You Are What You Wear
July 1, 2011
People and societies are deliberate in choosing how to dress themselves, because clothes fill more than one role. They protect us from our environments, decorate our bodies and can even be used to wordlessly communicate things about us as individuals. Our style is also a reflection of the cultures in which we live and participate, and is indicative of the groups to which we belong. For these reasons, the clothes a person wears have a particular ability to tell part of their story, helping others to better understand where they come from, how they think, and what they feel.
The â€˜Ugandan storyâ€™ can be rather varied between tribes and regions, but as a single nation, there are many commonalities. Walking around the streets of rural and urban Uganda, you will see women of various backgrounds donning colorful saris called gomesi. These beautiful cotton, linen, and silk dresses are floor length, have voluminous short sleeves, and are tied at the hips by a wide cloth belt. According to historians, gomesi were designed in the 1940s when Christian missionary teachers commissioned Indian tailors to fashion uniforms for their students. They were first worn in the Buganda Kingdom and soon became popular nationwide.This article of clothing has been passed down from the colonial days, and its bright designs echo the vibrancy of the traditional dancing, singing culture. Today, gomesi can be worn on a daily basis, for special occasions, or whenever one seeks to command respect.
The culture of clothing is as much about creativity as it is about tradition. Ugandan fashion designer Gloria Wavamunno describes creativity as â€œthe power to connect the seemingly unconnected.â€ Gloria made a splash this February at London Fashion Week where she showcased her most recent collection called â€œNot a Dream, My Soulmateâ€. The collection puts a youthful, trendy twist on some traditional Ugandan prints (similar to those used in the gomesi). She also used her talent and captive audience to spread a pro-social message of solidarity in Africa on bold black and white graphic tees.
Gloriaâ€™s work artfully blends the past with the current and even the future of Africa. It is apparent that Uganda is very much a part of who she is, and she maintains that heritage while creating designs that are a blend of traditional and progressive styles. Building Tomorrow believes we operate in very much the same way. When we are welcomed into a community, we are aware that we are bringing about change. Yet we make a concerted effort to honor the culture and the systems already in place by working with the communities. In this way, the school and the opportunities for development are the fruits of their own labor – something that they wanted, worked for, and will continue to benefit from.
For more looks on Gloria Wavamunnoâ€™s Ugandan inspired designs, check out www.gloriawavamunno.com.