Ethiopian Traditional Clothing: A Guide to Amazing Designs

Ethiopian traditional clothing and fabrics are widely known throughout the world. The non-agricultural sector of production provides one of the country's significant sources of income.

The Ethiopian textiles and clothes produced by hand weaving are culturally significant. The art of hand-weaving has been practiced in Ethiopia throughout history as a way to produce fabric.

What we wear is more than simply fabric put together to protect us; it is a symbol of our identity and culture. So it's no wonder that societies have utilized dress to express status, commemorate important occasions, and exhibit solidarity, among other things, for ages. Here, we look at traditional clothing in Ethiopia that is being worn today, learning about the history of certain clothes and the workmanship that goes into them.

1. Ethiopian traditional clothing - The different style of traditional attire

Ethiopian traditional clothing styles are definitely influenced by the country's various environments. Warmer apparel, such as wraparound blankets, is required in Ethiopia's highlands, whereas light cotton clothes are required in the country's lowlands. While the clothing worn in Ethiopia reflects the traditions of the numerous ethnic groups in the country's diverse areas, there are certain commonalities.

Ethiopian traditional clothing, commonly seen in many rural places, is nearly entirely made of woven cotton. Both men and women have worn a shamma, a long cotton robe that functions as a body and head cover, since the nineteenth century. Men usually wear white cotton pants underneath the shamma, while women wear colorful ankle-length gowns.

Ethiopian traditional dress comes in a wide variety of outfits. The Christian highland peasantry's customary attire has always been white cotton material. Men have worn long, jodhpur-like pants, a tight-fitting shirt, and a shamma since the reign of Emperor Tewodros 11 (mid-1800s) (loose wrap).

The Muslims of Harar, on the other hand, dress in bright colors, with males wearing shorts and a colored wrap and ladies wearing exquisite red, purple, and black gowns. Lowland Somali and Afar wear long, brilliantly colored cotton wraps, while the Oromo and Bale wear bead-decorated leather clothes that symbolize their livestock-based lifestyle.

Ethiopian traditional clothing

Ethiopian traditional clothing

Ethiopian traditional clothing facts

It is true that the clothing individuals wear reflects the terrain and climate of the location in which they live. Highlanders, for example, use thick clothes to protect themselves from cold weather; conversely, individuals living in the lowland plains wear light clothing since it is rather hot there.

Although Ethiopians wear a wide range of apparel, Ethiopian traditional clothing is believed to be the most beautiful. Habesha kemis is a white handwoven cotton garment that can be easily seen across the nation.

What are the traditional clothes of Ethiopia?

It is hard to categorize Ethiopia's national costume into a single, immediately recognized form. Of course, well-known snow-white clothes have been widely identified with Ethiopia's national identity, but this is the tip of the iceberg.

Each tribe or ethnic group inside Ethiopia's boundaries sets its own style and variety. Ethiopia is a vast nation with many weather and sceneries. This is one of the reasons for the disparities in clothing among the country's varied peoples.

People in the lowlands, for example, prefer lighter clothes owing to the heat, while their neighbors in the highlands prefer heavier apparel due to the colder temperature.

What is the dress code in Ethiopia?

When planning an Ethiopia packing list, international visitors should consider both the weather and what is culturally acceptable in the country.

One of the most crucial things to understand about Ethiopian culture is that everyone, even foreign guests, is required to dress in a specific manner. Ethiopian attire, while not as restrictive as in some other nations, typically requires covering shoulders and knees.

This may appear challenging in a hot nation, but it is more than achievable if you know what to anticipate. This article explains the essential clothing items you should bring to Ethiopia to balance being cool while maintaining a decent appearance.

When do people wear Ethiopian traditional clothing?

In Ethiopia, people often wear habesha kemis at ceremonies or special occasions such as weddings, Christmas parties, and New Year's Eve. Furthermore, at important ceremonies, the ladies wear a hairdo with habeshas braids known as Albaso. These haircuts and costumes are worn by the ethnic groups Amhara and Tigray-Tigrinya.

People wear Ethiopian traditional clothes on Christmas

People wear Ethiopian traditional clothes on Christmas

2. History of hand weaving and textile in Ethiopian cultural clothes


Oromiya is one of Ethiopia's regional states with a distinct fashion sense. Traditional Oromo clothing comprises white toga-like robes known as woya for males and a skirt known as wandabo for women. Women may also carry a sinqee and be clad in qollo and sedeta, which are traditional spun or woven cotton and leather garments.


Afar people also dress in a distinctive manner. In Afar, both men and women wear the same Sana-Fil, which is a length of fabric wrapped around and fastened at the waist. Traditionally, a woman's Sana-Fil is brown, although modern Afar ladies wear rainbow ones. Shash is a black headscarf worn by married ladies. The man's Sana-Fil, on the other hand, has remained undyed to this day. Afar men are also recognized for their distinctive haircuts and the use of a double-edged curved knife known as a Jile around their waists.


The Mursi people of Ethiopia, who live between the Omo and Mago rivers, are well-known for their exceedingly unusual and distinctive form of attire, which mostly consists of lip plates. The Mursi people believe that the lady with the largest Lip Plate is the most attractive woman in the Clan.


The Ethiopian Hamers are an Omotic people that live in the rich Omo River Valley in the country's southwest. Their clothing style includes unusual haircuts, coating their hair with butter, and wearing traditional skirts.

History of hand weaving and textile in Ethiopian

History of hand weaving and textile in Ethiopian

3. Ethiopian clothing style

Traditional Ethiopian Women's Clothes

In Amharic, the official Ethiopian language, "habesha kemis" refers to the national traditional dress of Ethiopian women. It is often a long snow-white garment with needlework and a shawl called a "netela." It is a very thin and delicate cotton scarf that measures around 160 x 260 cm (63 x 102 inches). The embroidery on the ends of the "netela" is frequently done to match the garment it is worn with.

Let us look at the Shewa and Gondar versions to see how the "habesha kemis" varies by ethnicity and tribe.


The white linen features embroidery on the sleeves, the midsection, the bottom, or all three for Shewa ladies. This is combined with the same fabric and pattern as the white "netela" or scarf that wraps around.


In contrast, the Gondar kind features a large ring of embroidery on the bottom hem, but only on the back.

Traditional Ethiopian Men's Clothes

Ethiopian males dress in white knee-length shirts, white pants, a sweater, knee-high socks, and the wraparound "gabi," which we discussed before.

This uniform is generally all white, although there is some excellent embroidery on the front of the shirts and collars in certain cases. The gabi can also have embroidery on the ends, but this is uncommon among men.

Traditional Ethiopian wedding clothing

There is a modern Ethiopian attire style for the bride that draws inspiration from traditional Ethiopian clothes which you may view for yourself in our catalogs on our websites. The groom, like his best men and bridesmaids, might be clothed in traditional Ethiopian clothing.

Another ceremony exhibiting Ethiopian traditional clothing is the "melse," which is conducted after the wedding day. This is an event organized by other members of the families, not the groom, in their separate homes.

This gathering is only open to family members and close friends who dress in traditional Ethiopian clothing. It is customary for the best men and bridesmaids to prepare their outfits, which should match in style and color. These outfits are worn by the "mizés," or bridesmaids and groom's best men during all wedding activities.

Every culture has its own set of rules about how to dress. As a result, preparing suitable Ethiopian traditional clothing for the trip will enable you effortlessly win the hearts of the indigenous people of that nation. A basic guideline of respect for the place you wish to visit and discover is to be aware of its culture.

You may enjoy Ethiopian traditional clothing and begin traveling across Ethiopia fast and conveniently by using our Ethiopia e-Visa services. Before traveling to Ethiopia, it is advisable for tourists to check what documents they will need. Some are flight tickets, hotel reservations, or a visa to enter Ethiopia legally.

Please visit the Ethiopia Immigration Services website right away to learn more about how to appy Ethiopia visa. Go and get it now!

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