Heritage Month – Batswana Culture!

Happy Friday, today we continue to celebrate heritage month and I would like to highlight the Batswana culture. My sister’s father is Tswana, so I have lived quite close with Tswana people and have a good grip of the language, Setswana. Batswana people originate from Botswana and in South Africa they settled in the North West province which was called Bophuthatswana during the Apartheid era. Bophuthatswana was an independent self-governing state and was incorporated into South Africa in 1994. Tswana people originally wore clothes made of animal skin, these outfits are still worn by traditional dancers.

The Traditional Outfit

Married women wear a blue leteisi (shweshwe in Sotho) skirt with a white shirt and mogagolwane (checked blanket) over their shoulders with tukwi (headwrap) made from shweshwe. Shweshwe fabric is a printed cotton fabric that is used to make many traditional clothes in South Africa, the fabric is manufactured in South Africa by Da Gama Textiles. The fabric is manufactured in a variety of colors and geometric designs. Tswana traditional wear is noted for always using the blue Shweshwe and small geometric patterns. The pictures below are from my friend Keabetswe’s Traditional Wedding and shows how all the women dress. Shweshwe fabric is now part of popular culture in South Africa and comes in a lot more designs and colours.

The Pattern and Fabric

McCall’s M7801

I was inspired by the traditional Tswana dress and with the checkered blanket, but I wanted to make something I could wear often too. I’ve had this pattern in my stash for a while now and thought it would work perfectly, I really like View A, sleeveless and a full ruffle in the neckline. I liked that it came with different cup sizes and I cut the D-cup size. Even so the front opening was still too deep for my liking but the ruffle offers more cover. For the fabric, I used Shweshwe that I got from Metro Lifestyle, they were still reasonably prices at R70/m, I went to 2 other fabric stores and they were charging R90/m, for Shweshwe, that is insane. Metro also has a very wide selection of colours and prints, I knew I wanted blue but I also wanted to mix things up. The sales assistant lady from Metro and I actually had so much fun putting together colour combinations that we thought could work. See below images on some of my mixing and matching. I finally settled on the blue with the small orange dots with the orange classic shweshwe print.

Sewing The Dress

Tswana Inspired Shweshwe Dress

Sewing the dress was really easy and straight forward, just sewing 12 darts for the bodice and lining was really tedious. The dress has a set of front waist and bust darts and a set of back waist darts. I loved the tulip wrap dress, originally my intention was to make the skirt and bodice in blue and the ruffle in the contrasting orange, but I love the final product of breaking up the blue but making the bodice the contrasting orange. The ruffle is hemmed with orange bias type because I thought I would make the ruffle with the orange but the pop of colour makes things interesting. The head wrap was not intentional but this was all the fabric I had left so I thought joining the 2 would be great. I love how it turned out and the mixing of the two colours of the front knot. I’m ready to attend the Tswana wedding, what do my Tswana friends think of this? Did I do a good job at a modern Tswana dress?

Lastly, thank you to my friend Keabetswe for assisting with information and correct names and my sister Tshego for being my awesome photographer and hype man. Next week, on the 24th is Heritage Day and my last post on this mini series, can you guess what culture I will highlight?

9 thoughts on “Heritage Month – Batswana Culture!

  1. As soon as I saw you in your dress, I just said, “Wow!” and then, “Yes!” Your dress came out so lovely and it is such a happy color combination! Thanks for sharing your inspiration as well as all the fun color combinations you and the sales assistant lady at Metro put together, too! xo


  2. Great job again, Tina! I should definitely NOT visit that fabric store, I would be in so much trouble. I love every fabric you photographed. Is Shweshwe fabric less stiff than Ankara? How do those two compare in terms of drape and weight?


    1. Before washing, shweshwe is definitely stiffer than Ankara but after washing I would say Shweshwe is softer than Ankara. Shweshwe is heavier but not by too much and there is no drape to Shweshwe it’s like a quilting cotton. It would make the best puff sleeve with all the drama. Don’t worry, sometimes I will type my name on my own phone and it will autocorrect to Tina 🙆🏾‍♀️🤣


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