The Dinka Corset

November 8th, 2012

The Dinka tribe of Southern Sudan have been inspiring the global fashion scene since the ‘90s with their renowned Dinka corset. The first notable appearance the Dinka corset had was in Christian Dior’s 1997 campaign. Here’s a little background about the corset.

The Dinka corset, traditionally called the Manlual, is worn by men to indicate their wealth in the community (usually calculated by the size of their herd). The female version of the corset is called the Alual and isn’t a corset at all, but a necklace. I was really fascinated when I realised that the men wore the corsets, not the women.

The corsets are made of colourful beautiful beads and are sewn around a young Dinka boy at a very early age. He never takes it off. As he grows older and richer, more beads are woven at the back while he’s still wearing it. The richer he is, the higher the back of the corset. The Manlual can be taken off after marriage though, so the man could wear it for about 20 years before he ever takes off his corset.

The female equivalent, the Alual, is made up of tiny glass beads with cowries woven in to increase fertility. The Alual also is an indication of the wealth of the woman’s family – the fuller it is, the richer she is. Like the men, she wears the corset from when she is a little girl till her wedding, never taking it off.

The beadwork of the Dinka is truly beautiful and inspiring and I found these facts about it interesting. Hope you did too.

This article was originally posted on Duafrica


References: Here, Here and Here
Photo Credit: Here

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  1. I like our culture because its the best therefore I need more from you guys who have it.

  2. It is incorrect that additional beads are sewn on over time and equally false that men never take these off. The corset is made of beads, fiber cord and wire. Authentic examples have closures or ties that allow them to be taken off and put back on. Reproductions tend to dispense with this detail. No one would want to sleep in such an outfit nor spend their day tending cattle in it, occasionally bruiting up against and getting snagged in ubiquitous thorn bush. Today use of such corsets is extremely rare if not entirely a thing of the past.

  3. Achut says:

    Actually the women did wear it too. My mum/aunties told me so, especially in their engagements in the 70s/80s Google pic dinka corset and you would see women wearing it too. It’s just that different colours are used for the genders and also according to age.

  4. […] references can be found in this blog, here and this blog. I also referenced the Brooklyn Museum […]

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