The Namibian women who dress like Victorians

Story highlights

  • Many Herero women in Namibia wear traditional Victorian-style costume
  • The style of clothing was brought to the country by German colonialists over 100 years ago
  • The hats worn by Herero women represent the horns of cattle
  • The style of dress continues to be passed down through generations
Decked out in voluminous Victorian-style dresses, complete with horn-shaped headgear, the Herero ladies of Namibia have held on tight to a piece of 19th century history.
For over a century these women have fiercely protected their dress as a crucial part of their cultural identity.
Their style of dressing was influenced by the wives of German missionaries and colonialists who first came to the country in the early 1900s.
The long dresses are heavy and reflect the style of the Victorian period with numerous petticoats worn to add fullness to their skirts. They are hand-sewn by the women who add their own personal style and flair.
Blogger Mwalimushi Kamati-Chinkoti of My Beautiful Namibia website says wearing the dresses often symbolizes a woman's place in the society.
She wrote on her website: "These outfits are regarded as proper dress for traditional married women. By wearing the long dress, a newly-married woman shows her in-laws that she is willing to take up the responsibilities of a Herero home and will raise her children to respect their heritage and their father's family."
"The Herero women's long dress has become a symbol of Herero tradition for Herero, tourists, scholars and other Namibians," she added.
It is a view echoed by Lutz Marten, a linguist at London's School of Oriental and Afr