The Maasai people of Kenya are renowned for their vibrant attire and striking adornments through which they have established a unique sartorial identity that reflects their deep connection to their ancestral lands and their ancient way of life. Dressing in the Maasai society embodies functionality and symbolism, serving as a medium for self-expression, cultural preservation, and community identity.
The dressing style of Maasai women changes as she grows from an infant to an elder woman. These changes are visible in the clothing, and especially the colours, which are indicative of her age-set.
This article looks at the different clothing styles of Maasai women through different age sets.
1. Infants and ChildrenInfants and children of the Maasai society up to the age of three or four generally wear one piece of cloth tied at the right shoulder. Sometimes, the additional cloth is wrapped around the shoulder to protect from cold.
Teenage girls often wear clothing consisting of two pieces, one is worn around the waist fastened with a belt and the other across the right shoulder. They wear red and blue colour as it is known to be sacred and holy in the Maasai culture. Red – stands for bravery, unity, and blood, while blue represents energy and the sky.
The bride usually wears a red or orange coloured dress on her wedding day. The dress is generally decorated with patterns made by adding shimmering metal embellishments. Her jewellery is primarily in colour. The bridal collar, or necklace is made by her mother.
4. Pregnant Women
Pregnant women are usually dressed in either red, green, yellow, purple, or white with hints of black. According to Maasai Elders, red shuka, their traditional garment, wrapped around the woman’s body will protect the baby and give strength to the woman during pregnancy.
5. EldersTraditionally, Maasai elders wear clothes with fewer colours, limited to red, blue and purple.