Ancient Persian costume history. General description.



Mede, costumes, clothing, Noble Median, Persia, bodyguard,
Noble Median. Noble Persian with bodyguard.


THE garments illustrated in this style are of four types; of these, three have already appeared in the two previous styles-namely, the type of the tunic, the type of the robe, and the type of the shawl or drapery.

In ancient Persian costume we come for the first time to type five: the coat. We may refer here also for the first time to the wearing of trousers, for these are usually shown worn with the coats in ancient Persian costume, and a diagram is given on Fig. 40A showing one of the earliest known methods of cutting these garments.

Persia, Jamshid, Djemschid , Parasol, Carriers, Persepolis, Costume,
Persepolis. Restituted Painting. Djemschid and his Parasol Carriers

Djemschid ( also Jamshid or Yima), is a figure in Iranian mythology. Jamshid appears as a famous ruler (Jamshid Shah) or king already in Zoroastrian writings, but also in later works of Persian literature as an outstanding or princely figure under whom a Golden Age of the world or Iran began. According to Iranian self-understanding, Persepolis, Greek for “City of the Persians”, symbolises the capital of Jamshid. The site is therefore called Tacht-e Dschamschid (The Throne of Dschamschid) in Iran.


Ancient Persian decoration was so exceedingly similar to ancient Assyrian that it does not seem necessary to illustrate it. We do not find, however, that ancient Persian garments were ornamented to anything like the same extent as ancient Assyrian; the frequent fringes of the ancient Assyrian costumes were not nearly so lavishly employed in the ancient Persian style.


Linen and wool were most probably the chief materials used in ancient Persian costume, but there are indications that leather may have been rather extensively employed in the more tight – fitting garments.

It must not be taken that either in Assyrian or ancient Persian dress the garments fitted as smoothly and tightly as might be imagined from the sculptured and painted representations; it is true folds are sometimes indicated, but the chief concern of the artists of both styles was to show the human figure and richly decorative ornament.


The illustrations here given of ancient Persian costumes date about the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. with two of neighboring nations dating eighth century B.C. and sixth and fifth centuries B.C. respectively.


There is not sufficient information to form a definite picture of the women’s dress of this period and style; most probably it was a simple tunic and shawl like that worn in Assyria, but an interesting fact is that we have a representation of the Queen of a Persian King who reigned in the 5th century A.D. who is wearing trousers, which, it will be remembered, are worn by Persian women of the present day. In this connection it may be noted that the history of costume, as developed through the use of woven materials, presents a much more simple aspect than the history of those styles bearing evidences of having been first cut from leather.

A moment’s reflection will make it clear that in the case of woven stuffs the most economical system of cutting, and indeed the most obvious, for the primitive dress fashioner, was based on the rectangle. On the other hand, the fashioner of leather garments would naturally try to fit the human body with, as it were, a second skin, hence trousers and tight-fitting jackets may appear in very early civilizations.

Darius, King, Persia, Ancient, Costume, dress,
Darius, King of Persia (c. 550 – 486 BCE).

PLATE XVI. is a representation of Darius, King of Persia, 6th and 5th centuries B.C.; he is wearing the Median “Robe of Honor.” It will be seen from the plan (Fig. 40A) that this robe is sewn up each side, leaving a space of 20 inches on either side for the hands. Like the Egyptian robe, the material required is twice the height of the figure, the material is doubled, a neck hole cut, and the garment is pulled on over the head.

Robe, Honor, Ancient Persian, costume, history,
Robe of Honor. Fig. 40A and Fig. 40.

The Persian or Median method of wearing the garment is unique: a girdle is tightly bound round the waist, and then the robe is pulled up at either side over the girdle so as to produce the very elegant effect shown in Plate XVI. and Fig. 40, which is a modern drawing of the front view of Plate XVI., the result giving great freedom to the arms. The King seems to have two robes of the same cut, one under the other.

drapery, Robe, Ancient Persian, costume, history,
Fig. 41A

To arrange the drapery, dating sixth to 5th centuries B.C., on Fig. 41, take the corner b of Fig. 41A in the left hand, letting the rest of the drapery fall down the back, draw the edge ba across the back, then under the right arm-pit across the chest, and throw the corner a upwards and over the left shoulder; a will hang down the back. It will be noted that this garment is weighted at the corners; this keeps it in position.

 Ancient Persian, costume, history, drapery, garment,
Fig. 42 and Fig. 41

Fig. 42 is a modern drawing showing the garment in front view.

Fig. 43 dating 8th century B.C., is wearing cloak (see Fig. 43A) partly fringed. It is worn much in the same manner as Fig. 41, but in Fig. 43 the corner a is thrown backwards over the left shoulder, and the edge ab is passed across the chest and under the right armpit, then drawn across the back, and the corner b falls down in front of the left shoulder.

cloak, pattern, Ancient, Persian, costume, history
Fig. 43A

This costume is not Persian, but that of some nation to the east of Persia in northern Asia Minor. The wearing of boots with upturned toes as here shown seems to have extended from Persia across northern Asia Minor to the Mediterranean even as far west as Italy.

Fig. 43 dating eighth century B.C., is wearing cloak (see Fig. 43A) partly fringed. It is worn much in the same manner as Fig. 41, but in Fig. 43 the corner a is thrown backwards over the left shoulder, and the edge a-b is passed across the chest and under the right armpit, then drawn across the back, and the corner b falls down in front of the left shoulder.

Cloak, wearing, Ancient, Persian, costume, history
Fig. 44 and Fig. 43

Fig. 44 is a modern drawing showing the garment in front view.

costume, Jewish, captive, Ancient Persia
Fig. 45

Fig. 45 is wearing a short-sleeved coat over a tunic. The edging shown is probably uncut fringe; in reality it would not fit the figure neatly, as the ancient artist has indicated, but would hang rather loosely.

cutting, Coat, ancient, Jewish, captive, persia, costume
Fig. 45A

Fig. 45A shows the method of cutting.

The costume is considered to be that of a Jewish captive of the Persian conqueror and dates sixth to 5th centuries B.C.

tunic, trousers,  Ancient, Persian, costume, history
Fig. 46

Fig. 46, which dates sixth to fifth centuries B.C., is wearing over a tunic and trousers (see Fig. 46B) an overcoat with a set-in sleeve (see Fig. 46B), turned-over collar and cuffs, and tied in front with ribbons. The plan (Fig. 46A) shows one of the earliest known methods of setting in the sleeve; the collar in this plan is represented turned forward and lying flat.

Pattern, cutting, trousers, tunic, Ancient, Persian, costume, history
Fig. 46A and Fig. 46B

The tunic worn by this figure, under his long overcoat, and also the trousers would most probably be of leather.


  • Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian costumes and decorations by Mary Galway Houston and Florence S. Hornblower. London: A. & C. Black, 1920.
  • Description de l’Arménie, la Perse et la Mésopotamie by Charles Texier. Paris: Typ. de F. Didot frères, 1842.