Inside Africa, Travel

10 Most Beautiful Traditional African Fashions

African clothing is known around the world for its bright colors and its eye-catching designs. But have you ever wondered what all the different types of traditional garments are called and where they come from?

Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful and popular traditional fashions in Africa!

10. Agbada

This is a ceremonial fashion worn by Nigerian men on special occasions. It takes the form of a robe with wide sleeves, often made out of a material called fari, which is a type of handspun cotton. Sometimes Agbada robes also are made out of silk (which may be local or imported).

The embroidery on an Agbada robe is said to confer protection. On a functional level, it serves to reinforce the neck and pockets of the garment.

Agbada - traditional African fashion

Agbada – image credit to: InfoATemeagwaliDOTcom – CC BY-SA 3.0

9. Aso Oke

“Aso Oke” is a traditional women’s fashion among the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin. Typically there are four components to a traditional Aso Oke outfit: a blouse known as a “buba,” a wrapped skirt referred to as an “iro,” a head tie called a “gele,” and a shoulder sash called an “iborun” or “ipele.”

Aso Oke outfits feature bold colors and beautiful patterns, and are stunning to behold. The most famous component is probably the dramatic head tie—more on that shortly.

Aso Oke

Aso Oke – image credit to: Jamie Tubers – CC BY-SA 4.0

 8. Gomesi

A Gomesi is a formal gown which drapes to the floor, worn to weddings and other special occasions by urban women in Busoga and Buganda. Rural women may wear it everyday.

Originally Gomesi gowns were made of bark cloth, but presently they are made from cotton. Scholars are not entirely sure how the garment was created or evolved, but it is believed that it was introduced in Uganda during the 1940s and 1950s. Reportedly the tailor hired by the Christian missionary school which commissioned the design for students had the last name “Gomes”—and thus the name “Gomesi.”


Gomesi – image credit to: Faintsmoke – CC BY-SA 4.0

Like many other African fashions, the Gomesi features vibrant colors. Its most distinctive features are a square neckline, puffed-up sleeves, and a prominent sash around the waist. While cotton remains the most popular fabric, some Gomesi dresses are made out of linen or silk.

7. Jelabiya

This beautiful garment is worn in Egypt and the Sudan, and comes from the Nile Valley. It is similar to an Arabian thawb, but it features a wider cut, longer sleeves, and no collar. The sleeves are significantly wider than those found on a thawb as well, and in fact may be lined with pockets.

The Jelabiya may be worn by men or women, and may be formal or informal. White Jelabiyas are popular during the summer months because they keep out the heat. During the winter, other darker colors are fashionable.


Jelabiya – image credit to: Zerida – Public Domain

 6. Djellaba

This North Africa fashion may be worn by men or women. It is a full-sleeved robe most commonly found in Maghreb, usually made out of wool, but sometimes available in cotton as well. Usually the Djellaba comes with a large hood referred to as a “qob.” The hood provides protection against bright sun, cold winds, precipitation, and blown sand. It is voluminous enough that it may also sometimes be used as an improvised pocket.


Djellaba – image credit to: Honza Chovanecek – Public Domain

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