International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe

Flashback Summer- International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe (Thobe)
Omdurman market, 1934 (woman in the center is wearing a tobe!), from here
Today I've got an international vintage post that's near and dear to my heart because it's based on Sudan's "vintage" wear!  

For my newer readers, my family lived in Sudan for a while, and I adore the people there.  The culture is hospitable and relationship-oriented, and the Sudanese know how to relax and cherish time with loved ones.  And also, they have great style, via the Sudanese tobe:
Flashback Summer- International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe (Thobe)

Now, to be obvious, Sudanese style is very different from Western style.  The tobe is worn mostly by the Sudanese Arab tribes of northern Sudan, but some southerners also wear it.  It's very much a traditional cultural statement, and the color and condition of the tobe can communicate certain messages.  A red tobe can be a wedding outfit, and a white tobe is the western equivalent of a woman's business suit.  Also, if a tobe is given as a gift, it is polite to leave the edges where the cloth was cut raw.  This shows that the tobe is unworn, and it is up to the giftee to hem it before it's worn.

It's all about being matchy-matchy with tobes, preferably making your entire outfit one or two colors, and throwing in some diamonds or gold somewhere would be optimal.  Personally, I thrived in such a fashion atmosphere when I was there.  In case you hadn't noticed, I love being matchy-matchy, and I have a good bit of gaudy in me that I usually have to tame in western contexts.  But not in Sudan!

The tobe is a 5-6 meter long piece of fabric, just like one would buy at a fabric store.  (Funny story: A Sudanese woman that visited America remarked that we had the best tobe stores.  Puzzled by this and wondering where in America there is a tobe store, my friend asked her what the store was called.  "Joann,"  the woman replied. "They have so much variety in tobes!"  Ha ha!)  It MUST be worn with a skirt.  Pants just aren't done.  I'm not sure why, but they just aren't!

Sudanese women wear the tobes by wrapping, knotting, and tucking it in a certain way to create a drapey, lovely dress that covers from the top of the head to the ankle.
Since I could find NOT tobe-wrapping videos, here's a quick video I made to demonstrate:

And here are some tobe pictures, so you guys get the idea.  They're SO beautiful and can range from $20 all the way up to hundreds and thousands of dollars!
From a wedding:
Flashback Summer- International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe (Thobe)

Flashback Summer- International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe (Thobe)

Flashback Summer- International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe (Thobe)

My friend Laura and I:
Flashback Summer- International Vintage: Sudanese Tobe (Thobe)

So what do you think of the tobe?  Does it look like something you'd be willing to wear, or does it seem like too much work?
(I do have a design for the "EZ Tobe" in the works, just sayin...)

2 comments

  1. 1) Could the red wedding tobe get any better? and 2) I will be your first cusomter for the EZ Tobe...

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  2. I am fascinated by traditional clothing styles from around the world and would be honoured to try sporting a tobe one day. Thank you for sharing your expertise on them with us, dear gal.

    ♥ Jessica

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