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What do the Congolese wear?

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Quick Answer

Whether residing in city or countryside, the Congolese wear a combination of traditional clothing, the pagne and modern clothing. The cotton pagne is a 5-yard piece of colorfully patterned cloth, draped for women as a skirt or dress and wrapped for men, like pants or a loincloth.

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Specific pagne patterns may be used to signify various events or celebrations, such as a sporting event or recognition of a community leader. Both partners in a relationship sometimes wear the same pagne as a way to signify the seriousness of their commitment to each other. Similarly, those attending a wedding may be asked to wear the same pagne pattern as the wedding party in symbolic support of the union. The boubou is another traditional garment worn by the Congolese. It is made of a batik cloth or shada, often with fancy needlework.

The Congolese are known across Africa for their sharp dressing and concern with appearance. Crisply ironed clothing is a cultural expectation. The "Le Sapeur," originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1970s, is a fashion identity built upon the French dandies, known for attention to detail while bordering on the theatrical. Congolese dress is unique, varied and still traditionally African.

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