Like most countries in the African continent, South Africa is indeed blessed with diverse cultures and traditions that truly depict their identity, values, and beliefs. Virtually all of these cultures and traditions started existing a long time ago and are being passed down from one generation to another. In South Africa, the food people eat, the language they speak, and even the cloth they wear tell of their ethnic backgrounds and more. For instance, a typical Zulu man can be distinguished by his Zulu traditional attire; so is a Xhosa man or even someone from Pedi.
The Zulu tribe in South Africa is well-known for its population and rich colorful cultural heritage, making them unique and outstanding. All Zulu attires are used by all Zulus of different ages and gender. However, there could be a situation where you find some Zulu traditional attire meant for a particular set of people from a particular social class. But generally, everything about traditional attire in Zululand makes one easily fall in love with the tribe.
Zulu Traditional Attire For Women
In the Zulu culture, there are different attires to mark different stages in the lives of both men and women, signifying the different milestones achieved. These attire varieties include traditional for ceremonial or culturally celebratory occasions and modern westernized clothing for everyday use.
Women from the region wear different attires depending on whether they are married, engaged, or single. For instance, the isigcebhezana is a miniskirt that women essentially wear in Zulu ceremonies. In fact, each phase of a Zulu’s life is greatly determined by a specific type of attire. An unmarried woman typically wears the skirt and nothing on the top, while a special type of clothing is reserved for pregnant women. ‘Isibamba,’ to be precise, is a common attire among pregnant women.
Below are some Zulu traditional attire for women.
1. Isidwaba and Isicwaya
Isidwaba and Isicwaya are part of the attires won by a Zulu bride during her traditional marriage ceremony. A typical Zulu bride changes her outfit about three times during a marriage ceremony. The Isicwaya is an outfit made up of animal skin worn from the breast down to the trunk, and this goes in hand with the Isidwaba, which is a leather skirt and a hat that symbolizes the bride has been taken.
There is also the inkehli, which is a hat for her head as well as colorful beaded necklaces, bracelets, red and white ocher designs for her legs and arms, a beaded and twisted fig leaves-made veils, oxtail fringes for her elbows and knees, a goat’s hair fringe for her neck and lastly an Assegai, a small knife that symbolizes her virginity.
2. Zulu-Inspired Long Gown
In this modern age, most Zulu brides do not use the typical leather and animal skin anymore. This gorgeous fishtail long gown has all the traditional colors represented from orange to red and black and so on. The look of this Zulu traditional attire is further enhanced by colorful beads and the beautiful fancy red hat that screams ‘Zulu.’
3. Zulu Mermaid Gown
This gown, mostly worn by Zulu brides, has a touch of modern class to it. Its beauty starts from the shoulders down to the knees, where it branches out in a flare giving the bride room to walk comfortably. The gown is adorned with colorful beads at the neck and wrists to bring that Zulu vibe, topped with the traditional Zulu cap called the Isicholo.
Zulu mermaid gowns are gorgeous and colorful. They are every lady’s dream attire, especially on their big day. The attire adds extra beauty to Zulu women and also makes them adorable.
4. Short Colored Pleated Dress
This simple but awesome Zulu-inspired dress is made in many colors. The color of the top of this short dress depends on the user, but usually, most people go for red (which is one of the Zulu colors), while its bottom part is made of pleats of different colors. To further bring home the Zulu symbol, the gown is worn with a belt embroiled with the Zulu colors, beads on the neck, and of course, the red Isicholo (hat).
5. Tulle Skirt
This Zulu contemporary dress has different colors of tops that have embroidery representing all the Zulu colors. The tulle skirt usually hangs above or a bit below the knee, making women look smart and youthful. The look is further accessorized by bright and beautiful dangling earrings and headbands (Umghele). The Tulle skirt is an amazing attire that is mostly worn by the younger generation. It easily transforms women into gorgeous and beautiful ladies – many thanks to its fluffy-like nature and dazzling colors.
6. Beads Dress
This daring Zulu outfit is embellished in beads from the beginning to the end and is made into a mini dress with a plunging neckline. The beads are in bold Zulu colors ranging from red, yellow, blue, black, green, and others. This beaded
7. Zulu Long Gown
This long-sleeved red long gown is fitted from the shoulders to the knee, from where it begins to spread to give the fabric that perfect chic flare design. It can be worn with or without another color of fabric attached to it. This Zulu traditional attire looks beautiful, but if you want to look more ‘Zulu’ or gorgeous, you need to add some Zulu beaded accessories to it.
8. Bra and Skirt Attire
This stylish modern twist of the Zulu attire is presented in a black bra top and a long black skirt and is covered with an array of beads from the neck down to the midsection. This is not for everyone, but those who go for it always look chic and cute at the same time – thanks to the beautiful and colorful Zulu beads that form part of the attire.
9. Strapless Long Gown
The long strapless gown comes in so many different colors. It is usually worn with the Zulu headband and multi-colored neck and body beads. Most women also don it with other traditional accessories that enhance the beauty of the attire. Some women also design their bra with multiple colors and then wear some beads all-around their upper part.
10. Zulu-Inspired Animal Skin Top And Skirt
This is a Zulu traditional wedding attire that is worn with a combination of animal skin and top and skirt. The animal skin is usually worn on a top, serving as an apron (Mbata). The leopard skin goes together with a black skirt hanging below the knee. The women also don some colorful beads on the neck, waist, legs, and head.
Zulu Traditional Attire For Men
The traditional attire for men is umqhele (warrior’s headband), amambatha (which is usually put over the shoulders), ibheshu (this acts as a trouser) around the waist, umcedo (used as underwear) to cover the genitalia, and imbadada for his foot.
Zulu men use their attire and accessories to show their military might and prowess. The warrior headband is usually worn only by married men. A regular attire for a Zulu man involves the animal skin and feather, which cover various parts of his body, albeit minimally.
Interestingly, the skin used is symbolic of the social status of a typical Zulu man. For example, tribal heads or the royal family are the only ones that wear the skin of a leopard. They cover their shoulders with the amambatha and wear the ibheshu, injobo, and isinene on their lower half.
11. African-Inspired Traditional Print
Men wear this simple but classy outfit during occasions and ceremonies where the white shirt is matched with a fabric made of prints of different colors. To add that ethnic vibe to it, the headband( Umghele) and the apron (Mbata) made from leopard skin are added on top of the shirt to complete the look.
12. Multi-Colored Waistcoat, Vest, and Trouser
This is another modern attire adopted by the Zulu men worn for ceremonies, instead of the traditional animal skin used to cover the chest and waist, this one is made out of a fabric with a waistcoat and trousers in the Zulu colors comprising of red, blue, green and so on. This particular attire looks colorful on most men. In fact, some of them add extra touches, including an animal skin top to it, as shown in the picture above.
This is also a beautiful two-piece outfit made up of a pair of top and trousers sewn from different colors and textures of fabrics. The different Zulu colors are used as designs either at the neck, wrist, or hem. The Dashiki attire is naturally colorful and attractive. It naturally looks great on men.
14. Shaka Zulu Attire
This is a fine short sleeve mixture of colors with the symbol of the Zulu tribe on the chest. It could be worn with a pair of trousers and comes in a different color combo. The Shaka Zulu attire is greatly admired in Zulu. The attire represents and means a lot to them, right from the time of Shaka Zulu, the great warrior who is greatly adored and revered in the Zulu kingdom.
15. Western-Inspired Zulu Attire With The Umghele
We mentioned that the Zulu attire has been through various generations and ages. Outfits in the region are being modernized these days, such that men can now wear simple corporate wears alongside some pieces of Zulu traditional attire. As seen above, the young don black shirt on black trousers and then the men’s headband and the animal skin.
The headband, mostly worn by Zulu men during ceremonies and events, is made from the animal hide – Springbok and fits all head sizes because it is adjustable. People who love simplicity usually go for this attire.
Zulu Traditional Attire For Couples
Zulu couples are usually the envy of many people. From their colorful outfits to their traditional attire add-ons and other unique heritage, they make hearts melt whenever they step out together.
16. Short Pleated Skirt and Animal Skin Outfit
This particular Zulu couple attire looks very simple, stylish, and adorable. It embodies Zulu’s traditional dressing as seen on both the man and the woman. The man can choose to wear any simple footwear, though most men usually prefer white canvass.
17. Tulle And Ankara Gown and Simple Men’s Attire
This outfit can be worn on different occasions, including weddings. The gown is usually fitted from the shoulder to the knee, where the flare pattern is joined for extra beauty. Women usually wear the Zulu beads on their neck, head, waist, and legs as well, while the shirt of the man is designed with some fabric from the lady’s material. This combination usually looks amazing and simple as well. It is one of young couples’ favorite traditional attire for occasions.
18. Ball Gown and Dashiki
This ball gown with the Zulu colors displayed in triangles at the end of the gown can be paired with a two-piece outfit that makes up a shirt and trouser with a design of the Zulu patterns and colors.
19. Tulle Gown With Ankara and Shaka Zulu
This adorable Zulu traditional attire is every shade of stunning. The upper part of the dress is usually Ankara material joined together with a tulle material that crosses the knee. The combo naturally gives couples a modern yet traditional look and can be matched with beautiful colorful beads of the Zulu tribe. For the men, every item that makes up the Shaka Zulu outfit makes one fall in love with the Zulu ethnic group and everything they represent.
20. Zulu-Inspired Sleeveless Top And Skirt And Mbata
This couple’s look comprises of a top and a skirt. It is mostly worn with beads on various parts of the body, including the waist, leg, neck, and hands. The man wears a matching top with either a short or trousers with the apron (Mbata) on the chest.