Exodus and Leviticus provide the detailed account of garments for men and women. There are specific instructions for the Levite priests in the Temple service.
The Bible covers a time span of several thousand years, but the type of clothing worn by most Jewish people during that time did not change much. Styles seem to have been influenced by both the simplicity of the Egyptians and the flamboyance of the Persians. The most common garment, worn by both women and men, was a woven four cornered tunic with fringes. Clothing in ancient Israel was usually woollen fabric or linen made from flax; and cotton all of which were either dyed or left in its natural color.
Women in the Bible also wore silks (Proverbs 31:22), cotton fabrics as well as fine linens (Proverbs 31:24). Cottons were somewhat sheer such as cotton gauze. Women in the Bible are recorded as having undergarments of scarlet or purple (Proverbs 31:21-22) and colourful, designs and needlework (Proverbs 31:22). One of the things that the Bible is very clear on, is that male and female fashions be distinctly different, (Deuteronomy 22:5).
Both women and men wore the equivalent of underwear in the style of pants. The Bible encouraged breast supports and enhancements, or corset-like undergarments (Song of Solomon 8:8-10). Underwear have been depicted on the tombs in Egypt which show that some kind of belt with a strip of cloth between the legs was the typical attire of Egyptian slavegirls and men.
Both men and married women wore a head covering. Rebecca used it to hide her face when she first met Isaac (Genesis 24:65). Sarah’s beauty was obviously visible to those around her (Genesis 12). Rebecca was not veiled when she was drawing water from the spring (Genesis 24:16).
Women were largely responsible for production of clothing in all stages of manufacture. They shared responsibility for tending the animals in the flock; sorted and carded the wool after the goats and sheep had been shorn; spun the wool into lengths and wove fabric using portable looms; grew and harvested flax for linen, dried the flax; carded and spun the flax into either fine or coarse linen strips. Linen produced could be woven finer than silk.
Prepared dyes of various colors: shellfish or plants, such as flowers, myrtle etc; fruits such as pomegranate, grapes, saffron yellow, alazarin red etc. hence the women used various dyes to get a range of colors for the family’s clothing.
Everyone wore some type of jewellery, including children. Women wore earrings, armlets, bracelets, anklets and beaded necklaces. They wore jewelled or beaded collars, necklaces, pendants made of gold, silver, and inlaid with semi-precious stones such as turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian amethyst, garnet, jasper, onyx etc. and other designs crafted from copper, wood, leather etc..
In the summer months clothing styles were chosen for comfort in a hot dry climate, therefore clothes were made of linens ranging from coarse to fine texture and cottons. Women wore straight fitting dresses or elaborate flowing skirts and wrapped tops. Most people wore sandals made of leather, or hemp, papyrus or palm-fibre or woven materials.
Fortunately the compulsory Biblical festivals and High Holy days occurred during the warmer months whereby people could travel to Jerusalem for the Temple Services. Tax collectors and census takers also accommodated the population during this time.
The Holy Land in the winter has always had its share of snow storms from the Golan all the way south past Hevron and Bethlehem. Mount Hermon today has a ski resort and Herodian can bee seen covered with snow in winter months. When we read that red scarlet sins can become white as snow, common sense says the people of the Bible knew what snow was.
When we read about Elijah’s hairy mantel, we can assume that it was probably a goat skin coat, He did after all live in northern Israel and in a mountainous cave. Hence winter fashions in the Biblical Holy Land required people to wear clothing made from wools, leather, sheep skin and certainly layers to keep warm.
Footwear would have been designed out of inverted sheep skin with the wool inside for warmth (sheep skin boots). Cloaks or coats that were long and with hoods were an absolute necessity as would have been knitted socks. The miracle of Hanukah has even greater significance since it occurred during the winter months.