Traditional Nigerian fashion is both practical and beautiful. The fabrics are jacquard weaves, indigo dyed cottons, and Ankara, a kind of brightly coloured fabric with large floral designs. The patterns of the fabrics are intricate designed from the Yoruba and other Nigerian cultures. Traditional Nigerian fashion consists of tops, bottoms (skirts and trousers), one piece dresses or robes, head wear, and body wraps. A complete outfit is comprised of either a one piece dress (for women) and a head piece or a top and bottom combination along with a headpiece. The body wrap is optional.
Typical Nigerian tops are loosefitting blouses that extend to the middle of the hips for women and to the middle of the thighs for me. These blouses are called buba. A buba usually has a simple round or V-shape neckline and long sleeves.
Women wear long wraparound skirts called Iro; men wear loosefitting trousers called sokoto. The Iro are a single long rectangle. One long edge is wrapped tightly around the waist and tucked in at the end to hold it in place. The sokoto are baggy trousers with a drawstring to hold them up.
One-piece Dresses and Robes
The one-piece dress is called a kaba. Many Nigerian women wear a kaba that resembles the buba in shape, but is long enough to hit at the ankles. Other kaba have more stylistic design such as pleats, tucks, darts, and gathering. Men may wear a large robe over their regular clothes called an agbada. These are only worn on formal occasions.
It is important to note that a headpiece is nearly always a part of the whole sense of fashion, no matter what the occasion. Headpieces are worn by both men and women. Women wear a rectangular shape of the traditional cloth called a gele. The rectangle piece of fabric is folded in half lengthwise or into a triangle and wrapped around the head. There are many different ways to wrap a gele resulting in a plethora of different looks. Men either wear a file or an abeti-aja. A file is a round cap that sits on top of the head. The abeti-aja is similar to the file except that the sides are longer and shaped like a triangle over the ears. The side triangles are turned upward when the abeti-aja is worn.
Additional body Wraps
Nigerian women often wear an additional scarf either tied loosely around the neck or diagonally across the body. This is called an iborun or ipele. Men do not usually wear such a scarf, but will wear the agbada (long robe) for very special festivities.
Putting it all together
The fabrics used in traditional Nigerian fashions make a statement by the combinations of designs and patterns. The tops and bottoms are not made of the same fabric, nor does the headpiece or body wraps match. Rather, the fabrics are chosen by the way they complement one another both in colour and design.
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