How an Afghan woman adopts her traditional dress

Afzal at eight years old.

Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

Afzal notes that the Afghan dress varies from ethnic group to ethnic group, each with its own rich history. After all, Afghanistan is a diverse nation and recognizes 14 different ethnicities, ranging from Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmens and Tajiks, all of whom have their own take on traditional clothing. (Some of these ethnicities, like the Hazaras, are considered a minority and are at risk of persecution by the Taliban.) “We have different tribes and ethnicities,” she said. “Each ethnic group has different clothes. There is not a single Afghan dress but different types of dresses for region and ethnicity.

Afzal’s style of Afghan clothing comes from his father’s side, who is part of the Pashtun people of Afghanistan, especially the Kuchi nomads. Like many ethnicities in Afghanistan, Kuchi women have a long history of wearing silk and velvet clothing, adorned with embroidery and metals, usually in the form of bells. “Women make their own dresses,” she says. “They’ve been working on it for years, and it’s their wedding dress.” Many current dresses are made from several older dresses that have been modified or recycled into new dresses. “This is why you will never find the same dress twice,” Afzal explains.

While Afzal is currently in Belgium, she nevertheless hopes that her messages dressed in traditional and vibrant Afghan clothing will inform the world about her country’s rich history. “I am happy that we are bringing the attention of the world to the fact that Afghanistan has such beautiful clothes,” she said. “It’s our own culture.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lema Afzal / @lemaafzal

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