The History of Yoruba African Fashion

The people of the Yoruba tribe are known for their love of fashion. They would often adorn themselves with unusual jewellery and clothes for women, and they would also wear body-colored henna and cowries. Their bodies are adorned with various other objects, such as beads, tattoos, and henna. The Aso Ibile traditional attire of the Yoruba community and refers to gender-specific clothing. In addition, both men and women rarely wore each other's clothes.

The first type of clothing that the Yoruba used was ibante, which is a thick hand-woven cloth that's usually used to cover both the male and female private areas. This type of cloth is made of a type of textile known as kijipa, which can resist any force. Eventually, people started wearing aso-oke, which is made of similar materials.

Photo credit: Belanaija style

Examples of aso-oke materials that are commonly used include petuje, alaaari, and esiki. Men's clothing includes various types of underwear, such as buba, esiki, and sapara. They also have multiple types of overwear, such as dandogo, agbada, oyala, and gbariye. In addition, they commonly sew local pants into their outfits. Aside from ibante, men also wear various types of hats and gowns. Some of these include the gbanu, sokoto elemu, and kembe. These are just some of the types of hats and gowns that are commonly used by the Yoruba. In addition to these, designers and tailors additionally create different types of headgear.  All of this adds to the aesthetic appeal of these traditional garments and the wearer. It should be mentioned that the culture of underwear, such as trousers, brassieres, and so on, is a European import.

Yoruba men in Ibadan (1970)

Photo credit: Nigeria nostalgia project 


Women also wear a variety of dresses. The most frequent are iro and buba or wrappers, which have a blouse-like loose top with sleeves that almost reach the wrist. Women must also wear gele, or headgear, when the iro and buba are on. Men's dressing is completed without a cap, while women's dressing is incomplete without gele. This gele is wrapped around the head twice and tucked on one side. It can be made with basic cloth or as expensive as the woman can afford. Aside from that, they have iborun or ipele. It's sometimes knotted around their waists over the wrapping. Women, unlike males, have two styles of underwear called Tobi and Sinmi. Tobi is similar to a contemporary apron, with strings and pockets for women to hold their money. Before putting on the iro, they wrap this tobi around their waists. Sinmi is similar to a sleeveless T-shirt that is worn underneath any other outfit.

Photo credit: Nairaland

In Yoruba country, there are several sorts of beads (lèkè), hand laces, necklaces (Egba orùn), anklets (Egba esè), and bangles (Egba owó) that both males and females use for physical ornamentation. Some of these beads are particularly popular among chiefs, priests, monarchs, and those of royal heritage. These beads include Iyun, Lagidigba, and others. The rùkèrè, an artistically processed animal tail, a form of Fly-whisk, is a favourite ornament among royalty and dubbed Babalawos / Babalorishas. Horsetail whiskers represent power and stateliness. It can be used for ornamentation in a shrine, but it is most commonly used by high priests and priestesses as a sign of their power or Ashe.

Photo credit: Pinterest 


Yoruba people value humility. They don't go overboard. Some of these 1980s fashion accessories are still popular today. Some have been upgraded to fit the fashion scene of the twenty-first century. 

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