I like wearing Nigerian clothing outside of Nigeria. One thing I always bring back from Nigeria is freshly-sewn clothing, most of it in colourful ankara fabric, and on rare occasion, something in the more expensive lace material. While I’m in Nigeria I tend to lose weight thanks to limited access to sweets, more walking, a reduced appetite, and tons more sweating. Months after my return to Canada I have difficulty fitting into my new clothes due to my reintroduction to a more sedentary life and to my true size!
If you live outside of Nigeria and wear traditional clothing, do you wear it anywhere or just to Nigerian or African functions? I’ve mentioned before that my parents, in particular my mom, wears traditional clothing whenever she can: she wears it at work on the few occasions each year when she doesn’t have to stick to the dress code, and she also wears her ankara prints or lace to church most Sundays (and we don’t attend an African church). I had a button-down shirt sewn that I envisioned wearing over jeans but the style of the shirt is boxy and unflattering so I rarely wear it. Skirts however, are my thing: I have at least seven skirt and blouse sets that I’ve had sewn for me during various trips and while most of the blouses don’t fit right now and some of the skirts are snug, there’s one skirt in particular from 2008 that I wear every summer—the skirt just seems to flow with me, no matter what size I am. I fell in love with the material at the market in Akure and I had to have it.
When my sister and I wear ankara print in Canada, we usually pair it with a plain top or bottom because wearing the whole set feels dressy, and we save that for Nigerian functions. One of the things I like about living in Canada is that no one really makes a fuss about how you dress: when people see my mom in ankara they comment on how much they love the bright colours and the pattern, and if she’s also wearing a gele (head wrap/tie/scarf) she gets even more comments—many people are fascinated by how the gele is folded and tied. Wearing traditional clothing is a great way to start a conversation about your culture.
The next time I go to Nigeria I plan to take a top and maybe even pants or capris from here that I love and that fit me well, and see if I can have it duplicated in ankara fabric—wouldn’t that be awesome?
What are your views on wearing traditional clothing outside of the home country?