||The focus of this survey study was to investigate the perceptions of the people regarding the
seshoeshoe dress as part of the cultural identity for Basotho women in Lesotho. The population
for the study was derived from the Lesotho College of Education staff and students, representing
consumers, and the seshoeshoe dressmakers within the Central Business District area of Maseru
as producers of the seshoeshoe dress. A quantitative research design with both a questionnaire
and a structured interview was used to obtain information from the staff and students; an
interview schedule was used to gather information from the dressmakers.
The study was carried out within the theoretical framework of the cultural, contextual and
semiotic perspectives, in which the contextual perspective facilitated an understanding of the
interface between the individuals’ appearance and cultural processes. The cultural perspective
provided a shared symbolic order within which people interpreted and developed meanings,
while the semiotic analysis allowed the investigator to document the functions of dress in terms
of its use within communities as well as within the Basotho society.
Findings emerging from the study indicate that seshoeshoe dress is a symbol of national identity
for Basotho women. Seshoeshoe dress is expensive. Appropriate new styles are acceptable but
there is a concern regarding over- modification of the traditional style. Despite the emergence of
the modernised seshoeshoe dress styles, and while a certain amount of change is allowed, the
traditional style should be maintained and safeguarded as a cultural heritage. Current styles were
found to be attractive to both the youth and the elderly, although mostly to the youth. Current
styles, in addition to being attractive, demand less fabric and labour. The modified seshoeshoe
dress styles are more popular than the traditional styles. Dressmakers are more familiar with the
names of motifs than are their customers. A way for classifying these motifs was developed
during the study. Preferred colours of consumers are lebete (spleen), blue, brown, golden blue
and golden brown.
Style, taste, acceptance and fashionability all play an important role in the popularity of
seshoeshoe dress. Improved economy and technology have resulted in the emergence of a variety
of new styles offering a wider choice to consumers. Seshoeshoe fabric should be used for
purposes that will continue to dignify it as part of the cultural identity of the Basotho people.
The study recommends that in order for the contributions of the Morija Arts and Cultural
Festival and, the Cultural Days held at schools to be sustainable in terms of the significance of
seshoeshoe as a cultural identity for Basotho women, the government through the Ministry of
Tourism, Culture and Environment should formalise these activities at national level.