Guest Post : Countries’ Characterized By Their Clothing


One of the most visible characteristics of a nation’s identity is its traditional costumes. We would know a Scotsman anywhere by his kilt, a German by his lederhosen, or an Austrian woman by her dirndl.

This diversity in dress ‒ what outsiders might call strange or unusual ‒ provides a way for a country to make a statement about itself and its heritage.

Let’s take a look at some of these traditional outfits. As you might expect, amazing attire is found in amazing places in the world.


Men in skirts

For those in the Western word, perhaps the most striking and strange for us is to see a man in a skirt or dress. But in many countries, this style of dress is the norm.

Perhaps the most well-known and most elaborate of the “men in skirts” is the Scottish kilt. This traditional outfit includes the pleated, plaid woolen skirt; long knitted white socks; a specially laced shoe called a ghillie brogue; a sporran a small pouch; a sign dubs, a small knife tucked into the top of the socks, a plaid sash held with a brooch or silver pin, and sometimes a small hat called a bonnet, also plaid. The plaid denotes the ancestry of the wearer, as families have their own individual plaid.

The sporran is made of leather or fur and is generally decorated with hair or fur. It takes the place of pockets. The sporran comes in different types to match the occasion from daywear to more formal wear. Dress sporrans are quite elaborate with at least 3 fur tassels, silver crosses and chains, and even gemstones.

Much less elaborate than the Scottish men are the men of Bhutan who wear a knee-length robe called a gho, which js tied at the waist. A more formal gho is embellished with a stone called a kabney that runs from left should to right hip. In an effort to encourage nationalism, the gho and kabney are required the dress code for school boys and government officials.

Skirts are again part of the dress code for the men Albania. The flared skirt, usually white, is called a fustanella and is worn over pants. It is also the dress for the Greek Guards. The skirt has generally around 60 pleats and is made from heavy, homespun material.

With the fustanella, an Albanian male wears a jacket whose sleeves are only attached part ways. The allows the sleeves to be thrown back, and are seldom actually worn.

In some parts of the country, a sleeveless coat made from white wool is worn over the fustanella.

Men in skirts can also be found in Malaysia, where their attire is called a sarong. It is basically a length of fabric wrapped around the waist. It is often plaid or brightly colored batik-dyed patterns. It is worn for religious events and for daily wear.


Women’s wear

If men in skirts seem strange to us Westerners, then the opposite is also true. There are several countries where pants are the norm for traditional women’s attire.

In Turkey, both men and women wear baggy pants called a salvar. With them, they wear a kameez, a long shirt, although in more modern times it is often shorter.

A standout in women’s wear worldwide is the gele, or headgear worn by the women of Nigeria. It is a large colorful headdress worn for special celebrations, and whose motto is “the bigger and taller the better.”

Using a fabric with a bold African print, an African woman wraps the material around and around and upwards to create a gele. The fabric size ranges from 8 inches in width and 54 inches long to a fabric that is 20 inches wide and 80 inches long.

In some areas, the way in which a gele is tied can tell a woman’s marital status. If the end leans to the right, that means the woman is married; if it leans left the woman is single.

In modern Nigeria, the gele continues to be popular not just as an accessory but often the main focus of an outfit. Gele fabrics have evolved and are can now be found with scalloped edges, embellished with crystals or hand-sewn beads, and laser-cut designs.

In many areas, tying a gele is done by professionals in salons.

For many Westerners, the sight of a Muslim woman in a full-body burqa may “strange,” or at least different from what we are used to seeing. Burqas are worn by women in some, but certainly not all heavily populated Islamic countries.

The burqa covers the entire body A small portion of the facial area can be removed to expose a small portion of the face which is still covered, but with a semi-transparent material. Rules for the wearing of a burqa and what type vary from country to country.

In parts of India, for example, young unmarried women, or women married only a few years, must wear it. After she has been married a few years, the husband decides if must continue to wear her burqa.


Other interesting attire

We’ve all seen the famous footwear of the Dutch in pictures, but if you were to see someone walking down an American sidewalk in them, they would certainly catch your eye. Wooden shoes, or clogs, are worn in a number of countries, such as Sweden and Norway, and some form of the wooden shoe is found nearly worldwide.

Traditional wooden clogs are made entirely of wood, carved from once piece of wood.

Some clogs have only wooden soles with leather uppers. The Japanese have their own version of the wooden show called a geta, which is an open sandal type show. Wikipedia describes them as resembling both clogs and flip-flops and a “kind of sandal on an elevated wooden base.”

In India, the wooden-soled version is called a Paduka and is the most basic and oldest type of footwear for all Indians. It is basically a wooden sole with a post and knob, the post fitting between the big and second toe.

Although no longer in use, overshoes used to be made of wood and were basically wooden soles with straps that were worn over traditional footwear. The overshoes were popular with farmers and hunters as a means to keep their feet dry.


  Guest Blogger Lily is the founder of SkyWeFly, where she and her associates blog about photographs, stories and travel tips that will help you make a great journey. She hopes to bring her passion to more people via SkyWeFly.

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

One Response to Guest Post : Countries’ Characterized By Their Clothing

  1. Really like this post.

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