Traditional clothing in Ethiopia varies by region, religion, tribe, and socio-economic status. In Gondar there is a mix of traditional clothing and modern clothing, and even some modern-traditional styles running around.
Especially for the holidays, everyone gets dressed in their traditional best, even if sometimes it doesn’t match what a middle class Gonderian would wear. This year at Timket I saw a lot of Gojam outfits from stylish men and women who clearly were not Gojam farmers. Gojam is the region south of here. So traditional or not, or “semi-traditional” or however you want to call it, it’s still cool to see the influence of these cultural clothes on modern fashion. There is a hoodie made from traditional material with embroidery that is super popular in Addis right now, and I might have to pick one up.
For women, the traditional dress is a white linen with embroidery on the cuffs, in the middle, on the bottom, or all three, paired with a white nutella (scarf wrap) of the same fabric. A very Gondar version of this is to have a thick rim of embroidery on the bottom hem, but only on the back. There is also another traditional dress that is made of thicker white fabric that is loose around the arms with symbols of the Orthodox cross.
And of course, the hair makes the outfit. Traditional braiding here can get pretty crazy. Especially in the north (Tigray) there is braiding style that looks like 3 mountain ranges on the top of the head that is let loose about mid way down the head, with skinny braids over the forehead like a crown, supposedly representing Jesus’ crown of thorns.
Then there is a more Gondarian braiding style that is basically cornrows on crack, and they are beautiful.
For the men there are the traditional white clothes, and then there are the Gojam button clothes. Green is the typical colour for Gojam farmers and they wear these short shorts in order to work more efficiently. Then for a little flair, white buttons are sown all over.
In addition to the shorts, there is also a type of pantaloon pant with suspenders that they wear sometimes. I saw some stylish girls rocking a fashionable version of these Gojam pumpkin pants, and maybe I’ve been in country too long, but I could totally see wearing that out. The other farmer accessory is a straw hat, almost like a cowboy hat. Gotta protect yourself from the sun. The priests also have a turban like wrap made of the same traditional nutella white fabric as the women wear.
So a mix of traditional, modern, well-off and farming culture has created a new kind of traditional clothing that mixes elements from all of it. Fashion is always one of many lenses into culture, and which elements get picked up from where create a story of cultural dominance, migrant movement, historical patterns, and modern twists.
And how these travel around the world are even more interesting. I heard the other day that the intricate Ethiopian Orthodox cross was becoming a popular pendant in America.