The Changing Face of Egypt
Things change. Constantly change. Sometimes it’s for the best. Sometimes it should have remained the same. Fashion and beauty is no different. Trends come and go. The face beneath remains the same. This is the changing face of Egyptian beauty.
Research for this video was done by researcher Jacinthe Assaad. The looks she and WatchCut Video put together represent various political struggles in each decade.
The look of the ’20s is modeled after Huda Shaarawi, a feminist leader who chose to remove the veil as a sign of resistance.
“It was a sign of liberation. She is the pioneer of the Egyptian feminist movement,” Assaad said.
For the look of the —30s, WatchCut re-created the beginning of the golden age of Egyptian cinema, during which women were beautifully adorned.
“This look was inspired by Umm Kulthum, who is known as the star of the Middle East. She was the most prominent Egyptian singer. She used to hold a handkerchief and express her emotions deeply as she sang,” Assaad explained.
The 1940s look was inspired by Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt, complete with a pristine updo and red lipstick.
Doria Shafik, a philosopher, poet, and leader of the Egyptian feminist movement, was the inspiration for the hair and makeup in the ’50s.
“Because of her activism and efforts, women were granted the right to vote by the Egyptian constitution,” Assaad explained.
For the ’60s, WatchCut was inspired by an image of a factory worker.
“There was a focus on local economy and local manufacturing. It was also a moment in history where Egypt was liberated from the colonial power, from being a British protectorate. Therefore, there was this idea of adopting particular Western choices, but making them much more conservative to adapt them to local customs and norms,” she explained.
In the 1970s, the loose waves and big earrings were a look inspired by Souad Hosny, who was one of the major stars in Egypt.
“She was literally the sweetheart of the Egyptian screen.”
In the 1980s, there was an acceptance of the Western norms of beauty in the fashion world.
“There was a lot of social dissent against the Open Door policy of President Anwar Sadat. One reason was that he was very Westernized and he allowed a lot of Western norms to infiltrate society. Religiously minded people chose to migrate to the gulf,” she explained.
The 1990s look was inspired by Sherihan, a famous Egyptian actress and singer who used to wear over-the-top, glittery, sequined dresses and gowns.
“People started coming back from the gulfs, especially after the first Iraqi War, and with them they brought the much more conservative customs. Sherihan was affected by the religious wave of the ’90s.”
“The beginning of the 21st century in Egypt represents the ways in which the Egyptians are trying to reconcile their conservative aspects with the modern aspect.”
“The sartorial choices are representative of this moment. For instance, a lot of the veiled women wanted to wear sleeveless tops, tops that had cleavage, and in order to be able to do so, they would wear long-sleeved tops underneath them. That paired with the conservative minds created the very interesting hybrid fashion.”
The 2011 Revolution started the present decade, and WatchCut combined elements born out of the revolution to create the look for the 2010s.
“One of them is the symbol of the flag that women used to wear as a headband during the protests. During the revolution, the youth fought for the right to be heard, and the right to be heard is embodied in the right to vote in an election that we hope is not corrupt.”