A Gomesi or busuuti is a very long dress known for its bright and colorful nature. For women in Busoga and Buganda, Uganda, it is the most popularly worn attire. Kanzu is relatively similar to this attire but it is for the men. The first use of the Gomesi dates back to 1905.
A Goan designer named Caetano Gomes who lived in Uganda (a British Protectorate at the time) introduced it. However, the dress was worn by only a few and only became in vogue when the wife of Daudi Cwa II of Buganda, the Kabaka (who is king over Buganda), wore it at her husband’s 18-year-old official coronation.
Some of the dominant features of the Gomesi would be its floor-sweeping length, square neckline, and rather short but puffed sleeves. It also contains a sash, which is similar to a belt placed just below the waist and over the hips. Also, on the left side of the square neckline, the dress contains two buttons.
Gomesi is made with silk, linen fabric, or cotton. Silk is the most expensive amongst the three. Underneath the linen of the Gomesi, a kikooyi or kanga is tied to avoid friction between the fabric and the body. About six meters of cloth would be required to make a proper Gomesi.
This attire has gained both social and cultural importance in Uganda. The outfit is a mark of respect and must be worn at all social engagements. You can rock this outfit during kwanjula (an introduction ceremony before marriage). You can find people using it for marriages, meetings, or funerals.
In Uganda, all women in the groom’s family are expected to wear a Gomesi. The dress is elegant and beautiful. It boldly displays the African culture. The fabric comes in many colours and is designed to be coordinated. Asides from the impressive six meters of cloth used in the making of the Gomesi, a traditional Ugandan kikoyi fabric is added at the base forming an additional layer.
To get a better shape or broader hips while wearing the dress, one or two of the kikooyi maybe tied under the Gomesi. In the Ugandan culture, the Gomesi is not just unique attire, it symbolizes respect.
To some people in Uganda, it could be seen as indecent not to wear a Gomesi because of its cultural importance. Moreso, as new fashion trends are increasingly in vogue among the younger generation, a steady decline in the Gomesi’s popularity has been witnessed over the years.
The gomesi is suitable for any occasion. It is a casual and daily attire for people living in rural areas. However, in urban areas, the residents wear it on special occasions like funerals and weddings. During the Kwanjula (introduction), all female members of the groom’s family are required to appear dressed in Gomesi. In 2007, Alicia Keys wore the Gomesi when she visited Uganda.