Traditionally, the attire of the Igbo generally consisted of little clothing, as the purpose of clothing originally was simply to conceal private parts, although elders were fully clothed. Children were usually nude from birth until they reached puberty status, but sometimes ornaments such as beads were worn around the waist. Uli body art was used to decorate both men and women in the form of lines forming patterns and shapes on the body.
Women traditionally carry their babies on their backs with a strip of clothing binding the two with a knot at her chest, a practice used by many ethnic groups across Africa. This method has been modernized in the form of the child carrier.
Maidens usually wore a short wrapper with beads around their waist and other ornaments such as necklaces and beads. Both men and women wore wrappers. Men would wear loin cloths that wrapped round their waist and between their legs to be fastened at their back, the type of clothing appropriate for the intense heat as well as jobs such as farming.
In Olaudah Equiano’s narrative, Equiano describes fragrances that were used by the Igbo in the community of Essaka:
“Our principal luxury is in perfumes; one sort of these is an odoriferous wood of delicious fragrance: the other a kind of earth; a small portion of which thrown into the fire diffuses a most powerful odor. We beat this wood into powder, and mix it with palm oil; with which both men and women perfume themselves.”
As colonialism became more influential, the Igbo adapted their dress customs. Clothing worn before colonialism became “traditional” and worn on cultural occasions.
For everyday wear men wear a cotton wrap (robe), a shirt, andsandals. For formal occasions they wear a long shirt, often decorated with tucks and embroidery, over a dressy wrap, shoes, and a hat.
Women wear wraps for both informal and formal occasions. The everyday wrapper is made from inexpensive cotton, dyed locally. For formal wear, the wrapper is either woven orbatikdyed, and often imported.The blouse for formal wear is made of laceor embroidered.
Women also wear a head tie, a rectangular piece of cloth that can beworn a number of different ways. Formerly Igbo women added pieces of cloth to show their maritalstatus and number of children.
But in modern times, Igbo traditional attire for men is generally made up of the Isiagu top, which resembles the Dashiki worn by other African groups. Isiagu (or Ishi agu) is usually patterned with lions’ heads embroidered over the clothing and can be a plain colour.
It is worn with trousers and can be worn with either a ceremonial title holders hat or with the conventional striped men’s hat known as Okpu Agu. For women, a puffed sleeve blouse along with two wrappers and a head tie are worn.