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History

Featuring Dr. Colleen Darnell

Photography by Andrew Yee

Words by Christine Morrison

Makeup by Michelle Coursey

Hair by Tiffany Jane McGuire

There is more to Egyptologist Dr. Colleen Darnell than meets the eye. From her established role in academia and incredible vintage fashion collection to her home filled with storied treasures, Colleen embodies the eras she so passionately loves.

Dr. Colleen Dernell in a brown riding suit and next to a dining table, where her elbow is supporting her head looking left

Late 1940s riding suit from Ally Bird Vintage.
Riding boots from The Frye Company.

It comes as no surprise this accomplished scholar loved, and was fascinated by, history at an early age; Colleen has always felt we can learn a great deal from the study of people, religions and civilizations of the past.


Colleen was born with wanderlust. While she did not travel to Egypt until she was 18 (a high school graduation present), this journey cemented her devotion to one of the oldest civilizations. Colleen went on to earn a Ph.D. from Yale in Egyptology and currently spends much of her time translating and analyzing ancient hieroglyphics and hieratic texts. Her breakthrough work has also led to important archaeological discoveries that delight critics and enthusiasts alike. Her passion never wanes.

Dr. Colleen Darnell in a red robe holding a dog lying in a bed

Red Silk 1920s pajamas from Morphew Vintage.

Dr. Colleen Darnell putting a framed picture on the wall while wearing a silver dress

Silk dress with tabard from Sally Hoban and Vorticist jacket from Meloo Vintage. 1930s cream silk dress from Napa Valley Vintage

Dr. Colleen Darnell putting a framed picture on the wall while wearing a silver dress

"What I love is that while I have immersed myself in the material for so long, as my career moves forward and I do more with fashion history or zoom classes for people all around the world, I feel like I am constantly rediscovering new aspects to study and expanding how I approach the topic.”

Colleen’s boundless passion led her to co-authoring (with husband Dr John Darnell) the recently released book, “Egypt's Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods on Earth,” a one-of-a-kind joint biography that humanizes the Gods and inspires a wide audience of readers.

Colleen Darnelle lighting a candle on the wall in a dining room

When asked if her work is spreading knowledge and encouraging people to explore on their own, she exclaimed, “That’s exactly what we’re hoping! I have had people write to me who are inspired to study ancient history [for Egypt among other locales]. We really wanted to show that these people are, well, people. That’s important.”

While Colleen’s pursuits are spectacular, they are shrouded in humility. She is the first to explain what she still does not know and is in search of discovering. Vintage fashion shopping is one of the many cherished quests that bring her joy. Her favorite haunts include stores in Paris and closer to home in Connecticut; she also attends the Manhattan Vintage show thrice yearly. “You get to know dealers,” she noted.

Her extensive collection emphasizes the 20’s and 30’s - “I love the aesthetic and the way the clothes are proportioned”, but does feature some pieces -- “worn solely for photoshoots” from 1820’s and 1830’s. Stored “flat and with [conservation level] acid free tissue paper,” her fashion collection fits her body as well as her spirit.

Colleen Darnell in a navy robe looking out the window

Silk dress with tabard from Sally Hoban and Vorticist jacket from Meloo Vintage.

“I tend to collect pieces that are not overly fragile, because I want to wear them.”

Colleen Darnell in a light blue embrodary robe as sunlight from a window reflects on her face

Beaded velvet 1920s dress with silk embroidery robe (from Noble Vintage Clothier)

Discovery will always be central to Colleen. “I am always learning more” said the passionate scholar, who revels in teaching students from “ages 8 to 80.”

Colleen’s life is an impassioned one and we, as her students or simply students of life, love learning from this dynamic woman as she unearths more than scholarly findings but rather an authentic way of living.

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