What Do Women in Madagascar Wear?

Updated April 17, 2017

Women in the country of Madagascar may sometimes wear a traditional article of clothing called a lamba. The word lamba is used to describe two pieces of woven cloth. One piece of the cloth is worn around a woman's waist or across the chest while the other piece is worn around her head or shoulders.

Country of Madagascar

The country of Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique. It is the fourth-largest island in the world. The population of the country is about 12 million.

Versatile Attire

The decorative woven fabric can be used in a variety of different ways. The beautiful lamba may be worn much like a toga. If the temperature becomes too cold, the pieces of fabric can be worn as a shawl or as a hood. To help out a busy mother, the lamba can be used to carry a child on her back.


The clothing of Madagascar has incredible, unique designs. The lamba is often elaborately decorated with bright and colourful scenes from daily life on the island. Many bright colours are incorporated into the fabric using natural dyes such as berries, roots and bark. A proverb may be printed at the bottom of the lamba.

Non-Traditional Clothing

The clothing of Madagascar is also influenced by European fashion. A variety of stores in the country sell non-traditional clothing. The stores are often filled with imported clothing and outfits that are influenced by Western cultures.


Malagasy people use clothing as a form of identity. Wealth, age and place in society of individuals can be all be determined by the clothing worn by the people of Madagascar.

Do Women Wear Lambas Most of the Time?

Most women do not wear a lamba all of the time. Some women wear a lamba around the house but dress differently when they go out. Other women may wear regular clothing around the house and wear a lamba only to go out. Older women might wear a lamba on top of their regular clothing.

How a Lamba is Made

The hand spun yarn is made from elegant natural silk. The yarn is dyed to begin the creation and then it woven on a hand loom. The type of silk used to make a lamba can be found only on the island of Madagascar. The process of creating a lamba is very time consuming.

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About the Author

Caroline Romero began writing professionally in 1991 for the Niagara College Newspaper, "Niagara News." Her work has been published in Brock University's "Surgite" magazine. She holds a Journalism-Print diploma from Niagara College, Welland and is working on a Bachelor of History degree at Brock University.