Traditional Clothing South Africa

The history of apartheid and other issues have left their mark on South Africa’s multiethnic population. The variety in its clothing customs is one of the things that makes it so fascinating. There isn’t just one single South African national costume. Folk clothes, heritage garments, traditional accessories, and the like are unique to each and every ethnic group in this area.

Traditional African clothing is made from a wide variety of fabrics, some of which are regionally specific. Northern Africans, on the other hand, make their Boubous out of silk instead of cotton. Most traditional African clothing is made from natural fibers like silk, cotton, and chiffon. The most popular fabric may occasionally be determined only by what is easily accessible in a given area.

In this article, we will discuss the traditional clothing of South Africa.

Traditional Clothing South Africa

There isn’t just one single South African national costume. Folk clothes, heritage garments, traditional accessories, and the like are distinctive to each of the region’s many cultural groups.  So let’s have a look at their distinctive cultural attire.

1. Xhosa

As a result of the fact that a person’s social standing influences what they wear, the Xhosa people have developed a clothing culture that is extremely intricate and varied. The garments almost always have intricate beading designs that are both elegant and artistic, as well as colorful printed fabrics. Different phases of a woman’s life are reflected in the attire that she wears.

Long skirts and aprons made of amazing embroidered or printed fabrics are the primary items of clothing worn by women in this culture. Ithumbu is intricate beaded necklaces that are worn around the neck and are accompanied by beaded bracelets, anklets, and anklets respectively.

The women will also wear something that is known as an iqhiya, which is another name for a headscarf, in addition to the skirt, aprons, beaded necklaces, and bracelets. Married ladies are expected to wear this headscarf according to custom. To round off the look, embroidered blankets are wrapped around the shoulders and worn like a sash.

Because Xhosa males traditionally take on the roles of hunters, warriors, and stockmen, their traditional clothing included a significant amount of animal skins. On more formal occasions, women will wear tunics or embroidered skirts with beaded necklaces and a rectangle fabric draped over the left shoulder. Alternatively, they may wear a rectangular cloth draped over the right shoulder.

2. Ndebele

The Ndebele are a South African tribe famous for their elaborate beading and brilliantly colored, geometrically patterned dwellings. Aprons are a staple of Ndebele women’s clothing. Younger girls wear isiphephetu, a beaded apron handed to them by their moms, and isigolwani, which are thick beaded hoops worn around the neck, arms, legs, and waist.

When a woman gets married, she gets a longer apron made of toughened skin that is elaborately embroidered with geometric patterns. Isigolwani necklaces and bracelets, as well as copper idzilla rings, adorn their bodies. Girls and single women don’t wear bras, but married women do, and they cover their upper bodies with blankets that often have colorful stripes or intricate beadwork.

The Ndebele men’s traditional attire consists of a beaded breastplate called an iporiyana that hangs around the neck and an apron made of animal hide. After reaching adulthood through initiation, a father bestows upon his son the iporiyana as a symbol of his manhood. A cape isn’t the only thing that’s worn with it, though; there are also headbands and ankle bands made of animal hide.

3. Zulu

Similarly, in Zulu tradition, women’s clothing varies with their age and status. Young ladies who are not married typically wear their hair short and merely a simple grass-reed skirt adorned with beads. A married woman will cover herself head to toe to show that she is taken. She’s dressed in a skirt made of thick cowhide that’s been tanned with animal fat and bleached with charcoal. Beaded necklaces and cotton vests have replaced the traditional fabric covering of the bosom.

The married ladies of the region are easily recognizable by the distinctive round hats they wear, known as izicolo. Traditional sun protection hats like these were woven from grass and cotton and could be a full meter across.

The traditional male Zulu attire includes the use of animal skins and feathers. Only members of the Zulu royal family are permitted to wear leopard skin because the Zulu consider it to be the king of all predators. The genitalia and buttocks are concealed by means of a front apron and a back apron. To create the illusion of more muscle, the Amashoba are worn on the upper arms and below the knees. Men only wear headbands once they’re married.

4. Venda

Girls in the Venda culture often conceal their privates with a tiny apron called a shedo. When a girl reaches puberty, she may choose to wear a nwenda, an article of striped fabric that can be worn at the waist or over one shoulder. Headbands, bangles, and necklaces made of beads are also common.

Venda men and boys traditionally wore a tsindi, a type of loincloth. The tsindi is a front covering made from a triangular piece of animal hide that is slipped between the legs and knotted in the back. They also carried a cloak for use in cooler weather. Modern-day Venda men frequently match trousers with blouses made from nwenda cloth.

5. Tsonga

The Tsonga-Shangaan tribe is a branch of the Zulu tribe and may be found primarily in the southern provinces of South Africa as well as the northern provinces of Mozambique.

Tsonga males traditionally wear animal skins, while Tsonga women traditionally wear beads and colorful gathered skirts called xibelani, which shake as they dance. Tsonga men traditionally wear animal skins.

6. Cape Malay

The term “Cape Malay” refers to a people group that originated in South-East Asia but was later taken to South Africa as a result of the slave trade. The majority of people in the Cape Malay community in Cape Town practice Islam.

Cape Malay people, like Indian South Africans, wear a primarily Western dress in day-to-day life but retain their traditional garb for occasions like going to the mosque or madrassah or celebrating important events.

7. Indian

Indian South Africans have maintained their own Christian, Hindu, and Muslim communities and traditions for generations. Traditional Indian clothes, such as gorgeous embroidered saris and sherwanis, are typically only worn on special occasions like weddings, while Western clothing is worn on a daily basis.

Final Word

The clothes of South Africa’s past still carry significant cultural value. Furthermore, they represent the rich history and variety of Africa’s people. The strictness of who is allowed to wear them has relaxed throughout time, but their value has not.

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