The Queen of Sheba (ca. 950 BCE?) is claimed by both Ethiopia and Yemen. It’s not impossible that both are right; the ancient realm of Saba (Sheba) may have spanned the Red Sea. Or perhaps she was really the Queen of Meroë, and the name “Sheba” referred to something else entirely. The chronology is also rather difficult…but then again, maybe all this is beside the point. The Queen of Sheba is simply one of the great legendary figures of all time. For Ethiopians, who know her as Makeda, she is the mother of the nation and founder of a dynasty. For readers of the Bible and the Koran, she is the embodiment of opulence, wisdom, beauty, and mystery.
Given the uncertainty about exactly where and when the Queen of Sheba lived, depictions of her are all over the map. The paintings we’ve grouped in our main illustration above show the particular blend we’re going for with our costume: Ethiopian style gown, Egyptian necklace, Near Eastern veil, long waist sash (everybody was wearing those in the 10th century BCE), and an anachronistic crown. And a fan! For some reason the Queen of Sheba always has a fan. We chose peacock feathers to echo the Biblical reference to Solomon’s riches, though it’s probably another anachronism. But hey, it’s a Halloween costume, not a doctoral dissertation. The pieces we suggest, from left to right:
1. White dress from Lotustraders. Since time immemorial, the basic Ethiopian dress has been a white caftan-like gown. This ingenious design from Lotustraders has drawstrings at the waist, sleeves, and hemline to give you a perfectly customized fit.
2. Three chiffon veils: white, violet, and olive green. Each veil is 45 by 90 inches. Use the violet and green ones to knot around your waist as an ancient-style sash. The white veil goes over your head and under your crown.
3. Gold crown. It’s an anachronism, but big gold crowns are very common in depictions of the Queen of Sheba. We chose a somewhat-better-quality costume crown to live up to the rest of the outfit. The filigree work on this one features peacocks, which is a nice echo of the fan.
4. Egyptian collar-style beaded necklace. We think the Queen of Sheba should have at least one truly spectacular piece of jewelry, and this necklace fills the bill. It also reflects the Egyptian influence that would have been present in the Upper Nile. This necklace is actually from Egypt, so note the shipping time. (If this particular model is sold out, check the store’s pharaonic jewelry section for others; they seem to keep a selection in stock.)
5. Peacock feather fan. This is a beautiful natural feather fan at an excellent price ($14 the last time we checked), especially considering the size: 27 inches wide and about 15 inches long. Very glamorous, and the peacock colors look wonderful with the Egyptian necklace.
6. Bracelets from Firemountain Gems. Firemountain sells to everyone at wholesale prices, so it’s a great place to stock up on inexpensive jewelry. We chose (clockwise from top left in the composite image): a set of three stretch bracelets with glass beads, a brass bangle, a set of goldtone bangles with blue beads, and another set of bangles with green faux jewels.
Gold, gold, and more gold: According to the Bible, the Queen of Sheba gave King Solomon “a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones…” A hundred and twenty talents would have been about four tons. Four tons of gold! So lay it on. Put gold beads in your hair, wear gold sandals, pile on the rings. You’re the Queen of Sheba!