Textiles and Gender in Antiquity From the Orient to the Mediterranean

Editor(s): Mary Harlow, Cecile Michel, Louise Quillien Bloomsbury, London, 2021, 328 p., 82 b&w illustrations and 16 colour illustrations, ISBN: 9781350141490 [printed November 2020].

This volume looks at how the issues of textiles and gender intertwine across three millennia in antiquity and examines continuities and differences across time and space – with surprising resonances for the modern world.

The interplay of gender, identity, textile production and use is notable on many levels, from the question of who was involved in the transformation of raw materials into fabric at one end, to the wearing of garments and the construction of identity at the other.

Textile production has often been considered to follow a linear trajectory from a domestic (female) activity to a more ‘commercial’ or ‘industrial’ (male-centred) mode of production. In reality, many modes of production co-existed and the making of textiles is not so easily grafted onto the labour of one sex or the other.

Similarly, textiles once transformed into garments are often of ‘unisex’ shape but worn to express the gender of the wearer.As shown by the detailed textual source material and the rich illustrations in this volume, dress and gender are intimately linked in the visual and written records of antiquity.

The contributors show how it is common practice in both art and literature not only to use particular garments to characterize one sex or the other, but also to undermine characterizations by suggesting that they display features usually associated with the opposite gender.

Table of contents
  • 1. Textiles and Gender in Antiquity: An Introduction
    Mary Harlow (Leicester, UK), Cécile Michel (CNRS, ArScAn, Nanterre, France) and Louise Quillien (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)Gendered Textile Terminologies
  • 2. Textiles and Gender during the Middle Babylonian Period (ca. 1500-1000 BCE): Texts from Syria and BabyloniaPhilippe Abrahami (Independent Scholar, France) and Brigitte Lion (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)
  • 3. The Goddess Nanaja’s New Clothes
    Francis Joannès (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)
  • 4. Textiles and Gender at Ugarit
    Valérie Matoïan (CNRS, Proclac, France) and Juan-Pablo Vita (Independent Scholar, Spain)
  • 5. Towards Engendering Textile Production in Middle Bronze Age Crete
    Agata Ulanowska (Independent Scholar, Poland)Gendered Textile Activities 6. A Man’s Business? Washing the Clothes in Ancient Egypt (Second and First Millennia BCE)
    Damien Agut-Labordère (CNRS, France)7. Women, Men, Girls and Boys: Gendered Textile Work at Late Bronze Age Knossos
    Hedvig Landenius Enegren (Independent Scholar, Uppsala)
  • 8. Female Dues and the Production of Textiles in Ancient Greece
    Beate Wagner-Hasel (Independent Scholar, Germany)
  • 9. Gender and Textile Production in Roman Society and Politics
    Lena Larsson Lovén (Independent Scholar, Germany)
  • 10. Work Gendering Space? Roman Gender, Textile Work and Time in Shared Domestic Space
    Magdalena Ohrman (University of Wales, UK)

Gendered Wardrobes

  • 11. Some Remarks on Textiles and Gender in the Ebla Texts of the 3rd Millennium BCE
    Maria Giovanna Biga (Rome, La Sapienza, Italy)
  • 12. A Visual Investigation of Feminine Garments at Mari During the Early Bronze Age
    Barbara Couturaud (Institut Français du Proche-Orient, Iraq)
  • 13. Belts and Pins as Gendered Elements of Clothing in Third and Second Millennia Mesopotamia
    Cécile Michel (CNRS, ArScAn, France)
  • 14. ‘I made you put on garments, I made you dress in linen.’ Gender Performance and Garments in Sumerian Literature
    Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel (Unistra, Strasbourg, France)
  • 15. The Gender of Garments in First Millennium BCE Mesopotamia: An Inquiry Through Texts and Iconography
    Louise Quillien (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France)
  • 16. White Men and Rainbow Women: Gendered Colour Coding in Roman Dress
    Cecilie Brøns (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Denmark) and Mary Harlow (Leicester University, UK)
  • 17. Garments for Potters? Textiles, Gender and Funerary Practices in Les Martres-de-Veyre, France (Roman Period)
    Catherine Breniquet (Clermont-Auvergne, France ), Marie Bèche-Wittman, Christine Bouilloc and Camille Gaumat (Musée Bargoin, Clermont-Ferrand, France)
  • 18. Fashioning the Female in the Early North African Church
    Amy Place (Leicester University, UK)
  • 19. Climate Change and Clothing Changes in Late Antique Male Dress
    Nikki K. Rollason (Leicester University, UK)


  • 20. A Note on Gender and French ‘Haute Couture’ in 1970: ‘Les Sumériennes’ by Jacques Estérel
    Brigitte Lion (Paris 1 Panthéon – Sorbonne, France)
  • 21. Concluding Remarks
    Eva Andersson Strand (Independent Scholar, Denmark)
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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