An unusual vintage theatrical headdress in the oriental or Egyptian style
CONDITION: the odd coin is missing here and there otherwise good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 7 ins diameter (18 cm) flexible x 7 ins drop at sides (18 cm); depth at center front 2 ins (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1900 – 1920s
Here is a wonderful theatrical headdress in the popular Oriental or Egyptian style. It is difficult to date such head pieces because they are strongly influenced by other cultures. I would speculate that this one originated in the early 20th century. There are many popular glamour postcards from that period showing actresses and film stars of the day wearing “oriental” style headpieces of that type. Some are illustrated in the collage photograph.
The headpiece comprises a pierced metal band which is designed to be worn low on the brow. The diameter is adjustable by means of a loop and chain fastening at the rear (shown on one of the photographs). From this hangs a metal mesh from which are suspended numerous coins, all showing pseudo (?) Arabic writing. The look of the headdress is very strongly Middle Eastern and was no doubt influenced by the popular passion for all things Egyptian.
The oriental theme in costume during the opening years of the 20th century was already very strong. This was partly due to the fashion influence of designers like Paul Poiret, whose harem evening dresses were inspired by the costumes of the ballet “Scheherezade” This was an Arabian Nights fantasy, followed by Cleopatra, and the Firebird, both of which were enriched with exotic Oriental motifs. These opulent costumes created something of a style revolution and made significant contributions to fashion design of the early 20th Century.
The development of early Hollywood encouraged the exotic look. The 1917 version of Cleopatra with Theda Bara in the leading role and the later 1934 film with Claudette Colbert in the same part demonstrates how aesthetics were ripe for incorporating Egyptian motifs into costume. Fashion designers, already having a heyday in the growing post-war consumer culture, found rich inspiration in the designs and motifs of Egyptian Middle Eastern and Oriental art.
This taste for the exotic was given a fresh impetus by the discovery of the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun in the early 1920s. The stunning treasures were an inspiration to designers in media of all forms and the designs of Ancient Egypt became one of the major influences on the Art Deco style. Ancient Egyptian motifs were quickly integrated into fashion, makeup, architecture and Hollywood. Fashion designers incorporated Egyptian Colours, patterns, and jewellery into the fashions of the 1920’s.
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Oriental Egyptian revival style headdress with coins Art Deco headpiece