Tswana people are rich in cultural heritage, expressed through several means, including through their traditional attires. With the growth in fashion and the evolving trends in the contemporary world, Tswana traditional dresses and attires have been dynamic, adapting to innovations in dressing styles while still projecting their rich cultural heritage.
The Tswana people are Bantu-speaking ethnic groups of South Africa. Although Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe have many Tswana people, South Africa has about 5 million Tswana language speakers, making South Africa the country with the highest number of Tswana people.
Although Tswana people can be found in four different countries, they still share similar cultures, including food, music, language, art, and cultural attire. Tswana cultural attire is known as Shweshwe, a fabric that was initially dyed indigo. Shweshwe is made up of shapes and patterns that represent the Tswana culture.
Shweshwe Tswana Traditional Dresses and Attire Were First Indigo, But Now Have Other Color Variants
Today, the Tswana prints (Shweshwe) can create beautiful and elegant dresses and attires that follow fashion trends but showcasing the Tswana culture. Although the Shweshwe Tswana prints were first dyed indigo, there are now various colors such as green and blue. All colors of Shweshwe still maintain Tswana patterns and shapes. However, you are likely going to find people in blue Tswana prints more than other color variants.
There is a perfect Tswana traditional attire for Tswana brides, Tswana wedding guests, or just anyone who wants to showcase the rich culture of the Tswana people through the clothes they wear. You don’t have to be going for a wedding to wear a Tswana traditional dress or attire; you can use the Shweshwe to sew attires for casual outings and events as well. To help you choose an ideal Tswana traditional dress or attire, here is a list of 20 elegant and beautiful dress ideas that you can make out of the Tswana prints.
1. Knee-Length Strapless Gowns
The knee-length strapless gown is a perfect Tswana traditional dress for any event, be it church services or weddings. This kind of outfit is also a great option for bridesmaids. The gown may be flared, mermaid gown, or pencil gown. The gown covers from the bust to the knees leaving the shoulders and legs exposed.
This is a simple attire that can be used for both big events and as a casual daily outfit, depending on the type of shoes it is worn with. For slim and curvy ladies, knee-length strapless mermaid, flare, or pencil gowns will be just perfect, but the flare will be a better idea for plus-size ladies.
2. Armless Blue or White Gown, Styled With Tswana Prints
The Tswana print does not have to be the major part of the dress to give the outfit that unique Tswana traditional look. You can also go for a white or blue gown, which could be maxi, mini, flare, pencil, off-shoulder, or strapless, and then use the Shweshwe to style the dress, creating a beautiful pattern.
The Shweshwe can be used to style only the upper or lower part of the dress or even throughout the dress, depending on the creativity and desire of the stylist and or the person who will wear it. This outfit is completed with a hair tie made with Tswana prints used to style the gown.
3. White Top And Pencil Skirt
A white top and pencil skirt made of Tswana fabric gives a touch of formal, modern, and Tswana traditional look. This looks like the modern version of the maxi skirt and white blouse dress. The pencil skirt usually has a slit in front or behind it to enable the lady to move more comfortably.
The white top is tucked into the skirt to create that formal but simple look. The fact that the skirt is made of Tswana fabric is not the only thing that makes this outfit a Shweshwe Tswana traditional dress, but also because this outfit is complete with a hair tie made of Tswana prints as well, to give it that exact traditional look. This outfit also looks good on trousers and pencil skirts.
4. Tswana Inspired Layered Gown
The full-length Tswana-inspired layered gown is an amazing option for a Tswana bride, while the bridesmaid and wedding guests who do not exactly want to steal the day can go for the knee-length Tswana-inspired layered gown. The gown may be sleeveless or sleeved, and the upper part is usually made of the unique Tswana fabric, which can be the blue, green, or indigo color variants. On the other hand, the lower layer, which usually comes beneath the upper layer at first, then becomes visible down to the knee or ankle, depending on the length of the dress.
A full-length Tswana-inspired ball gown is best for big or loud events, while the knee-length option can still be used for big events and regular events, like church services. Both slim and plus-size ladies can absolutely rock this outfit.
5. Peplum Blouse And Mermaid Skirt
Another Tswana traditional outfit that is totally worth trying out by slim and plus-size ladies is the peplum blouse and mermaid skirt. This is a great option, especially for plumpy or chubby women. The peplum blouse is usually fitted at the top, then a little bit below the bust, it flares. The division between the fitted and flare part is usually styled with a bow or a plain colored material.
The shirt is also fitted from the waist to the knee, then flares down to the ankle. Any color of the Tswana fabric can be used to sew a peplum blouse and mermaid skirt. This dress is usually styled with another plain colored material either on the blouse or skirt to bring out its beauty.
6. Full Length or Knee Length Pleated Gowns
The maxi or knee-length pleated gown made with Tswana prints is another simple but elegant Tswana traditional dress. The gown may be sleeveless or sleeved, usually fitted at the top, and then flares from in-between the waist and the bust. This outfit is also an awesome idea for bridesmaids.
The parting between the fitted and flared part of the gown can be covered with a big belt, which gives the dress more style and beauty. While this can be used for events, it can also serve as a casual outfit. So whatever way you what to rock your full-length or knee-length pleated gown, you can never go wrong.
Cultural Tswana Traditional Attires
Here are typically Tswana cultural attires worn by elderly women and brides.
7. Maxi Knee-Length Gown and Tartan Blanket
This outfit is another typical Tswana cultural attire. It is similar to the maxi full-length gown and tartan blanket in almost every way except that it stops at the knee. The lower part of the gown is lined with bold white stripes to make it more unique to the Tswana people. Although the Shweshwe can be found in other colors, this particular Tswana traditional dress style is seen more with the blue-colored Shweshwe.
Both young and elderly women can rock this outfit for any Tswana event. Like all other typical Tswana cultural dresses, this outfit won’t be complete without a hair tie made with Tswana prints.
8. Full-Length Maxi Gown And Tartan Blanket
The full-length maxi gown made with Tswana prints usually comes in blue-colored Shweshwe, and it is mostly worn by brides, married women, and elderly women. This dress covers the entire body of the woman from her shoulders to the ankle. The gown may be loose or fitted at the top and flares from underneath the bust to the ankle. The full-length maxi gown outfit is completed with a tartan blanket, which the lady wraps around Her shoulders.
During Tswana traditional weddings, a bride and her mother, aunties, and other women in her clan can use the maxi gown and tartan blanket because it is a typical Tswana cultural dress. The decency of this outfit speaks volumes of Africa’s moral and decency code. Although brides use this outfit for their traditional marriage, it can also be worn by wedding guests.
9. White Blouse, Maxi Skirt, And Tartan Blankets
Another typical Tswana cultural attire is the white blouse, maxi skirt, and Tartan blanket, which can be used by brides, bridesmaids, and elderly Tswana women. You can also use this attire for any events, and you would do well to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Tswana people as long as you are wearing it.
The spotless white short sleeves blouse is tucked in with a maxi skirt which could be knee-length or ankle-length – the skirt is made with beautiful Tswana prints. Tartan blankets which are made up of colors to match the blouse and skirt, are wrapped over the upper part of her body from the shoulders. The outfit is completed with a hair tie made of the same fabric as the skirt.
Tswana Traditional Attires For Couples
Whether you are already married or planning a wedding, and want to rock Tswana traditional outfits with your partner, here are some wonderful Tswana traditional attires for couples you may want to consider.
10. Off Shoulder Mermaid Gowns – Female | Suit – Male
Curvy brides who want to seize the day absolutely can barely go wrong using the Shweshwe fabric to sew a Tswana-inspired mermaid gown. This beautiful traditional dress style is perfect with both green, blue, and indigo Tswana prints. The mermaid gown hugs the lady loosely at the upper part of her body, then flares from the knee to the ankle to give that perfect mermaid look. Being an off-shoulder dress, it attracts a lot of attention to the upper part of the body of the person wearing it.
With the help of a good stylist, using the Tswana prints to sew a mermaid gown as a Tswana traditional dress is a good idea for most ladies irrespective of body type. But, the Tswana-inspired mermaid gown is best on slim and curvy ladies. While the lady is looking stunning in her mermaid gown, the man can go for a suit with a color to match her dress, styled with Tswana fabric.
11. Off Shoulder Full-Length Flare gowns and Trousers Made with Shweshwe – Female | Trouser Made With Tswana Print and White Shirt – Male
For that complete modern and fashionable look, without casting away the traditional spice of the Tswana culture, an off-shoulder full-length flare gown is a good choice. The gown, which starts beneath the shoulders, shows off the upper part of the body in a lovely and decent manner. The areas around the bust are fitted so that the lady is allowed to breathe, and then a few inches below, the dress flares to the ankle. This dress is elegant and super comfortable.
While the upper part of the gown may be styled with flowery patterns, the flared part is made of Tswana prints. The unique thing about this dress is that both slim and plus-size ladies can rock it without the concerns and worry about lack of curves or excess body folds because the gown does not give room for that.
While the lady rocks her off-shoulder gown, the man can wear a trouser made of Tswana fabric and a white shirt styled with the same fabric. Because they are a couple, the same fabric used in making the gown is used for the trouser and designs on the white shirt.
12. Armless Short Mermaid Gown – Female | Kaftan Styled With Tswana Fabric
Another great Tswana Traditional dress for couples who want to look simple at any occasion is the armless short mermaid gown, for the lady and white kaftan top styled with Tswana fabric and a blue trouser to march for the man. The short mermaid gown brings out the lady’s shape and being armless; it brings attention to the upper part of her body, which the gathered fabric at the top tries to hide.
13. Tswana Inspired Ball Gown – Female | White Top and Blue Trouser – Male
Another outfit that is a beautiful blend of modern fashion and Tswana culture is the Tswana-inspired ball gown. It is so unique, elegant, and traditional. The Tswana print is used to sew the upper part of the gown, which is fitted, while the full part of the gown is created with another plain fabric, which could be blue, black, or white.
This traditional dress style is a perfect idea for brides who totally want to seize their big day. It is almost similar to the modern-day flowing white wedding gown. To make this look a complete Tswana traditional look, the dress is worn along with a hair tie to wrap the lady’s hair. With the lady looking so beautiful and full in a ball gown, the man can wear a buttoned white shirt nicely patterned with Tswana fabric, tucked into a blue trouser.
14. Tswana Inspired Suit – Male | A-line Dress – Female
Women are not the only ones who have classy and modern Tswana traditional dresses; men do too. The use of Shweshwe to sew male suits is a blend of modern fashion and tradition. The suit can be worn over a white, blue, or black shirt.
This outfit can be worn by the groom and groomsmen at weddings and can also be used for other events. When worn by a man for any event aside from a Tswana wedding, this traditional outfit shows his appreciation for the Tswana rich cultural heritage. While a man looks all gentle and nice in a suit, his lady can be wearing a mermaid gown or an A-line dress.
15. White Top And Shweshwe Trousers
Although menfolk usually wear this Tswana traditional attire, it is actually a unisex Tswana traditional outfit. It has a touch of a formal and traditional look, and men can use this for their wedding, while women who wear this look do so for casual events or as wedding guests.
For men, the white top is usually the regular buttoned long sleeves or short sleeves top but can be restyled using Shweshwe, while for the women, it does not necessarily have to be a buttoned top. The trouser is made with Shweshwe, making it unique and not like the regular trousers we see every day. Here are some other wedding couple ideas you should try out.
Other Shweshwe Tswana Traditional Dresses and Attires
16. Tswana Inspired Jumpsuit
The way Africans use African fabrics to create a modern fashion look shows the creativity of African stylists. And this dynamism has enabled Africans to follow fashion trends while upholding our culture. One of the fashion statements that prove this fact is the Tswana-inspired jumpsuit, one of those pieces of clothing that are both modern and traditional.
What makes this dress style very unique is that it can be worn anywhere and anytime. The jumpsuit is a piece of cloth that has the blouse and trousers combined as one. The shoe you wear with this outfit will determine whether you will have a sophisticated or casual look.
17. Traditional Blouse Made With Shweshwe
Another amazing thing you can do with the Shweshwe is to sew a blouse that will be worn on a plain skirt or jean trouser. Most ladies go for a peplum blouse, fitted at the bust and flares a few inches underneath it.
Aside from a peplum top, you can also go with any style of blouse that fits your body stature and allows you to be comfortable. This kind of outfit also falls under Tswana traditional attires that can be a sophisticated or casual look depending on the shoe you wear with it.
18. Mini Strapless Flare Gown
While looking elegant, modern, and traditional, the Tswana-inspired mini strapless flare gown makes you look sexy and comfortable as well. The gown lacks shoulder straps, which brings a lot of attention to the upper part of the body, but totally conceals the bust, making the lady look decent.
The upper part of the gown hugs the lady’s body loosely, and then the flared part is neatly attached to look like a high waist skirt. As the outfit’s name implies, the gown is short and gives a little exposure to the thighs. All of these together make the gown sexy in a cool way.
Since it’s a flared gown, you can sit comfortably at any event without having to worry about the upper and fuller part of your thighs becoming too exposed or your underwear showing. This outfit makes a slender lady look really chic.
19. High Waist Pencil Skirt
This skirt also looks like the Xhosa Umbhaco skirt, but not exactly because it is made with a Tswana pattern and Tswana prints. The ankle-length skirt is lined with bold white stripes in specific areas to bring out its beauty. This Tswana-inspired high waist skirt can be worn with a white or black top.
To bring out the Tswana inspiration, the outfit goes with a hair tie made from Tswana fabric. The outfit looks amazing on tall and slim Ladies, as it conceals their height and makes their body look fuller. Those who are not comfortable with ankle-length skirts can also go for the knee-length, high waist skirt.
20. Tswana Inspired Sleeveless Pencil Gown
As a wedding guest who does not want to steal a little of the attention that should go to the bride but still wants to look very beautiful and attractive, a Tswana-influenced sleeveless pencil gown is just the perfect outfit.
This Tswana traditional dress style is fitted from the top to the knee to bring out the lady’s figure. To make the dress more classy, a net-like fabric is sewed over the Tswana print. The net-like flowery fabric is used alone around her bust region to reveal a little part of it, thereby giving the lady a simple but sexy look.