Every part of the world has things peculiar to them. This includes habits, dance steps, music, language, clothing, and every other thing that makes up their culture. The people of Lesotho and South Africa aren’t left out. By their Sotho traditional attire, you shall know them. And this isn’t changing anytime soon.
If you’re a South African or you plan to visit Lesotho or South Africa and take part in their cultural heritage, keep in mind your experience won’t be complete if you don’t rock one of the Sotho traditional wears.
Your best bet is to feed your mind (and maybe your screenshot folder) with visual inspirations of Sotho traditional attire. And if that’s your goal, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s get right into it.
What’s the Sotho Traditional Attire all about?
This is the cultural attire of the Basotho tribe of Lesotho and the South African region. The clothing features a woolen blanket that originated over a century ago.
Per Wikipedia, the first ruler of Lesotho, King Moshoeshoe I, received this blanket as a gift from a British man known as “Mr. Howell” in the late 19th century. The King became so attached to the blanket that he dropped his traditional leopard-skin kaross for the blanket and his people followed suit.
But Basotho people didn’t drop the kaross in its entirety. Basotho men only replaced the erstwhile animal-skin “blankets” they wore with factory-woven textiles as the way they wear their traditional blanket is still similar to the kaross.
These traditional Sotho blankets have different use and symbolisms. And they mostly fall under:
Types of Sotho Traditional Attire
This blanket symbolizes fertility. Young Sotho men wear this to prepare for their transition to manhood.
Lesotho young men wear this blanket after their initiation ceremony as confirmation they’ve attained adulthood.
Mosotho brides wear this on their wedding day to signify their new marital status.
Sefate and Morena
This is the everyday blanket of the Basotho people.
Husbands gift their wives a Serope blanket when they have their first child is born.
This is an exclusive blanket the king and his chiefs wear. It’s the highest of all Basotho blankets. And it literally means chief’s blanket or to swear by the king.
Motlatsi means successor. This is in line with the blanket’s initial purpose which was to pay tribute to the birth of Prince Lerotholi.
This blanket is made of patterns from wild cats or leopardskin. These days, chiefs who don this blanket hardly wear actual leopard skin. They instead wear the print.
Ketelo ea Morena Papa
As the name implies, this blanket came about during Pope’s visit. When Pope John Paul II visited Lesotho in 1988, he received a blanket gift which is said to be in the Vatican in Rome.
This blanket gets its name from the aloe indigenous to the Maloti Mountains of Lesotho.
Although Queen Victoria didn’t visit Lesotho, legend has it that in 1897 she visited Lesotho and gave King Lerotholi a blanket gift. Per the story, the king wore the blanket over his shoulders with elegance and that was how the tradition began.
Other Sotho Traditional Attire
The Sotho traditional wear also includes a headwear known as Mokorotlo or Basotho hat. It’s a straw hat used in making Sotho clothes. This hat has also become the national symbol of the people of Lesotho.
This conical headwear with a top knot is made of local mosa grass and can be seen and purchased nationwide.
That aside, Sotho traditional wear has evolved. It now features distinct South African prints that can be sewn into different beautiful styles that remind you of African textiles like ankara.
You can have them as two-pieces, skirts, tops, dresses, jackets, mix and match, afro-urban fashion, etc. Check out some of them below.
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