The first thing that an inexperienced gomesi wearer notices is that they’re huge. Gomesis swallow you whole and don’t even burp. They don’t balk or cringe at the sight of the kind of XXXXL woman that only Uganda is capable of manufacturing. What they do is take one look at her and say, ‘bring it on’ and when they’re done with her, people look and say, ‘Wow. How dignified’ Instead of gasping and squeaking ‘She’s so…so large’.
They have a capacity for stateliness that spandex dress-tops for example can never dream of replicating. For all the heat they trap in, all the discomfort that their slippery material will cause your perspiring skin, they can give just about anybody the gait of a 35 year old headmistress (which is (usually) responsible and dignified).
Gomesis have a life of their own, which means they possess that one aspect that is common to all living things; a bad side.
Hot: Gomesis are the food-flask of clothing. They have only two outlets for your body heat, the arms and bottom. This heat is used to rising off your skin with total ease, seeing your wardrobe is filled with sundresses and sheer tights, not bodysuits. At one point, it feels like the dress is trying to bake you into submission because the more you fidget, the worse the discomfort.
Heavy: They can weigh upon you like a dirty secret. Like a dirty secret made of slippery fabric and sequins.
Suspicious: You can wear almost anything to a club in Uganda, but try getting in wearing a gomesi. At Fat boys, one particularly bold and/or high lady wanted to enter and party, same as everyone else. The guards, apart from being amused, were very suspicious. They insisted on checking her more thoroughly than the rest of the people in the queue, which made her livid. She screamed about violated rights and assault, but the guards stonily told her to go away. That was a good day to be at Fat boyz.
Potty trouble: According to Bree, gomesis are similar to wedding dresses in that when you’re wearing one, a maid to help gather its folds wouldn’t hurt. Woe unto you if nature starts to beep and then incessantly call. She says, ‘You have to wear many kikoyis inside the gomesi so that it looks good. When you need to use the ladies, things can get complicated. I peed on mine once- at an introduction. It was horrible! I just went back to my seat and didn’t get up until the end of the ceremony’.
Tassels: What, in Bwaise’s floods, is the use of the tassels at the end of the sash? (The sash which by the way hangs down like two unfriendly phalluses.) So far, all they’ve ever done is somehow get under my shoe and make me trip in a way that has been a source of much merriment to onlookers.
Russian doll: Damalie thinks these dresses look best on full figured women. She’s right. Smaller bodied women have however figured out a way to beat the gomesi’s size restrictions. All one has to do is wear as many kikoyis as are necessary to fluff out one’s figure enough for it to look smart. This is all very well, but what about the heat? What about the fact that you’re now some sort of Russian doll from the waist down? She maintains that, ‘without the right number of kikoyis, a gomesi can look very miserable on a woman like me’.
(whoops)Galore: There’s no article of clothing with as many ways of embarrassing the inexperienced wearer as the gomesi. You can trip and eat dust. You can realize, in the middle of a function that you tied your sash in the wrongest way. It can also unravel.
It’s not the only traditional dress that can spring open and let loose the floodgates of hot shame over your head.
This is Ruth’s story:
Back in high school-during a music competition-my house had a piece where everybody had to wear a pseudo-gomesi type thing. Anyhow, this girl next to me had her boob sticking out the entire time we were on stage and she didn’t realize. Just imagine all the clapping and swaying and wild smiling involved in the traditional presentations that we used to give in high school.
I’m anti-traditional wear in general. Just the other day I was coming from a cousin’s introduction and I’d loosened the skirt of my mushanana. By the time I had to get out of the car, I’d forgotten so I when stepped out, it dropped! In front of a bunch of soldiers mind you. They had their evening’s entertainment at my expense and now, I’m backing away from the whole traditional get-up.