Traditional Nigerian Styles

Updated November 21, 2016

Nigerian traditional dress is colourful and elegant. Though it is not worn in every circumstance, it is the everyday attire of many, and the formal attire of most. Wearing it is part of some traditional ceremonies and special occasions. Nigeria is a country populated by people from many ethnic groups with varying traditional clothing.

Clothing for Women

Outfits for everyday wear are cotton tailored and dyed locally. For formal wear, the outfits are made of finer fabrics, sometimes batik-dyed. Lace and embroidery are added. Women wrap their heads in a gele, fabric tied in elaborate styles. It matches or complements the outfit. Among the wardrobe selections for Nigerian women are the buba, a long, loose blouse that stops just below the waist, and a dress called a kaba. The iro is the rectangular cloth like a skirt that is wrapped around the lower part of the body. A final piece is the iborun or ipele, worn like a diagonal shawl.

Clothing for Men

For everyday wear, men also wear cotton, a robe and a shirt. They wear a long, tailored buba over trousers called sokoto for formal dress. The agbada is a combination of sokoto and buba that is very festive. The round pillbox shaped hat is called a fila and another hat, that has longer sides is called abeti-aja.

Fabrics and Tie Dye

Traditional fabrics for Nigerian clothing are lace and jacquard. They may also be adire, indigo-dyed cloth produced by Yoruba women of southwestern Nigeria using a variety of resist dye techniques. Adire translates as tie and dye. Another dyed fabric, introduced by the Dutch copying adire cloth, is Ankara. The dyes used to make it are faster and easier to use and though it is a western fabric, it was embraced in Nigeria.

North to South

Nigeria styles changes as you go from north to south. The more rural northerners wear traditional dress more than their city neighbours to the south. Work dress in the north is most often traditional. In the south, they wear western attire at work.

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About the Author

Roz Calvert was a contributing writer for the award-winning ezine Urban Desires where her travel writing and fiction appeared. Writing professionally since 1980, she has penned promotional collateral for Music Magnet Media and various musicians. The "Now Jazz Consortium" published her jazz educational fiction. She published a juvenile book about Zora Neale Hurston and attended West Virginia University and the New School.