Chad, Africa is a vast, diverse country made up of more than 180 ethnic groups that mainly don a traditional dress.The largest groups are the Sara, who inhabit the subtropical regions to the south, and the Arabs, who are primarily Muslim. Many people are nomads or subsistence farmers, although some live in the urban areas of N'Djamena. All of these factors, from african ethnicity to religion to occupation, influence how an individual might dress from day to day.

Women's Dress

Because of their religious beliefs, Muslim women usually dress modestly in head-to-toe robes and traditional clothing instead of t-shirts, although government regulations do not require them to do so. However, for visitors to the country it can be important to keep this in mind. In southern Chad, which is inhabited by many non-Muslims, women wear wraps called rabott or pagne around their upper and lower halves, or in the case of married women, as an apron. They'll add a short-sleeved shirt with an elaborately patterned neckline. A 5-meter-long scarf called a lafai can be wrapped around the body in many different ways, and women put them on when going to the market or for special occasions with necklaces.

Men's Dress

Men in most areas of Chad and central africa continue to dress traditionally, according to their ethnic background, although men in urban areas might wear Western clothing, making it easier for visitors to fit in. Traditional Chadian Arab attire such as long robes called jalabiyas are worn by men in public, along with white turban-like headgear known as a tagiya. Muslim men wear outfits consisting of long robes with matching pants known as boubous, and in the southern tribes, they wear tunic outfits called complets.

Footwear and Accessories

Women frequently wear veils, regardless of religion. Muslim women veil themselves in public and Muslim men wear turbans and carry a dagger tucked into the sleeve. The average Chadian wears sandals made of anything from foam to plastic to leather, depending on the person's wealth. Southern women accessorize with colorful head wraps. Women of the Sara tribe, which makes up about 30 percent of Chadians, formerly wore elaborate lip jewelry that stretched out the skin of the face.

Personal Appearance

Northern desert tribal women sometimes ink their lips using tree-thorn needles. Women of Southern Chad, such as those of the Sara tribe, usually braid their hair elaborately and visit their neighbors to braid and socialize. Other tribespeople will scar themselves with symbols representing their ethnic group, and women will go bare-breasted. Since famine is still prevalent in Chad, a sign of wealth is to be overweight, and when Chadians tell one another he has put on weight, it's meant as a compliment, so don't take it badly.

Dress Customs

Since much of the population is subsistence farmers, clothing material is harvested cotton and animal fibers. As in many developing countries, dress styles indicate social stratification. The families of wealthy businesspeople and industrialists will wear more expensive attire to demonstrate how much they can afford, but no matter how wealthy a family is, both adults and children will keep their clothing clean and mended. Although the population of Chad is approximately 50 percent Muslim, no nationwide laws are restricting what people, including visitors, may wear in public, as there are in some other Muslim countries.