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Nigeria Fashion History


In today’s post I will present you a more traditional fashion, again from the African continent.

To learn more about a more natural style of fashion, I decided to “travel” to Nigeria and analyze the beauty, traditions and clothes from the ethnic group:


[I apologize but, due to problems with the blog, I could not put pictures :S I’ll try again tomorrow…]


The body’s beauty…

Previously, Yoruba women liked to beautify the body with paint and cuts.
To draw on the face and visible parts of the body, they used the sap of a tree called Buje and the name of this painting was Inabuje and it takes a lot to get out of the skin.
Osun and Laal are other vegetable products widely used (they both give red color, like henna). The Osun was used in weddings, births and possession of the king. On these occasions women were all painted with Osun, because they thought it made them more beautiful. When giving birth, women used to beautify her and the child’s body with Osun. A young wife also used to paint the feet with Osun at bedtime, to look pretty.

The Yorubas used to make (and still make it, but not as often) scars on their faces. The origin of this custom arose the need to identify their own groups during the wars. Also the slaves had in their faces the mark of their owner. A mark could also be used for easy identification of people from the same family.

Some people thought they were trendy with scars:

Pele – this type of mark is done to beautify. It is composed by three vertical marks on each side of the face.


The hair…

Another custom of the Yoruba was the shaving of the head for men and the well designed hairstyles for women.

Long ago, if man does not shave his head was a sign of poor hygiene, but now the custom was restricted only to the elderly.


Before British colonization, the Yoruba shaved their heads while hair grew, spreading oil to stay shiny. The young king’s messengers, to be identified, used to scrape the sides of the head, leaving the hair grown on the other side. It was called ilari.

Today, men wear the hairstyle that suits themselves.


There are three basic types commonly used:
Irun biba – the simplest; with loose hair.
Irun kiko – inmates hair; a black line runs the hair, to women who don’t have much hair.
Irun didi – stuck hair; more elaborate.

Some ways to do it:

One of the styles is called suku: the hair is combed up and pinned on top together.
Another way is by didi pàtewo (clapping): the hair is split from ear to ear and combed from the bottom up on both sides until they meet. When ready seems to be clapping. It is done by professionals.
Another type is the pánúmo (mouth closed): the hair is “opened” around the head and combed from the bottom up and top-down, finding in the middle. Ipako elede is loose hair, all combed forward.

Previously these hairstyles were widely used, and even taught in schools. Then the youths began to straighten their hair, by the influence of colonialism.



Before colonization the Yorubas only wore traditional costumes, a habit that continues today, but with modifications of Western influence.

Men wear:


  • a big coat, reaching the knees;
  • wear by rich and old men, commonly among chiefs of cities, to go out.


  • broad and simple coat, done in any kind of tissue;
  • more used by adults, but kids can use too.


  • sleeveless tunic with two pockers and embroidery art in front.


  • long and lightweight tissue and quarter lenght sleeves;
  • also used as underwear.

All these clothes are worn with different types of pants (Sokoto):
Sányinmotan – kind of tight pants, which came below the knee. It was used in work situations in which the pants could disturb. Nowadays they aren’t use.
Serum – are long trousers. The mouth is very wide. It is often used with the buba.
Kember – traditional pants, very large from the waist to the knee, then tapering down to the feet.

Every yoruba who go out with his traditional clothes must wear a hat (fila), which can be orìbì, bentigo, akete or eleti aja type, having side edges, like the ears of a dog.

Female outfit:

To go out the Yoruba women use:
Aso Iro – a cloth wrapped around the waist to the feet, like a yoke. It is usually used over the feminine buba, made of the same tissue. Currently these models are made of European tissues.

Female buba – Similar to male buba, but with shorter sleeves.
Simi is a garment to be worn under the buba, especially when the buba is from rent, due to transparency.

Iborun is used over the left shoulder which can be English or Asooke tissue.

When women dress in these traditional costumes, it is essential to wear a turban (gele).
To complete, they put bracelets, rings and beads and they paint their faces with atike.
There is a big influence from the Europe in the Ketu’s cerimonies clothing, with many skirts, lames, brocades…


To conclude I want to say that I really enjoyed searching about the Yoruba’s fashion styles. It’s always fantastic to know more about things that are unusual to see in our daily life. However I was a little bit disapointed by knowing that the traditional costumes and traditions are being forgotten and replaced because of the colonizations…



I want to thank the person who provided all the information on this site. I had no idea of the style of the Yorubas, so I had to based myself in this information, and, this way, most of the text I put in this post is a translation of parts of this site’s text:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_t5-GYw–mVs/TGXZDNFtwYI/AAAAAAAAApM/jhfeMNeEc00/s1600/west_africa_scarification.jpg http://www.revistaxire.com.br/web/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/hausa-girl_510.jpg http://cercadeafrica.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/mujer_escarificada_en_al_regin_yoruba.jpg http://www.abeokuta.org/yoruba/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Onile-Gogoro-300×209.jpg http://www.abeokuta.org/yoruba/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Ipako-Elede1-300×173.jpg http://www.abeokuta.org/yoruba/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Suku1-300×173.jpg http://www.abeokuta.org/yoruba/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Kehin-s-oko-300×173.jpg http://yorupedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/hairstyle3.jpg http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-6dzbnhPYi9c/TgZEAgj7x9I/AAAAAAAAABc/T45TrzUWXCg/s1600/africa4.jpg

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