Size matters with Herero dresses

02 Apr, 2018 • by Fashionomics Africa
Size matters with Herero dresses
Fashionomics Africa

It would almost seem like a mirage, but big, Victorian styled dresses are still strong among women in Namibia. This strange occurrence is due to the German missionaries who settled in Namibia and who would not accept the semi-nude dressed people of Herero. Therefore, the women were soon persuaded to adopt the Victorian dress and that’s why this style is so distinctive today.

The tradition is incredibly strong and the women of Herero are extremely proud to wear it. The dress is locally known as ohorokova, which consists of a huge crinoline dress, which is worn over a few petticoats. It also includes a bodice that buttons up the whole way up to the neck, long sleeves and a shawl that is worn around the shoulders. Despite this bizarre occurrence, it is still very fascinating to see women preforming daily chores or just walking dressed in Victorian dresses in Namibia.  

The Herero dresses are embellished even more on special occasions, such as: weddings or church gatherings. Women put on more petticoats, as the puffier the dress is the more voluminous and impressive it is. On special occasions they put as much as 8 layers of petticoats compared to the 3-4 on a regular day. Young, unmarried women wear them only occasionally, whereas, older and married women have to wear them constantly.

Another very important part of the dress is the extraordinarily wide headdress called otjikalva. The fabric is twisted around the head to form the shape with long points, which is supposed to mimic a crown. Plus, cattles are incredibly respected by the Herero people and, therefore, the headdress (also) serves as a symbol of respect to the animal.

The women of Herero are very used to wearing the dresses and say that they are not as heavy as they might seem. The petticoats create the illusions of bulkiness; however, they are made out of cotton and the dress is made from lightweight cotton or nylon. Still, the dresses are hot, just like it would seem, especially in the hot summers, when the temperatures reach 40 ̊C. Nevertheless, the women are incredibly proud to wear them, regardless of the weather outside.

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