Do you know that there are women out there who still wear Victorian dress? And not as dressing up for a festival or a costume ball but on everyday basis. The dress is even a symbol of their national unity. These women are of the Herero tribe living in Namibia. So, how did it happen that a Victorian dress became a traditional dress for these African women? At the time when missionaries arrived to Namibia the Herero women used to go around wearing literally nothing except for a short skirt. No wonder that this was not approved by the modest customs of the missionaries, and so the Herero women had to cover themselves up. And there was no other choice for them then to copy dresses that missionary women wore.
photo courtesy Martha de Jong-Lantink
photo courtesy Harry and Rowena Kennedy
photo courtesy Elmarie Mostert
was no other choice for them then to copy dresses that missionary women wore. The dress consists of an enormous crinoline worn over as many as five petticoats that use up 12 meters of fabric. Though having same design in general the outfit nevertheless let women show their personal skill and creativity by choosing bright colours, sewing on patchwork, adding frills and accessories. They finish off their outfits with unique hats in matching or contrasting fabrics which are said to replicate horns in honor of the cattle that their communities used to depend on so highly.
photo courtesy Sally Walton
No doubt these dresses are heavy and hot to be in, especially taking African heat into consideration (how they handle it?). However, the Herero women keep tradition alive and are proud of their dresses.
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