Nigeria@56: The evolution of Nigerian fashion since independence
From the 1960’s till early 90’s, Nigeria was very much influenced by the European fashion, and more specifically British fashion since the British colonized us. However, since the 90s, the Nigerian fashion industry has experienced tremendous growth and has made/is making major impact in the fashion world. Our forbearers have always been into fashion and they set the pace for what is the present day style.
Most Nigerian women wore long dresses and hats. The women dressed in both fitted and oversized outfits depending on preference complemented with permed, well-sprayed Afros. The uneducated women simply wore their native clothes and did simple, local hairstyles.
Another trend that took the fashion industry by storm then were the mini skirts and dresses. This trend was allegedly invented by Mary Quaint and aimed at seductively showing off women’s legs. During this time color was introduced for men and there was also an obsession with prints and patterned fabrics. Women’s fashion constituted of mini dresses with lady like silhouettes (outline), while men wore loud, coloured, patterned shirts. Also, skinny ties were in vogue.
During this time, platform shoes were very fashionable, although they weren’t as tall as they are today. In addition, the stiletto heels were very popular at this time. Men rocked boot-legged pants, tight fitted shirts with loud prints and the first two buttons open topped by a killer afro.
The trend for women was what we now call oleku, thanks to a movie of the same name; a baggy-sleeved buba worn over an iro that stopped anywhere from a little above the knees to mid-thigh. Men wore agbadas and danshikis, trends that have made a stunning comeback.
For a more western look, it was all about the colours. For example, a man could rock a blue jumpsuit and shoes to match. The seventies also gave rise to the jerry curls and perms for both sexes.
In the eighties, everything was big! Maxi skirts for women, baggy suits for men, chunky jewellery, huge perms and wild Afros. Some of the fashion raves were funny such as some people wearing leg warmers, a sweater and a mini skirt all at the same time, all very loudly coloured.
Fashion started experiencing subtle changes; it became more retro, pop and hip. The capris pants began to make a comeback; the miniskirts, the scousers – a pair of shorts and skirts sewn together – also sprung up amongst many others. For the native attire, bubus were the most popular in this era.
Men’s fashion also saw a change. Trouser hems became narrower and narrower while the fit in the hips and waist grew looser. Men wore their hair short – buzz cuts and fades were in as they ditched the curl activators and relaxers. Truthfully, American hip-hop, films and lifestyles heavily influenced fashion and the clothes, shoes and hair of that time reflected this.
Every trend was more or less retro, inspired by a previous era. Some of the trends came back bigger, better and sexier; the little black dress (made popular by legendary French designer Coco Chanel), the bell bottom jeans, cropped tops, capris pants, ballet flats and oversized glasses. Most of these trends have remained into this present decade.
The year 2000-Present Day
American fashion is still influencing what a lot of people wear but thankfully, a lot of Nigerians are embracing ethnic and traditional clothing, wearing them to official and social functions. Hair is now Brazillian, Peruvian or Chinese but still, a trend that may be seen as really unique to this present times would be the natural hair look – black women are dumping relaxers and embracing their natural kinky locks. Lightening creams are also the rave now and shoes are a mix of so many eras- the stilettos, wedges, and flat shoes are still very much in the mix.
Another great thing is that a lot of ‘old’ looks are making a comeback. Skinny jeans and bell bottoms have come and go, headscarves are making a comeback and even afros are back, either in the form of weaves or natural hair. Fashion is a repetitive process and Nigerian fashion is no exception to this rule.