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Nigeria wedding clothes: snap happy aso ebi is the way to go
You know the drill: spend a little while picking the right outfit for a friend’s wedding only to arrive and see another guest in the same dress. Now imagine going to a wedding and finding it’s not just that one guest, it’s a whole load of guests in matching clothes and it’s not by accident but by design.
This is what in Nigeria is known as aso ebi (a basic translation from Yoruba is ‘family cloth’). For special occasions and especially for weddings, groups of friends, family or association members will pick a cloth for that event from which to have their outfits made. Originally intended to identify groups within the mass of wedding attendees, it’s now as much a style statement as anything else.
As a bride, choosing the right aso ebi for the wedding party is a minefield. You have to pick something that’s not so expensive your friends will struggle to afford it, but not so cheap that it looks like your wedding won’t be fabulous.
When you receive a Nigerian wedding invitation it’ll usually have a line saying, for example, “colours: gold, silver, lilac”, to give an idea of what you ought to be wearing to fit in or the palette from which you should pick your cloth.
There aren’t season-to-season trends per se, but my stylist and fashion journalist friend Richard Akuson tells me “Nigeria’s tastes are evolving; more people are now going for pastels and earth tones.”
If you haven’t seen a Nigerian wedding, you might imagine this means groups of guests can look a little samey, but it’s quite the reverse. Many Nigerians make their own clothes or have them made by a tailor, so when they have picked their aso ebi, they take the cloth and then style it for what suits them best.
Rather than everyone looking the same, everyone has put their own twist on the fabric. At a wedding I went to recently where the bridal party’s aso ebi was stripes of yellow, pink and blue, the bridesmaids were in 50s style frocks while other guests were in Capri pants, kaftans, fit and flare fishtail numbers, shirts and headties all in the same cloth.
About two thirds of the way through the service, lots of people started arriving in bright yellow and blue lace aso ebi, clearly having come from an entirely different wedding with a cloth that was a bit of a giveaway about the guests’ lateness.
As an oyinbo (Caucasian), the question is how far you want to go with your own look. Most Nigerian friends of mine would love to see expatriate guests go the whole hog, complete with an elaborate headwrap for women. Most oyinbo friends prefer to take the cloth and have something made in a more familiar pattern. The thing to remember is that the cloth is just the beginning.
As Richard tells me, “how well you accessorized is where you really get to stand out – the lacing, the sequins and so on. Every new wedding is upping the ante; everyone wants their wedding to be the talk of the town”.
See more at casual wedding dress
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