The Yoruba have peculiar types of clothes that make them distinct from other cultures. They have Aso ibile, the traditional clothes of various types and shades. Both male and female have different types and it is an aberration then for a man to wear a woman’s clothes and vice versa.
Before the advent of the Europeans to the Yoruba land, only hand woven clothes were available. The Yoruba started from using ibante (a piece of thick hand woven cloth). It is only used for covering the private parts of both male and female.
Ibante is made from a type of cloth called kijipa. (It is a tarpaulin – like cloth). It is usually very thick and can withstand any stress. Later on, people started wearing normal cloth that is made from aso-oke.
Some of these types of aso-oke materials include etu, petuje, san-an-yan, alaaari and so on.
For men’s wear, they have buba, esiki and sapara, which are regarded as ewu awotele or under wear, while they also have dandogo, agbada, gbariye, sulia and oyala, which are also known as ewu awoleke or over wears.
They also have various types of sokoto or native trousers that are sown alongside the above-mentioned dresses. Some of these are kembe, gbanu, sooro, kamu, sokoto elemu, etc. A man’s dressing is incomplete without a cap. Some of these caps include, but are not limited to, Gobi, tinko, abeti-aja, alagbaa, oribi, bentigoo, onide, and labankada.
The tailors and the designers have various styles and patterns that they do to these caps and the various dresses mentioned above. All these add to the aesthetic values of these traditional wears and the person who put them on.
It must be noted that the culture of under wears, as in pants, brassiere etc. is a culture borrowed from the Europeans.
Women also have different types of dresses. The most commonly found are iro and buba or wrapper with a blouse–like loose top with the sleeve almost getting to the wrist. Women also have gele or head gear that must be put on whenever the iro and buba is on. Just as the cap is important to men, women’s dressing is incomplete if gele is not put on.
This gele is wound twice round the head and tucked on one side. It may be of plain cloth or costly as the women can afford. Apart from this, they also have iborun or ipele. It is like a miniature wrapper that is hanged on the left shoulder of women. At times, it is tied round their waists over the wrapper.
Unlike men, women have two types of under wears that we call tobi and sinmi. Tobi is like the modern day apron with strings and spaces in which women can keep their money. They tie this tobi around their waists before putting on the iro. Sinmi is like a sleeveless T-shirt that is worn under before wearing any other dress.
In the contemporary period, the Yoruba wear various types of clothing because of their interactions with other cultures, especially through education, trade, travel and religion. This is why it is possible to see some Yoruba people with suits and ties and some others with heavy turbans on hot sunny afternoons.
The Yoruba wear modern clothings like shirts and trousers, skirts and blouses, suits, gowns that are all borrowed from the Europeans. They also wear caftan, babanriga, Senegalese boubou and the likes that are all borrowed from the Arabs and other cultures in Africa.
It must be noted, however, that most of the materials used for sowing the above dresses vary. While some of these fabrics include various types of lace materials, guinea brocade materials, ankaras, linens and others that are imported into the country, the Yoruba also make use of adire and batiks that have their roots in Yoruba land.
All these are also used for sewing various types of dresses. The colors of the various types of clothing described above vary. While some combine many of the primary and secondary colors, others are just single color like blue, green, white, red, yellow, and so no.
Despite these developments, the Yoruba are still patronizing a fraction of their traditional wears. For men, only agbada, buba, sokoto and various types of fila or caps are still in use. Women also wear only iro, buba, and gele. Tobi and sinmi are no longer in use. Majority of others discussed above cannot be commonly found in the cities. Relics of these are still been found in the villages and the country sides.
ACCESSORIES AND BODY ADORNMENT
There are many types of beads, hand laces, necklaces; bangles that are abound in Yoruba land that both male and female put on. Chiefs, kings or people from the royal family, especially, use some of these beads, often.
Some of these beads include iyun, lagidigba, akun, etc.
As men go about with their heads cleanly and neatly shaven every time, the reverse is the case with women who ‘consider their hair as the glory of the woman’. They take care of their hair in two major ways. They plait and they weave. There are many types of plaiting that women readily pick any type they want. Some of these include kolese, ipako-elede, suku, kojusoko, alagogo, konkoso etc.
The Yoruba consider tribal marks as ways of adding beauty to the face of individuals. This is apart from the fact that they show clearly from which part of Yoruba land an individual come from. Different types of tribal marks are made with local blades or knives on the cheeks.
There are some people whose occupation is to make tribal marks on the faces of these children. They are called Oloola. These are done at infancy, when children may not feel the pain much. In some parts of Yoruba land, the Oloola have to shave the head of the kids well before the tribal marks are given. This is because the tribal marks extend to the head. Some of these tribal marks include Pele, abaja-egba, abaja-owu, abaja-merin, keke, gombo, ture, pele Ife, Keke owu, and pele Ijebu.