For sometime now, I have observed that each time I come across African inspired apparel, my mind starts pondering. It ponders about the decisions that traditional African women took into account when having their clothing made in the not too distant past.
In the past, Traditional West-African Queen mothers often wore exquisitely hand-woven cloth. These cloths were skillfully tied in a fashionable and secure manner. The unsuspecting eye might assume these “tunic like” looking cloths clad by West-African Queen mothers were secured with stitches akin to that of dresses worn by contemporary women. This was not the case! The look of the Queen mothers usually featured two or three pieces of cloth and expensive bead jewelry (krobo beads are favored by most Queen mothers in Ghana). These pieces merged together in the creation of a rather regal looking ensemble.
Images Courtesy of Kweku Dee
My pondering mind compelled me to inquire about the fashion sense of the regular African woman who was not a member of the royal family. This led to rather interesting insights. For instance, I found out that a variation of the style popularly known as midi-skirt was once favored by these women. Of course, the term midi-skirt was then not in usage. Fashion choices made by the traditional African woman of yesteryears was based on their daily chores. These women fetched water by the river for cooking, tended their gardens, swept their surroundings among others. By opting for lose fitting “midi like looking skirts”, they could wade into rivers without worrying about their skirts getting wet. For the regular everyday African woman, Practicality took precedence over Aesthetics !
Image: Courtesy of Royal Engineers Project
Another style that caught my eye was peplum top , aka Kaba (Akan dialect – Ghana) ! This style has been worn by African women ever since I can remember – way before it became popular in the West.
The next time you put on your midi-skirts, I hope you salute your ancestors for their ingenuity. Are your fashion choices solely based on your lifestyle or are they made based on the current trend ?
Peplum Top and contemporary krobo jewelry are available at Nopoku.
Written by Sher