What is Zulu Traditional Attire Called? There are various clothing that makes up the traditional wear of the Zulus. Most of these clothing are made from animal hides and skin for men and women alike.
Married men, married women, single ladies, warriors, dancers, and boys all have different attire that they wear. The following are some Traditional Zulu Clothing that you may want to style.
Zulu Traditional Attire
Attires for Zulu Women
An unmarried girl in Zululand is also known as an intombi. The Zulu maiden dress is a short skirt made from grass and cotton strings to which beads have been fastened onto.
Single Women in the region traditionally wear nothing for their top cloth regardless of the size of their cleavage. People who are not from the ethnic group that travels to South Africa would readily consider this as a promotion of sexuality however, it is not true. The Zulus do not attribute any sexual meaning to exposing much skin or even the naked bosom.
After a woman is engaged or betrothed in Zululand, she begins covering her breasts with decorated clothing and intricate beadwork patterns. The decorative cloth is a sign of respect to her husband’s family and also signals to the community that she is taken.
An older bride or married woman completely covers her body with a knee-length skirt made from cowhide. The hide is carefully treated so it is relatively soft to wear and not too bulky like the men’s attire. The leather is cut into long strips and sewn together to add some visual appeal to the fit.
Beaded aprons and colorful cloths in red, white, and black are draped over the skirt. In recent times, both single and married women in Zulu land, wear blouses and beaded bras to cover their cleavage.
Isibamba – a thick belt made from dried grass is worn by married women to serve as a support for their protruding stomachs. This belt is covered with glass or plastic beadwork
Zulu Traditional Attire for Men
Zulu men and specifically Zulu warriors wear four-piece clothing including Mbata which covers the chest and back, Umghele – headband, Slene – another front cover cloth, and Ibheshu used to layer the backcloth.
The clothing worn as front coverings by married men is called “umutsha” while that worn by boys is smaller and called “iqoyi”.
The men also wear aprons to cover their buttocks known as ibheshu or beshu. It is usually made from calfskin because it is easy to process and soft on the skin. Younger men wear knee-length aprons while older men wear aprons that reach their ankles.
The men’s headband of the Zulu warrior outfit is also known as Umqhele or Umghele in Zulu. The headband worn by generals, chiefs, and men from royal families is the izinduna made from Leopard skin.
Zulu men wear these headbands on their heads to cultural events as a symbol of national identity in South Africa and beyond.
Traditional dress for men also consists of amashoba made from the tufts of a cow’s tail and worn around the upper arm and below the knee.
Zulu Traditional Wedding Attires
During wedding ceremonies in Zululand, the brides carry a small throughout the ceremony, to show that she is a virgin. After the ceremony, she can then keep the knife and stay with the groom’s family.
On the other hand, the groom wears traditional clothing that covers his hair, shoulders, chest, and his buttocks. He also wears beaded ornaments and accessories carved from animal hides around his wrists and ankles.
Outfits for Zulu Couples
Men in Zululand wear amabeshu after they are married while the women wear leather skirts with beaded aprons. In some homes, married Zulu Women do not wear any accessories.
The traditional Zulu skirt or leather skirt that the women wear signifies that the woman is either pregnant or wants to become pregnant.
This traditional Zulu leather skirt is also worn by the betrothed woman who is about to get married. It is known as isidwaba or isikhakha, in some parts of South Africa. This skirt is made of cowhide or goatskin.
On her wedding day, she is gifted beaded aprons by her father, and it is these aprons that she wears over her skirt in her husband’s home. There are different colors that the aprons may come in, and this is connected with the woman’s place of origin.
Traditional Zulu Masks
The African Zulu masks originated from KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Historically, the masks were carved by Zulu tribesmen with great attention to detail. These Zulu masks when carved are 45 cm in length and are seen as a symbol of protection for pregnant women while they’re giving birth.
Zulu Hats and What They Mean
After a Zulu woman is married she begins wearing the traditional Zulu hat also called izicolo which symbolizes her marital status. Married women do not wear as many adornments and beadworks as single ladies do, hence, the hats are not just for beautification, but also a cultural symbol to the household.