NIGERIAN WEDDING ATTIRE

Igbo | EDO | Hausa | Yoruba

Weddings across Africa hold deep cultural significance, and all ethnic groups within Nigeria have their own vibrant and culture-rich way of celebrating the union between families. Even within each ethnic group, there are regional variations in customs and clothing styles.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the traditional ethnic wedding attire of four ethnicities: Igbo, Edo, Hausa and Yoruba.

Note: This is a generalistic insight, as noted above there are many variations.


IGBO

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka

Igbo wedding outfits vary greatly, often depending on regional practices and personal tastes. For example, wedding practices in the Delta Igbo region (Anioma etc) may resemble fashions from neighbouring Edo/Bini. In modern times, most Igbo people who marry traditionally wear a wide range of styles and materials. At an Igbo wedding, you can find anything from akwete cloth to lace sewn in multiple ways. In this article we’ll be taking a look at more traditional styles.

Image 1-4: Anioma Style Clothing

IGBO BRIDE

In the photo above the model is wearing a blouse and wrapper made from george/akwete material. Typically, Igbo brides are adorned in a variety jewels often featuring coral beads. Many brides wear waist beads (mgbaji/jigida) and some beautify themselves by painting their skin with uli/uri (patterns derived from Nsibidi drawn with dark coloured dye). Some women also apply nzu (white chalk) to their skin.

George Cloth/ Akwete

Image 1: In Arochukwu, the community cloth is worn on wedding days | image 2: Some women also opt to wear Isi agụ material, however this is typically worn by men

Ayọrọ Mgbaji – Waist beads

Image 1: uli designs on a woman’s leg | image 2: uli patterns | image 3: Chalk (nzu) on Chiamaka’s chest

In some Igbo regions, brides adorn their hair with spiked items (see below). In general, hairstyles depend on the brides taste. (The model in the top photo is wearing bantu knots).

Left image: Nnewi

Historically Igbo brides would beautify themselves with ‘uhie’ (a dye made of red camwood) and ‘ori’ (shea butter) however this practice is no more common.

Image 1: Uhie (red camwood), Image 2: Ori (shea butter)

IGBO GROOM

In the photo above the model is wearing the traditional black ‘isi agụ‘ top, although this is traditionally reserved for titled men, it’s is now widely worn by men of any status. Some men may opt to wear colour variations of the isi agụ material, or a white top. Below the waist men either wear trousers to match or a george wrapper.

The model is also wearing a hat known as ‘okpu agụ‘, some men wear the notable red cap ‘okpu nze‘ (traditionally worn by titled men) and both hats have colour variations. Most Igbo men accompany their wedding attire with jewellery made from coral beads.

Image 1: Isi agu variations | image 2: White top and george wrapper

Okpu (hats)

Image1: Okpu ag (colours) | image 2: Okpu ag (red) | image 3: Okpu nze (red) | image 4: Okpu nze (colours)


EDO

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka

The Edo ethnic group includes Bini, Akoko-Edo and Esan people, and within each region there are stylistic variations in traditional attire. In the image above the model (man) is wearing an Esan style groom’s attire, whilst the woman is wearing a simplified variation of the bridal style worn across the region.

EDO BRIDE

Edo brides often wear a woven crown in a hairstyle called ‘eto-okuku‘, a wig decorated with coral beads and sometimes adorned with golden ornaments. Some Edo brides wear the ‘ewu-ivie‘, a beaded cape or blouse, accompanied by layered necklaces of coral beads ‘ivie-uru‘. They also wear bracelets ‘ivie-obo‘ on their wrists. The amount of coral beads Edo women wear is a sight to behold, often women are adorned head to toe. Dresses are usually red and vary in style and material.

Ivie- Ebo (coral beads)

Image 1: Eto-okuku | image 2: Ivie-ebo (bracelets, beaded blouse, necklace and shoes)

Okuku (coral bead encrusted hairstyle)

Image 1: classic okuku | image 2: high bun style | image 3: beaded crown

EDO GROOM

For weddings, Esan grooms wear their native cloth called ‘ukpesan‘. Whereas other Bini men typically wear white tops and trousers, some which feature embroidery in the shape of swords. Similar to the male model above, most Edo grooms opt to wear the ‘erhu ede‘, a coral bead encrusted crown, others may wear a plain white cap ‘erhu‘.

Left image: Esan men wearing ‘ukpesan| man wearing Edo royal white attire & ‘erhu

Edo Bride and Groom

Edo man wearing crown (erhu ede) and coral bead encrusted walking stick

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka


HAUSA

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka

Hausa weddings are rich and diverse with styles varying from region to region. Weddings feature elaborate traditional materials and fabrics, this includes intricate embroidery and flowing robes.

HAUSA BRIDE

The atamfa is a traditional style of Hausa dress (blouse and skit/wrapper) worn in a variety of colours. Lalli/henna are temporary tattoos featuring elaborate ornate patterns that are used to adorn the bride’s hands. Many Hausa brides are seen wearing some form of hair tie/covering and a veil often made of lace.

Women atamfa style dress

Images 1&2: Hausa bride with veil and henna | image 2: Hausa bride and groom

Hausa Groom

Men wear the babban riga, a large kaftan style robe which originated in Hausaland. Colours vary and often times the bride and groom choose matching materials. Some men also opt to wear a robe like cloth called jalamia. The traditional cap Hausa men wear is called ‘wagambari‘.

Left image: jalamia | upper right: wagambari | lower right: babban riga

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka


YORUBA

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka

Yoruba weddings are known for their vibrancy and flair, and variations of the popular attire is worn across western Nigeria. Așǫ òkè (short for așǫ Ilu òkè) is the name of the hand-woven fabric (of any colour) which is used to create garments for both men and women.

Image 1: așǫ òkè fabric | image 2: Yoruba woman 1959.

YORUBA BRIDE

Although the style of dress may vary, traditionally women would wear an ‘ìró‘ (wrap skirt), ‘bùbá‘ (blouse) and ‘gèlè‘ (hair tie). Brides are also seen wearing a veil to cover the ‘gèlè‘. Nowadays, along with așǫ òkè, other materials like lace may be used.

Women accompany their dress with an ìpelè/iborun (sash/shall) worn over the shoulder. Many will be seen wearing a variety of jewels from coral beads to gold. Typically, the ìpelè, gèlè and ìró are matching in colour and material.

Image 1: ìpelè | image 2: woman with orange gèlè | white buba and orange ìpelè on shoulder | image 3: woman with full outfit

YORUBA GROOM

The bride and the groom are often found wearing the same coloured attire, although this isn’t always the case. Men will typically wear an agbádá, a robe similar to the Hausa babban riga, the agbada is sometimes starched to keep it’s shape, some men may opt to wear a dansiki (similar to the model above). Both the agbádá and dansiki are worn with matching, loose fitting trousers referred to as ‘sokoto‘ and a top worn under (bùbá).

Image 1: dansiki | image 2: agbádá

Most grooms will be seen wearing one of three hats, the fila which leans to the side, the abeti ajá which has two side flaps, or the kufi, a cap sometimes worn by Yoruba Muslims.

Image 1: fila| image 2: kufi | image 3: abeti ajá

Photos: Keleenna Onyeaka

2 Comments

  1. In the fourth image what is the significance of the white chalk on the Igbo bride’s feet? And how did Igbo brides use the red dye historically? Was it similar to uli or was it simply used to paint a body part?

    1. The camwood and shea butter would most likely be used as a facial/exfoliant to beautify the skin (we’ll clarify this in the post), so its unlikely women left it on for the wedding event.
      The chalk on the feet/body we’re not too sure. It’s most likely for aesthetic purposes. Although, nzu sometimes has spiritual significance.

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