Saturday, July 1, 2017

African Tailoring

From an early age, my mom taught me to sew. At first, I had to rip out almost every seam and there were MANY tears involved! Over the years I've come to enjoy sewing and making my own clothes. I like finding fabric on sale (yay Joann and Hobby Lobby coupons!), finding the right pattern, guesstimating how much additional fabric I'd need to lengthen the garment to fit me, and then often stashing the fabric and pattern in the recesses of a closet until we both had a rainy weekend. Then,  Mom and I would carefully lay out the fabric (often on the kitchen table), pin the pattern pieces in the right places, then cut out each piece. Then I'd follow the written directions included in the pattern envelope to put the pieces together to achieve the finished product.

It's different here.

In Nigeria, you go to the section of the main market that sells fabric, choose from the precut 6-yard lengths of fabric... and begin the process of bargaining to get a fair price. You then take the fabric to your tailor along with a picture or drawing of the garment you want. Or if you don't know what you want, you can look through fashion magazines to choose something. It's common to say "I like the sleeves of that picture, but can you make the neckline more like this one? Oh, and can you add embroidery to the hem like this picture?"

Related imageThe fashion magazines are often collections of photos from high class Nigerian weddings where each wedding guest is photographed. The bride usually chooses not only her wedding colors, but particular fabrics in those colors. If you're a real Nigerian friend, then you'll go and purchase that fabric and take it to your tailor to make an outfit to wear to the wedding. You can be as creative as you want! After the wedding, the bride can submit the dozens of photographs to the publishing company and get featured in their quarterly magazine.

A few weeks ago, I received a call from I__, my keke driver. He had just returned from visiting his family in one of the other Nigerian states. A relative had recently started selling locally-dyed wax fabrics, and he wanted to know if I was interested in purchasing some fabric for my parents to have coordinating outfits. Of course! It's not very common to find fabrics dyed/printed here in Nigeria. Most of the nicer quality fabric is actually made in Holland or Ghana.

The second day that my parents were here in Nigeria, I took them to the lady who has made several outfits for me. She measured my parents, showed them various styles of matching dresses and men's trouser & top sets, then took their order. I told her that they wanted to wear their matching outfits for church the next week, and she rushed the order. We went back about a week later to try on the garments and make a few final adjustments.

We went to Hausa church with I__ and his wife. Don't you just love the matchy matchy outfits?

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