Theda Bara as Cleopatra (1917)

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Since visiting the Petrie Museum of Egyptology earlier in the year I’ve been thinking about Egyptian fashion and how it can still inspire us even today. I thought it would be fun to do a series on fashion in Ancient Egypt, in particular how it is depicted in film. I have started with the 1917 version of Cleopatra, starring screen vamp Theda Bara. Theda was known for playing dangerous women, and Cleopatra was no exception. She played the similar femme fatale role of ‘Salome’ the year after Cleopatra came out. Sadly most of her films have been lost, including Cleopatra, but at least we still have some photographs to look at. I even managed to find a colourised photo and a colour poster for the film so we can get an idea of how glorious the sets and costumes must have been in real life.

Interesting trivia: “The film contains the largest number of costume changes by one performer (50) in any silent film. Coincidentally, the largest number of costume changes by a single performer in any film was Elizabeth Taylor‘s 65 in Cleopatra.” (via IMDB)

At the end of the images I’ve included a photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken for Life Magazine, where she dressed up as Theda as Cleopatra. It is very unusual, and one of my favourite photographs of her.

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Cleopatra Theda Bara 1917 poster

Marilyn as Theda as Cleopatra

Marilyn Monroe as Theda Bara in Cleopatra