What is a Nigerian event without including the famous Aso-ebi? These traditional garments continue to spark more interest, increasing their popularity in several parts of
Aso-ebi is uniform dresses worn for various occasions such as birthdays, weddings or burials and they remain of great importance in the Nigerian culture. Wehope this article answers every question you have about Aso-ebi.
The name “Aso-ebi” comes from two Yoruba words, “Aso” which means cloth and “Ebi”which means family. Hence, Aso-ebi is simply ‘family cloth”.These traditional uniform clothes hold great significance in our culture.
Not only are they used as a means of identification, they may also be used to display the unity in a group of persons at an event. With the Aso-ebi, one’s relatives and close friends can be easily distinguished.Of course, an event can have several different Aso-ebi, depending on preferences.
We have seen occasions where relatives from maternal and paternal sides choose different attires. There can also be matching outfits for close friends, schoolmates as well as co-workers. In simpler terms, the Aso-ebi shows who is who, especially at a traditional wedding or funeral.
Aso-ebi is made with a unique and complex combination of carefully detailed hand techniques. For women, these traditional uniform dresses comprise of a bottom wrap skirt or wrapper locally known as “Iro”, the top garment or blouse locally known as “Buba”, a shawl usually placed down the shoulder and the head wrap, locally known as “Gele” which may be tied in several distinct styles depending on the material made and one’s preference to complete the look.
For the men, the Aso-ebi is simply the combination of a trouser garment usually worn with a buba tunic top locally known as “Sokoto”, a free-flowing gown locally known as “Agbada” which is worn as a top piece that usually ends between the knee and ankle. Finally, a cap is locally known as “Fila”which may be worn either standing upright on the head or bent to one side.
Alternatively, a three-quarter length trouser locally known as “Kembe”and an oversized embroidered top locally known as “Dansiki” may be worn.
Aso-ebi is made from several fabrics. These fabrics undergo various processes and require the efforts of many people to become the detailed and colourful garments used. We specially thank the designers, weavers, seamstresses, tailors, embroidery designers and embroiders who put a lot of efforts into making these amazing traditional uniforms.
Aso-ebi is often made from AsoIlu oke, a hand-woven cloth done by the Yorubaswhich means clothes from the country side. Over the years, Aso Ilu Oke has been shortened to Aso-Oke. It was made mainly in the South West Nigeria but it is now being produced in several states including Kogi, Kwara, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, and Lagos state.
Aso-Oke may come in different varieties like Etu, Sayan and Alarri.Each with its distinct patterns and colour have special meanings and is often associated with particular occasions. The Sayan which is regarded as the king of Aso-Oke is locally woven using beige wild silk obtained from cotton yarns and the cocoons of the Anaphe moth. It has a natural beige or light brown colour because it is not dyed.
The Alarri is woven using synthetic silk, locally grown cotton, or magenta waste silk. It may be decorated with perforated patterns or with shiny threads to make it more attractive and is usually worn for most Yoruba events.
Etu is popular for its uniqueness and simplicity. The deep blue or indigo dyed material often bearing very small light blue stripes is usually worn with a white concentric designed velvet fabric locally known as “Aran”. The Etu was previously worn as a social dress by elders or chiefs and is said to bear a certain resemblance to the plumage of a bird.
The Aso-ebi and Aso-oke remain of great value in our culture. These clothes carry with them great stories that showcase who we are, where we come from as well as our unforgettable history.