For Madagascar's Merina women born before 1945, a white shoulder wrap has been an indispensable part of formal dress and feminine attire. In the 1960s, most young urban women refused to take up the shoulder wrap, seeing it as old-fashioned and contrary to an active, career-oriented lifestyle. In the mid-1990s, many of these same women--now journalists, politicians and professors--began adopting the shoulder wrap for the first time. They now consider that wearing the lamba allows them to celebrate and assert their Malagasy identity. Most wear it only on formal occasions or for international events, but others have made it part of their daily dress. Nearly all prefer brightly colored shoulder wraps of more contemporary design. The most popular style in recent years has been the MariMar, a light, loose weave named for the heroine of a Mexican soap opera who captivated television audiences throughout Madagascar in 1999 with her rags-to-riches story.
Shoulder wraps are woven of silk, cotton, synthetic, and a combination of these fibers. They may be undyed or brightly colored, depending on the style and current fashion.
This all-white shoulder wrap, called lamba lasoa, is named after the rayon or synthetic fiber imported from India that gives it a lustrous appearance. Today this type of textile is also used as a fabric for women's dresses.
Single panel white shoulder wrap, made of tightly woven synthetic or rayon fiber, embellished with three off-white floral designs in lustrous rayon or synthetic fiber and made using a needle. Toward each end of the textile is a raised linear pattern, also made with a needle, that runs horizontally from one edge of the textile to the other. A long fringe of loose white fibers, knotted at the top, completes each end of the cloth.
Purchased from Jaqueline Ravoniarinosy, Madagascar, 2000