Royal Plume Dress
|A very interesting garment in the representation of the king
during the 18. Dynasty is the plume dress. In its full execution it provides not
only an extremely magnificent impression, but also lends to the owner an
important symbolic meaning and connects him with the divine falcon and the
|According to Giza-Podgórski (1984) the meaning of the royal
plume dress has - however - not been sufficiently discussed although feather
elements were frequently used in the iconography and as a decorative element. In
his paper he referred on the few publications which mentioned the royal plume
dress or discussed its meaning.
|Most visitors will never notice in the scenes at temple or tomb
walls a king which wears the plume dress (either the scene is not
accessible, or they do not recognize that the dress is the plume dress since it
was not fully executed, etc.).
|The most impressive representations of the 18th Dynasty showing
the king in the plume dress are:
|- one on the southern external wall of the restored Alabaster
shrine of Amenhotep I which is erected today in the Open Air Museum (OAM) at
|- two further representations are to be seen on upper terrace
of the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, on the right and left jamb of the
granite portal which builds the entrance to main sanctuary of Amun.
|All these representations were so far accessible or visible for
visitors (for the two scenes on the granite portal of the temple at Deir
el-Bahari, however, the use of binoculars is required).
|Alabaster-Chapel of Amenhotep I, Open Air-Museum
|The southern external wall of the Alabaster-Sanctuary of
Amenhotep I shows in the scene far left Thutmosis I driving the 4 calves before
the ithyphallic Amun. In this a well preserved scene Thutmosis I wears the plume
dress (see below), only parts of the scene are lost (near the belt).
|Thutmosis I wearing the royal plume dress (southern external
wall of the
Alabaster-Sanctuary of Amenhotep I).
|The dress consists of an upper part (bodice), which covers 2/3
of the lower torso. This upper part is held only by a single shoulder strap
which is fastened to the upper band of the bodice. The band is decorated with
longwise and crosswise stripes and connected to the bodice with a nb-sign.
|A band in the shape of an old-Egyptian adze forms the upper
border of the bodice, a further adze-shaped band divides the bodice on the left
breast side from top to bottom into two parts. The upper band is decorated with
bars and circle-segments, the vertical band with semicircles.
|The broad and round, V-shaped feathers of the bodice cover each
other like scales.
|The bodice extends right and left under the sloping (from right
to left) belt off (see the
following and next but one illustration) which itself is decorated with a zigzag
ornament. In the middle part underneath the belt the figure is
destroyed, so that no statement about the expansion of the upper section can be
|The skirt (see photo above) consists of several layers of long
small feathers which are cut straightly at their ends. Furthermore. one clearly
recognizes two quarter-circles of feathers which fits below the belt
snugly around the hips.
|Details form the photo above which shows parts of the bodice
extending right an left below the belt and the quarter-circles made of long
small feathers fitting around the hips.
|Under the quarter-circles the layer of long small feathers
extends vertically nearly down to the knees - this
layer is held together by a horizontal band.
|A further, tail-shaped layer of long small tapering
feathers appears below the quarter-circles and extends over the layer of long
small feathers with the band down to the lower border of the kilt. In addition Thutmosis I
wears naturally the royal bull's tail.
|The following drawing taken from Giza-Podgórski (1984) shows Thutmosis
I in the royal plume dress.
|Thutmosis I wearing the royal plume dress (Alabaster-Sanctuary
Amenhotep I; drawing from: Giza-Podgórski, fig. 2).
|In the following scene on the same wall which depicts Thutmosis
I performing the ritual "Seizing the Oar" before the striding Amun. Here he
wears a feather skirt (see the following
photo) similar to that one in the scene described above, just the lower layer of
feathers is missing.
|However, the torso of the king is changed by discolorations in and
damages to the stone so that it is not possible to make a statement about the bodice.
|In comparison with the plume dress of the running king the feather dress of the striding Amun in this scene is completely different. The
feather dress of the God consists completely of short, broad feathers (see photo
below). Beyond that, in comparison with the plume dress of Thutmosis I (which he
wears in the scene: "Driving the four calves") any partitioning of the dress is
missing - with exception of a belt and an upper band.
|Granit-Portal of the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari
|The granite portal, which forms the entrance to the main
sanctuary of Amun on the 3rd terrace, shows on both sides a figure of
Hatshepsut (cartouches changed to Thutmosis III). In both representations the
queen wears a similar dress, the representations differs only by the crowns (on the south side of the gate she wears the White Crown of Upper
Egypt, on the north side the Red Crown of Lower Egypt).
||The queen wears a bodice with small V-shaped
feathers. The upper part of the bodice ends with a volume which is held by two
The lower part of the bodice ends at an undecorated belt.
The arrangement of the skirt is less clear, however, it seems to consist of long feathers
which extend right an left beyond knees. In addition, the queen
wears an apron with a sporran and, naturally,
the royal bull's tail.
Photo left: representation on the south side of the portal
|Small Temple of Amun at Medinet Habu
||The king wears a plume dress, which resembles in
its components the representation of Thutmosis I on the Alabaster-chapel of
In some places the colors are well preserved and show green-blue
feathers with red ends.
|Already during the reign of Hatshepsut there were representations of
the king in the plume dress (e. g. on the
Red Chapel) which can be recognized only by the
outline as the royal plume dress but do not show any feathers. Possibly, these
the feathers had not been worked out anymore in the relief but
were painted only.
|Block 172 from the
external south side of the Red Chapel shows in the left scene Hatshepsut who is
led by Amun (right) and Atum (left).
from the external western side of the Red Chapel shows Hatshepsut driving the four
calves before the ithyphallic
||Above niche B of the western wall of the 3rd
terrace at her temple in Deir el-Bahari Hatshepsut (cartouche changed to
Thutmosis II) is represented driving the four calves before the ithyphallischen
According to Giza-Podgórski she wears here also a stylized royal plume
|Royal Plume or Falcon Dress
|The overview presented here and numerous further examples
listed by Giza-Podgórski suggest that plume dress and feather elements obviously
had played an important role in the royal
iconography of the 18. Dynasty
|Here the identification of the "King in the plume dress" with
Horus appears obvious since this had been the most important legitimation of the royal power.
|The plume or falcon dress (" Horus dress") consists completely
of feathers and is divided into an upper and a lower part by a belt.
|The upper part (bodice) consists of short, broad feathers and
is held by one - occasionally also by two - shoulder straps. Frequently, the
upper border is built by a band and it is vertically divided by a further band.
Occasionally, both bands may have the form of an old-Egyptian adze.
|The lower part (skirt) consists of long feathers and is
also frequently divided by a horizontal band.
|The dress completed by the royal bull's tail.
|The distribution of the plume types resembles the distribution
on the falcon body - the short broad feathers cover the (upper) body,
the long small feathers correspond to those of the wings and the
tail. A suitable comparison are the falcons which are sitting on
the balustrades of the ramp to the 3rd terrace of the temple of Hatshepsut
in Deir el-Bahari (see the following illustration).
|Horus sitting on the southern balustrade of the ramp which
leads to thr 3rd terrace. The falcon shows on the thorax short broad feathers,
those of the wings and the tail are long and small.
|According to Giza-Podgórski the falcon or Horus dress is
exclusive worn by striding kings of the 18. Dynasty. With one exception - in
the tomb of Amenhotep III. - all representations of the king in the plume dress
appear on temple walls.
|After the investigations of Giza-Podgórski the representation
of the king in the plume or falcon dress appears in same frequency in scenes in
which the king is led by Gods (in 12 of 34 scenes) or when driving the four
calves (11/34), all other scenes are represented clearly in smaller frequency.
|In 14 of 34 scenes the king wears the plume dress together with
the Atef-crown, in
6 cases with the Jbs-headdress, all other crowns appear
with negligible frequency and/or could not be identified (8/34).