The Zulu community is an ethnic group in South Africa. It is renowned for its vibrant traditions and cultural heritage. From distinct cuisine to their captivating, traditional clothing, the Zulu people have a unique identity.

Particularly in rural areas, individuals showcase their remarkable skills in beadwork, craft-making, and weaving, preserving the rich artistic traditions of their culture. Women don different attire according to the various stages of their lives.

Married women hold a distinguished status within the community, and their attire differs from that of unmarried girls. Here we will explore what Zulu women wear based on their age.

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Isidwaba zulu women wear

Isidwaba is traditional garment Zulu women wear as part of their cultural attire. It is a pleated skirt that extends to ankle length and is typically made of animal skin, mostly cowhide. Zulu women wear Isidwaba as a cultural expression and to celebrate their heritage.

The garment holds deep cultural significance, representing femininity, tradition, and pride in their Zulu identity. It is often adorned with vibrant colors, beadwork, or other decorative elements, enhancing its aesthetic appeal and reflecting the rich artistic traditions of the Zulu culture.

Women wear Isidwaba during various social and ceremonial events such as weddings and festivals.




Isicholo is a traditional hat for married Zulu women. It is typically crafted from woven grass in various shapes and sizes. The Isicholo can be cylindrical or cone-shaped, often adorned with beadwork or other decorative elements.

The Isicholo symbolizes the maturity and marital status of married Zulu women. It signifies their transition into womanhood and represents their commitment to marital responsibilities and community roles.

The Isicholo is a crucial cultural item in Zulu customs and traditions. Women wear the Isicholo when attending special events and ceremonies such as weddings and cultural events.




Imibhaco is another traditional garment for Zulu women. It is typically a sleeveless top or breastplate-like garment crafted from hardened animal skin. Imibhaco is often adorned with intricate beadwork, reflecting the artistry and craftsmanship of the Zulu culture.

Zulu married and unmarried women wear Imibhaco to showcase their cultural heritage and express their sense of belonging. The garment is deeply rooted in Zulu traditions and reflects the pride and wearer's identity.

Zulu women wear Imibhaco during significant cultural ceremonies, celebrations, and festivals to honor their customs and traditions. The Imibhaco allows Zulu women to display their sense of style and fashion and express their cultural heritage. The beadwork and decorations on Imibhaco convey social status and personal creativity.

The traditional garment also helps the Zulu community to preserve and promote their culture as they pass the Imibhaco to the future generation.



Inkehli zulu women wear

Inkehli is a decorative apron particularly worn by married Zulu women. Women usually wear Inkehli over the Isidwaba skirt, and it serves as an embellishment to the overall outfit. The Inkehli is typically made of beadwork, featuring intricate patterns and vibrant colors.

 It is carefully crafted using small glass beads that are intricately woven together. The designs on the Inkehli often hold symbolic meanings and reflect the individual's personal style and cultural identity.

The Inkehli holds cultural and aesthetic value. It symbolizes the creativity and artistry of Zulu women, reflecting their pride in their heritage. Zulu women wear Inkehli during ceremonies, cultural events, and celebrations, enhancing the wearer's beauty and cultural identity.




Umgaco is a traditional Zulu dress for Zulu women. The dress is crafted of vibrant and colorful fabric, featuring bold patterns and designs. Umgaco is a loose-fitting, flowing garment that covers the body from the shoulders to the ankles. The intricate beadwork, embroidery, or other embellishments add more beauty to the dress.

Zulu women wear Umgaco to express their cultural identity, showcase their sense of style, and celebrate their heritage. It symbolizes pride, reflecting the richness and uniqueness of Zulu traditions.

Umgaco allows women to embrace and display their cultural heritage during important events, such as weddings, cultural festivals, or community gatherings.



Imvunulo zulu women wear

Imvunulo is a traditional garment, a beaded apron draped around the waist. It is popularly known for its intricate beadwork designs. Imvunulo is typically made of glass beads meticulously hand-woven into stunning patterns and motifs.

Zulu women of various ages and marital statuses wear Imvunulo. It is worn during significant ceremonies, cultural events, and traditional celebrations.



Ibheshu zulu women wear

Ibheshu is a traditional skirt for married Zulu women. It is made of animal skin and signifies marital status within the community. Women usually wear it with traditional garments like the Isicholo (hat) and Inkehli (apron) to complete the outfit.



Izicolo zulu women wear

Izicolo is a beaded headband worn around the head, typically across the forehead or as a crown. They are worn around the head, typically across the forehead, or as a crown. Izicolo is made of small glass beads intricately woven in vibrant colors and patterns.

The beadwork often features geometric designs, symbols, or motifs with cultural significance. Zulu women wear Izicolo to add a touch of beauty and elegance to their overall appearance.

The beadwork designs on Izicolo may also carry personal or community-specific symbols that communicate social status or convey messages. Women wear Izicolo during ceremonies, cultural events, or festive occasions.



Amacansi bracelet zulu women wear

Amacansi is traditional ankle or leg bracelets worn by Zulu women as a form of adornment. They are typically made of beads and are worn around the ankles. The beads come in various colors and patterns, allowing for various design possibilities.




Amambatha is beaded collars or necklaces for Zulu women. They are typically worn around the neck, resting on the collarbone or chest area. Amambatha is crafted of small glass beads meticulously threaded in intricate patterns and designs.



Zulu women have distinct and vibrant traditional attire that reflects their rich cultural heritage. Each garment holds its significance. Some clothing signifies marital status, others mark essential life stages, while some attire enhances beauty and elegance.

These traditional garments help to preserve and promote the Zulu traditions. Besides traditional attire, Zulu women also wear Modern Western clothing like skirts, dresses, pants, t-shirts, and blouses.


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About the Author: Dinushka Breaker Gunasekara

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