limited art about human figures during that time,” founder and chief editor of Rawi, Yasmine El Dorghamy tells SceneStyled. “We have few clothes or illustrations from that period. Even with ancient Egypt, you’d be surprised at how little has been published about clothing. We wanted to create a complete reference that is academically vetted.”

A ‘rawi’ is a storyteller, earning a living from reiterating a country’s oral history as people gather around to listen. That’s exactly what El Dorghamy does with her publication too. An annual periodical on Egyptian history, Rawi is a privately published, bilingual publication that calls on experts from every field of history to provide engaging, academically verified information to their readers. Covering a 7,000 year span in Egyptian history, this year’s edition - titled ‘A History of Costume in Egypt’ - is a 200 page volume that addresses clothing in the Old Kingdom, New Kingdom, Ptolemaic period, Greco-Roman era, Byzantine period, Fatimid Kingdom, Mamluk Dynasty, Ottoman rule, and modern Egypt thereafter.

“With each transition in Egypt’s history comes a shift of faith, identity, and visual culture that changes one’s understanding of Egyptianness completely,” El Dorghamy adds. In order to create the volume, Rawi worked with multiple institutions and museums around the world, including the George Washington Textile Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. As part of their research, Rawi even developed lifelike 3D renderings of historic costumes as they might have been, complete with jewellery.

The volume delves into ancient fashions, cultural fads, and countless influences Egypt underwent as kingdoms rose and fell. But this edition is just the first phase of their ‘Egyptian Costume History Project’, held in partnership with DROSOS Foundation’s Creative Economies Program, which will include exhibits, workshops, lectures, and multimedia initiatives. Until those are in action, you’ll be able to pick up a copy of the edition on newsstands as of next week.