Let’s talk about clothes.
Basotho style is all over the place so I have plenty of pictures to be my thousand words.
The weather is starting to turn in the lowlands (hot to cold, we’re entering winter down here) and so are the clothes. We had a streak of cold days this last week and in town every shop and street vendor had their big winter coats out. People seemed worried about me in jeans and a t-shirt as the called out, “Sister, I have jackets, it is winter!”
In reality, a layer of coats is the main thing added to the winter wardrobe. To me it seems Basotho are always dressed to warm. On summer days I’ll be sweating up a storm in shorts and a shirt while the people around me are wearing leggings, longs skirts, and blankets around their waist- all at the same time.
I have mentioned Basotho blankets before. They are a part of the culture in Lesotho. Certain districts represent different colours. The many designs, such as corn, wheat, buffalo, even the King, represent different aspects of Lesotho’s history and culture. But blankets of all kinds are part of everyday Basotho wear. Bo-‘m’e wrap it around their waist or use it to anchor a baby on their backs and bo-ntate wear it around their shoulders. Like I mentioned, this is year around wear, but I really start to understand it when the cold creeps in.
Under the blankets are many layers and many styles of clothing. There are many shirts with interesting English phrases. A quick selection: I May be Wrong but Probably Not, Wild and Free, Warning- Choking Hazard, I’m Hungover, Broncos Superbowl XLVIII Champs, and one of my personal favorites, Dope Shit. These shirts are sold all over the place. I own a Dope Shit shirt which is part of a clothing line called ‘Dope Couture’ (no joke) and can be purchased at taxi ranks all over southern Africa.
On the other end of the spectrum are extremely formal clothes. I attended a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp last year and high school girls from all over Northern Lesotho came and got to wear non-uniform clothes. I loved seeing the array of their choices especially the girls who came looking like they were ready for Homecoming, not sleeping on the floor for 5 days. And the traditional dress in Lesotho is called a seshoeshoe (sha-shway-shway). It is the same type of fabric and comes in many colours and patterns and it’s sew in many styles. Bo-‘m’e wear seshoeshoe all the time. The dresses are beautiful but the material is thick and stiff so it’s not the most comfortable thing around. And paired with a nice blanket things can get warm under there.
Basotho daily wear can fall anywhere on this scale just as clothing in the States differ from person to person. And with all the layering there are usually great combinations from both ends, super casual and yet very formal.
But I know why you’re all really here. To get awesome fashion tips from me. Because even in Lesotho I keep up with all the new lines.
My school does not have a definite dress code. But my teachers mostly dress professionally with a more casual day thrown in every now and again, so I follow their lead. What I don’t follow is the love of heels here. I don’t have a long walk to my school but the whole way is rocky, sandy terrain that turns into mush when it rains. I struggle in flats. I don’t understand how my teachers and many other women in Lesotho get around in heels. I’m awestruck, but not enough to attempt it myself. I know me and my history with heels.
I like to call my style nun on the prairie with a little hobo chic thrown in. I did not know how to pack for Lesotho. I brought a lot of long and flow-y. And when I lost some weight things just got longer and flow-ier. Since I arrived I’ve supplemented my wardrobe with items purchased here (actually a pretty good selection available) and having my parents send me some things I had left behind. I also purchased myself some Dope Couture of course.
My teachers and ‘M’e always think I look great no matter what I wear (or at least that’s what they tell me). So when I’m a little too far from laundry day I don’t mind throwing on clashing patterns and an oversized dress to head out for the day. They are very overprotective of me in winter though. I am scolded if they don’t think my outfit is warm enough.
Winter is coming. So my beautiful fashion sense will be covered up by pants and coats. You’ll never know what’s underneath and whether or not I’ve been wearing the same thing all week.