Djibouti is a blend of Colonial French and modern Arabic influences. It is bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as by the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, a location that makes it a strategic place for the transport of goods in the region. The ports are the backbone of the country's economy (Every Culture, n.d). The country's population is mainly divided between the Afars of the north and the dominant Issa. The Afars and Issas, the first settlers of Djibouti, helped establish the country's history (Minority Right, n.d). In Djibouti, clothing styles play a significant role in proclaiming the wearer's ethnicity. The hot and arid climate is also reflected in Djiboutian clothing (Quilt of Belonging, 2016).
Somali and Afar (Ethiopia and Eritrea) men dress similarly. They dress in Macawiis, a sarong wrapped around the waist. The cloth used to make the Macawiis is typically white or plaid. Traditional men like to pair the Macawiis with long white robes, whiles modern men prefer long scarves (Mhamza, 2020).
The typical traditional attire is a single-strapped gown that both Afar and Somali women wear (Buraale, n.d.). Somali women in ancient times wore it in white or red. Some Djibouti women prefer the Dirac, a floor-length robe worn over a Gorgorat, a long slip with embroidery at the hem. The Dirac is pulled up on the sides to show off the embroidery on the Gorgorat and a Shalmat headscarf is used to cover the head or shoulder (Boujrada, 2018). In the past, Somali women wore Baatis, a long casual dress. The Baatis were solely worn indoors though that has changed in recent times. The Shaal is another clothing item which is usually used to cover women’s shoulders or heads (Boujrada, 2018).
Influence from Other Cultures
The men in Djibouti dress in traditional Arabian costumes such as Jellabiya occasionally. The women dress in Jibab, a traditional garment with a broader cut resembling the Arabian Thobe. 21st centuryWomen sometimes accessorise with unique jewellery and headdresses resembling those used by the Maghrebian Berber tribes.
Some contemporary fashion designers putting Djibouti fashion on the international map are Badria Houssein Liban and Yanie Ayoun. Badria owns a global fashion brand named Gueska Afrika (meaning the Horn of Africa). She draws inspiration from her Arabian and Djiboutian background to create her designs. She is reinventing and bringing the ancient traditional designs into the 21st-century whiles maintaining the original modest nature of the Djiboutian dressing. One of her unique arts is redesigning the male Macawiis for the modern Djiboutian woman (Boujrada, 2018).
Yanie Ayoun is the creative director of Hido-Yeelo. The brand is built on the customs of her mother, a great Somali queen and fashion icon who was fiercely and passionately committed to defending women. She designs contemporary outfits and accessories with a local touch that are stylish for any occasion anywhere in the world. She was named the fashion designer of the year in 2016. Yanie aims to use her talent to design a new future for Djiboutian youth (Yalieastafrica, 2016).
By Anthony Ibegbulem, Africa's Young Fashion Leaders Fellow (Project Management) at the Council for International African Fashion Education
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Buraale, G. (n.d.). What are some characteristics of Djibouti’s traditional clothing? [online] Quora. Available at: https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-characteristics-of-Djiboutis-traditional-clothing [Accessed 24 Nov. 2022].
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Mhamza and Mhamza (2020). TEXTILES, EMBROIDERIES AND COSTUMES OF DJIBOUTI. [online] Textile Magazine, Textile News, Apparel News, Fashion News. Available at: https://textilevaluechain.in/in-depth-analysis/articles/textile-articles/textiles-embroideries-and-costumes-of-djibouti/ [Accessed 24 Nov. 2022].
www.cia.gov. (n.d.). Djibouti - The World Factbook. [online] Available at: https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/djibouti/.Yalieastafrica.org. (2016). YALI - Media. [online] Available at: https://www.yalieastafrica.org/blog/index.php?entryid=11 [Accessed 24 Nov. 2022].