Xhosa traditional attire is another stripe of glory in Africa in addition to the world's fashion industry. Like existing popular African prints; Kente, Ankara and kitenge, Xhosa traditional attire has a special history dating back to pre-colonial times and a unique origin from the Xhosa people of South-Africa. The attire is symbolic in nature, taking different shapes and forms depending on the occasion. Africans, being social people, hold ceremonies and symbols with high regards. However, with the recent changes in social psychology, symbolism has been replaced with purposeful fashion statements and creative wear in the fashion space, leaving ceremonies as the only thing of social significance that are still held in high esteem.
Xhosa traditional wear designs are easily identified by their creative beadworks. Their rich tradition of beaded clothes is mostly for aesthetics. It is not surprising for you to find a sophisticated textile skirt such as Imibhaco or Isikhakha adorned with beads to make it stand out from the crowd. Additionally, the color of a dress is reliant on the Xhosa sub-group, the specific region, and the social status of a person. Below are 20 Xhosa traditional attires for women.
Xhosa traditional wedding attire
The Umakoti, the bride, in Xhosa, like other African and western culture, is usually the center of attraction during a wedding ceremony. How she looks is of particular importance to the days' proceedings because she has to meet traditional symbolism and look exquisitely good to outshine every other woman in the ceremony. These are 5 of the commonly worn dresses by a bride during a wedding ceremony:
Ijeremani or Isishweshwe
This is an ankle length skirt or dress worn by the bride to signify her passage into marriage and deter potential suitors from running after the bride. This beautiful attire is made from printed fabric adorned with simple yet beautiful bead-work. The bride pairs the dress with a tartan blanket spread around the shoulder, which symbolizes the protective and naturing traits that a bride adds to a family. In addition to this, she also ties a woolen scarf around her waist and wraps her head with a black doek to complete the look. The scarf is supposed to conceal her figure as well as safeguard her fertility, while the doek is a sign of respect towards the elders. A new bride cannot talk to the elders bare-headed.
Strapless mermaid dress with accessories
This is an ankle length traditional dress with a modern touch. It has been made from white African print fabric with simple and beautiful black patterns that increase its visibility. The dress constricts at the waist and thighs, thus bringing out the brides curves quite well. It then flares out from the second constriction to the ankle. The bride covers her shoulder with beads, which cover most of her upper region. The attire also comes with a tartan blanket that will be used to cover the shoulder. To complete the attire, the bride wraps her head with a white and black head wrap that not only complements her dress but also satisfy culture’s demands.
Layered blue dress with orange and black pattern
This stylish Xhosa traditional wear meets all the symbolic needs of the culture. Starting from the head wrap, to the knee length dress, the bride serves respect to the Xhosa elders and sends a deterrent message to potential suitors respectively. The twist with this dress is that it combines the modern dressing needs with traditional symbolism to achieve a great look. The layered quality of the dress makes it more attractive. Like other Xhosa dressing style, the outfit took beadwork into account. The bride wears the beads on her neck and spreads them across her shoulder. To crown it all, she wears an off shoulder cloak that extends down to the ground level and has beautiful blue-orange line patterns at the bottom.
White dress with a red tartan blanket
This is a simple bridal dress with beautiful color coordination. The knee length, long-sleeved dress loosely hugs the bride from top to bottom. This is in the spirit of concealing every part of the bride's body as well as scaring suitors from pursuing her. The dress comes with a red tartan blanket that serves its traditional importance as it is wrapped around the bride's shoulder. Unlike other dresses in this category, the bride wears a red beret as opposed to conventional head wrap as a sign of respect to the elders. The beadwork in this outfit is concentrated around the bride's neck as it is worn as a bodily accessory as opposed to the usual embroidering of beads on the fabric.
Sleeveless black and white maxi dress
This is a simple idea of a traditional wedding with a lot of importation of modern fashion. The dress is made from a black and white traditional fabric. It extends to the ankle, thus covering every part of the bride's body. The sleeveless top part of the dress has a split on the cleavage to expose some of the bride's skin. She also has a black head wrap with white streaks to complete the simple yet sophisticated look.
Xhosa traditional skirts
Umbhaco Xhosa traditional wear is one of the popular dressing styles among the traditional Xhosa women. Umbhaco skirt is made from elegant African textile embroidered with beadwork to make it more beautiful. The Xhosa often wear a white or red wrapper. However, they dye their garment using ocher to achieve reddish-brown or any other color. The fabric is converted into a skirt by cutting it into three pieces and sewing them together. Once the skirt has been made, the women add beads onto in premeditated patterns to achieve a complete look that is not only beautiful but also culturally correct.
High waist traditional skirt
This is a typical Xhosa traditional skirt. This skirt has a cone-shape characterized by a smaller waist, and a gradual outward bulge as the skirt approaches the ankle. At the waist, there are straps that a woman ties together by intertwining them to hold the skirt in position. To break the dull brown color of the skirt, blue stripes have been carefully sewn around the skirt, and on the third stripe, white beads have been deliberately attached to make it more appealing.
Orange wrap with beaded belt
This skirt is made by wrapping an orange blanket around the lower part of a woman’s body. The concept is simple with great results. The skirt has black line patterns running around the lower part of the skirt to improve its attractiveness, and the woman wears a belt of beautifully patterned beads around her waist that make the skirt even more beautiful.
Above the ankle black and white maxi skirt
This is a traditional skirt with a modern twist. The white fabric is a typical Xhosa traditional garment. The skirt has black line patterns that run around the skirt to make it more attractive, both at the waist and the lower part. What makes it more interesting is that the black stripes come in different thickness, which is creatively combined to bring out harmonious contrast.
Ankle length white and black skirt
The simple idea behind this traditionally inspired skirt is anchored on the fundamental Xhosa dressmaking skills. This skirt is principally made using a white garment that has been beautified with uniform black stripes at the bottom of the skirt. In between the black stripes are equal sized grey buttons running down in a single file. The skirt has two white straps at the waist with a single black line separating the strap into two different white sides that have alternating grey buttons running all the way to the end, and the straps are just as long as the skirt itself.
Xhosa traditional dresses 2018 designs
Xhosa traditional dresses 2017 had a good run in the market. 2018 followed with even better designs. It was almost impossible for anyone looking for Xhosa traditional wear for sale to miss her preferred design. Hopefully, this Xhosa attire catalogue will shed some light on which dresses to go for, or even better give you an idea of what to design the next time you visit your designer for a customized dress.
Blue off-shoulder midi-dress
With the world’s fashion fast pace, finding inspiration for the perfect dress has become a hassle each designer has to overcome. This blue off-shoulder midi dress draws a lot of inspiration from the typical Xhosa traditional white dress. The dress diverges from the waist to slightly below the knee. At the bottom, there are white, black and blue patterns to break the monotonous royal blue color as well as uphold Xhosa traditional symbolism. The dress has also been fitted with pockets, which is a plus.
White and black mermaid dress
This short-sleeved mermaid dress is a creation that takes to account traditional symbolism as well as the demands of the modern fashion industry. The dress loosely hugs your body, without revealing much and upholding African moral code. The dress diverges outwardly from the knee to the ankle. It also comes with a gorget, Ithumbu, made out of black and white cotton that cover the entire neck region. At the end of the sleeves, the bottom of the dress and the waist are patterns made out of white and black lines, thus making the dress more attractive.
Yellow Maxi dress with a head wrap
This dress is a combination of a high waist skirt made by wrapping yellow garment around the lower part of your body. It has a strip of cloth running from the chest all the way to the ankle length, concealing the intercepting ends of the wrapped cloth. To complete the look, you have to wear a gorget of beads and a matching head wrap.
White maxi dress with pleats
Simple concepts often yield the best results, as proven by this gorgeous dress. This African print dress with bold multicolored patterns represents the Xhosa traditional dress code. The pleats add a twist of sophistication to the look.
Yellow midi dress with a collar
Everything about this dress makes it stand out from the rest. Its buttoned upper part has been creatively designed to act as a tartan blanket that traditionally covers the shoulder and the chest. The brown dress has black stripes that create a beautiful pattern.
Off shoulder mini-dress
This off-shoulder mini dress exposes the upper part of the body, the neck, and the shoulders. Its gorget has been folded to act as its sleeves, as well as cover the chest. The lower part of the fold has a black and white pattern linking it to the traditional Xhosa dressing. A petite woman can wear this dress for both formal and informal occasions.
Pink maxi dress with fabric gorget
This sleeveless pink maxi dress can be worn with or without a gorget, depending on the time of the day and the season of the year. Its simple design allows it to bulge outwardly from the waist to the ankle. At the bottom, the dress forms a slope that extends from the front to the rear and is designed with navy blue patterns running around the dress.
Sleeveless bareback dress
This buttoned sleeveless bareback dress exposes much of your back, depending on how much flesh you want to be exposed. The dress is long enough to cover much of the lower body only leaving some parts of the feet exposed. This dress is best suited for women who want to expose some of their back skin.
V-Neck short sleeved dress
Black multi-patterned dress
Xhosa traditional attire, like other African prints, has evolved over the years to suit the modern Xhosa woman’s needs. Even though much has changed, the dressing has not lost some of its traditional patterns and symbolism, especially wedding dresses. Nonetheless, you can readily find Xhosa clothes to go partying and even visit rural homes without feeling out of place. Africans, being people of culture, wear their traditional clothing to every occasion, which is not only a matter of pride but also comfort.