Zanzibar’s fashion, 1900-1910




















Wealthy people, in the Swahili coastal regions , as Sultans, local elites and some Indian Merchants, wore a rich mixture of hand-woven textiles with imported stuff, velvet, veils, silver masks, caps, embroidery and silken turbans (Ross, 2008 and Fair, 1998).

Alvaro Velho (1989), clearly shows that, in the 15th century, local elites wore very expensive and rich materials: silk, wool, linen and colorful listed cotton; some Moors[1] they use over the head plowed silk cloths with gold threads.

Rich Islamic fashions (see fig.3) echoes the territory zenith’s of this region in East Africa, as described by Salamah bint Said[2]

Rich women prefer gold brocades in many devices, velvet or silk richly trimmed, but in very hot weather plain, light calico or muslin is worn. Shirts and trousers never conform as to pattern (…) the silk headkerchief proper reaches as far as the ankles. When an Arabian lady goes out she dons her shale, representing comforter, jacket, ulster, waterproof, and dustcoat all in one. It is a large wrap of black silk worked round the edges with gold or silver designs according to the owner’s property and taste.

This pluricultural ‘ID embodiment’ resulted from the performed diversity of fashions in several regions across the Indian Ocean. Bombay, Gujarati, Goa, Diu, Daman , Madagascar, Comoro Islands, “Oman, France, Britain, Persian and China”(Salamah bin Said, 2009:93) actively participated on the growth of the inter –regional trade that connected these regions.

[1] The portuguese expression to refere to Arabic speaking people

[2] Salamah bint Said, also known as Emily Ruete, was the daughter of Sultan Seyyd Said of Zanzibar and Oman. In 1880, she wrote her book, Memoires of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: