Since time immemorial, the Nigerian fashion industry has always been something to reckon with. Though it was not what it is now in yesteryears, still, Nigerians have been on the fore-front of fashion.
In the 60’s, Nigerians took pride in the way they appeared, and how they were dressed. Their clothes showed their class and social status, and depended on the occasion.
Taking the Yoruba people as a case study; in the 60’s, clothes were made from cotton, or the hand-woven aso-oke. The aso-oke came in different colorful patterns and there were a lot of other materials in play like the Damask and lace.
The iro worn under the buba is always above the knee. The outfit is complemented with small holdall bags, with conspicuous accessories around the wrist and neck. For the men, the agbada (a free flowing overall wore over buba and trouser), was made with Damask for the affluent ones, and was styled like a dashiki which has evolved into the present style.
In the 70’s, the women’s iro became longer and went below the knee in what is today known as the midi length. The gele and ipele were introduced; the ipele was worn over the iro in a layered style. This often indicated that the woman is an important person.
The 80’s brought in flared trousers and stylish hats for the men, while the women played around with colorful iro and buba. The gele was piled upward, on top of the head. The thick stripes were also introduced for the women.
In the 90’s, there was a turnaround for fashion s more fabrics were experimented. Both men and women wore cord lace, wore a variety of colours, and mixed fabrics in one outfit.
In 2000, the damask came back, but only as head gears (gele) and in different hues. The Agbada made a comeback in the year 2000, but this time, the length began longer and no longer in the Dashiki style.
Today, these hues and styles from the 60’ and 80’s have found their way into modern day fashion, with top fashion houses incorporating the Aso-oke into their clothing lines. The agbada has stayed and is now sported by men and women alike.
Aside the traditional fashion, contemporary fashion has also evolved, over the years. In the sixties, the exposed women wore longer skirts and hats, with complementary permed afro. From longer skirts came the mini skirt revolution, which encouraged women to flaunt their legs. This era also introduced color to men, as men wore vibrant colors.
During the sixties, women wore platform shoes, although they were not as high as they are today. They also wore stilettos. As for the men, they wore wide legged pants known as boot cut, and tight fitted shirts, which one or two buttons opened at the neck.
A major style revolution came in the eighties, when everything became big. The women wore big skirts, while the men wore baggy trousers. There was also a war of colours, as people mixed colours in what is known today as colour blocking. Someone could wear a leg warmer, a sweater and a mini skirt at the same time, and all in different vibrant colours. It was really funny. Both men and women made jerry curls and bigger perms instead of the afro.
The nineties brought a more retro style, as the mini skirt made a comeback. There were a few modifications to the mini skirt as a short and a mini skirt could be sewn to make an outfit. For the men, the trouser hems became fitter, while the fit in the waist and hips became looser.
In the nineties, the men let go of the jerry curls for a buzz hair cut. This was probably influenced by the American movies of that time.
In this present day, women have gone past the afro and jerry curls, they are opting for hair extensions like Brazilian hair, Peruvian, and what not. Nigerian women are leaning towards the natural hair move, and are rocking their natural kinky locks more, throwing away the relaxers and hot soaps.
I guess the great thing about fashion evolution in Nigeria is the fact that, old styles from the sixties, seventies and eighties are coming back in sexier and more colorful styles.