Ethiopian Traditional Dresses

Ethiopian Dresses

Just like any other country with a vast diversity of ethnic groups, Ethiopia cannot claim to have just one particular type of clothing or culture. Just as its ethnic groups are vast, so also is its culture and clothing. Designs and patterns vary from one region to another. So,  while one ethnic group may like a particular design or pattern or color of the fabric, another ethnic group may choose a different pattern.

During the discourse of this article, you would learn of the Ethiopian culture and their dresses.

The most widely known and spoken about a piece of clothing by the Ethiopians is the “Habesha Kemise," also known as the “dress of the Habesha." It is a traditional attire worn by the Habesha women. It is an ankle length dress that is worn by the Habesha women to formal events. This piece of clothing is usually produced in different colors. White, grey, or beige shades. It is made of cotton fabric. This piece of clothing usually has beautifully embroidered borders with beautiful designs. It is usually worn with a shawl called a netela. The netela is an article of handmade scarf-like clothing made out of cotton. It is very delicate and thin. It can be worn in various ways. It can cover the back and shoulders, and the borders would be folded over the right shoulders. When the borders are worn around the neck, it is a sign or mourning, but during your leisure time, the borders go over the left shoulder.

Some cultures choose to wear little to nothing. For example, the Hamer people. Goatskin is traditionally their outfit. For unmarried Hamar women, they wear large beaded collars made up of colored beads and embroidered goatskin. For married Hamar women, they wear two metal necklace instead of beaded collars. Additionally, if she is the first wife, she would wear a necklace made up of the leather band with a highly large cylindrical detail in the front in addition to the two large hoops. This leather band is known as “Burkule." Also,  the Afar also called the Dankili and Adal ethnic group. Their traditional dress is a waist clothe. Married women are to wear a scarf to cover their hair while single ladies can flaunt their braids. Afar women don’t dress to edgy. Some might decide to go bare-breasted with just collar neck pieces for adornment and beautiful to display their wealth. Men usually wear an Ethiopian suit. It is a term for a men’s shirt that hangs to the knees with long sleeves. It always comes with a matching pant. The knee length shirt comes with a white collar and probably a sweater. The collar is optional. The Ethiopian suit is made out of chiffon. They also wear knee high socks. Men also wear shawls with the suit. These dresses are still worn on a day-to-day basis and can be worn during special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, Christmas which is known as Genna or New Year which is Enkutatash In Ethiopia; older women wear sash on a day-to-day basis while other women wear a sash when attending church.

Ethiopians also wear what is known as a Gabi. What is a Gabi you might wonder? It is a handwoven piece of clothing placed over the shoulders. A Gabi is made from chiffon and has four layers.

The Dassanech (also called Galeb or the Geleb)

For the women, some women adorn themselves with just beads and bracelets while the men wear a sarong like a garment.

The Dorze tribe

They wear high-quality cotton. They wear colorful toga robes known as Shamma. These cotton materials are actually hand made by women who are always spinning cotton.

The Karo tribe are famous for their body painting. The Karo tribe are distinguished from other tribes for this.  Designs on the body may vary from time to time. For the males, if they want to celebrate a big kill of probably a lion or leopard, they wear grey and red clay hair bun. Large beads worn around the man’s neck would also signify he just made a big kill. They cover their bodies with paintings. The chalk used for the painting is made up of red iron ore, yellow rock, and charcoal to get its color. At times, a face mask is worn, and it has its own clay hair bun feather in them. Red clay mixed with butter would then be applied into the hair, and the clothing is crafted from animal skin.

The Mursi people

They have a rich and beautiful tradition of body ornamentation and body scarification and dresses. They are also very good at body painting. For example, the Mursi decorates with lip or ear plates, bracelets through the body scarification. Mud lip plates are usually worn by marriageable girls. It is to show fertility and readiness to get married. For married women, the wear their lip plates to serve their husbands meals since it presents or creates a poised and peaceful environment. The Mursi people always smear their faces with clay in order to look ridiculous and bizarre just to make money from tourists. They also make these scarifications on their bodies to attract tourists so that they can earn more money from them. Boy and girls pieces their ears with a thorn or knife cut and place a larger and larger piece of wood chunks into the hole. Boys ear piercing is usually longer than girls while that of girls is wider. Once the hole has healed, earplugs are put aside, and the hold remains. It is very likely to see an older woman with a ripped wear hole. Bracelets are worn by all women. These bracelets are called “siggi." As many as possible are worn on the wrists, and then some are they on the ankle. Older men and younger boys sometimes wear bracelets made of wood or ivory. These pieces of jewelry can be used for self-defense.

The Bena people

The men usually have their hair beautified with a multi-colored clay which is adorned with feathers. The Bena people are actually similar to the Hamer tribe. The men and the women put on long garments. They also paint their bodies with white chalk. The women wear beads in their hair, which has been attached using butter. The Bena tribe are usually called the Bena-Hamer tribe because of close they are.

The Surma people

They have a lot of body scarification practices such as lip plates scarification and marking their body permanently. They start wearing them from 15-16 years old. This is to mark traditional rites, especially for educational and disciplinary purposes. The area of skin is lifted with a thorn, and then it is sliced with a razor blade or knife. Therefore, it would leave a flap of skin which would eventually turn to a scar. When a man kills an enemy tribe, the scars his body as a form of celebration. Each scar has its particular meaning either indicating the victory of something else. The men also wear bracelets around their wrists, arm, and know their neck. Their women have really unique hairstyles.

Ethiopia is a really beautiful country with beautiful cultures, traditions, and dresses. These various traditions are really amazing to read about, and hopefully; you enjoy reading about them.

- Ethiobella


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