After German missionaries began to settle in southern Africa and were appalled by the semi-nakedness of the Herero people they persuaded them to cover up when they work for them.
The Herero people saw rival Nama groups and the wives of German missionaries wearing long patterned gowns with underskirts and did their own interpretation of 19th century European fashion and African style – and that means colour and patterns. The prudish protestants wore only grey, black and dark blue and only small minded pattern.
Some items of Herero clothing are still named after parts of their traditional leather dress. The headdress is build to represent the horns of the cattle, which are so important to the Himba and Herero communities.
To get a respectful and voluptuous silhouette Herero women wear long dresses with many petticoats underneath and matching headdresses. These outfits are regarded as proper dress for traditional married women. By wearing the long dress, a newly married woman shows her in laws that she is willing to take up the responsibilities of a Herero home and will raise her children to respect their heritage and their father’s family.
The long dress is heavy, hard to keep clean and laborious and expensive to make. The outfit has changed over the years to reflect the style of new generations, and sewing it allows women to show their personal skill and creativity.