Culture’s influence on dress code
Dress code varies with different culture. Dress code does have a social significance with various rules and expectations that are valid depending on a situation and occasion.
One’s dress code defines lifestyle or can be an indication of the person’s gender, income, occupation and social class, religious affiliation, attitude towards comfort, fashion, traditions, gender expression, marital status and so many other factors.
In traditional Rwanda, people dressed up in backcloth, animal skin and banana fibers. Men would wrap small piece of animal skin or backcloth around their waists while married women would wrap themselves with what was commonly known as Inkanda, above the chest.
Younger women, dressed up in Ishabure, which was wrapped below the waistline leaving the chest naked. Like any generation, dress code defined status. For instance, clothes made out of animal skin and backcloths, were for the wealthy and those made out banana fibers were for the middle class.
Clothes communicate other social messages such as personality or cultural identity. The most prominent Rwandan cultural wear is the Umushanana, worn by both men and women. It is usually connected to cultural ceremonies such as traditional weddings or any event that revolves around culture. It would be more than odd for someone to go to work dressed in Mishanana (plural) on a daily basis.
However, in 2009 the Rwandan Parliament was operating with no official law on a standard dress code for legislators. A bill on the dress code flopped as members disagreed on what exactly should be considered as ‘formal dress code.’ Some Members of Parliament advocated for men wearing suits and neckties but there was no consensus on whether female MP’s should wear the traditional attire (Umushanana) or decent, executive wear.