Traditional fabrics are a core aspect of Nigerian culture. For decades, Nigerians have donned attires made with these fabrics to weddings, funerals, festivals and other events. They can be worn to basically any event (as long as there is no dress code), however, they are most commonly worn to wedding ceremonies. It is not out of place to say that Nigerian wedding ceremonies are particularly colourful because of the variety of traditional fabrics rocked by the couple and their guests. These fabrics include Ankara, Adire, Lace, Brocade and the evergreen Aso Oke.
Aso Oke has been the backbone of traditional wedding fashion in Nigeria for centuries. Over the years, it has been constantly refined to suit modern day fashion trends. This special hand-woven fabric can be used to make men's gowns commonly referred to as agbada as well as hats. It is also used to make women's wrappers, called iro and head tie, also known as gele.
Where Does Aso Oke Originate From?
Aso Oke is the short version of Aso Ilu Oke which roughly translates to ‘clothes from the up-country’. It originates from the Yoruba tribe, found in the South Western part of Nigeria. Yorubas around the world wear aso oke fabric for special occasions such as holidays, weddings, funerals and title ceremonies. Although this timeless fabric is a huge part of Yoruba culture, it is also worn and appreciated by people of other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
How is Aso Oke Made?
Aso Oke is made from cotton. Before cotton fibres can be woven into aso oke fabric, the seeds must be painstakingly extracted with an iron rod. The cotton seeds are placed on a block of wood and an iron rod is rolled over the seeds. The pressure exerted on the seeds by the iron rod pushes the seeds out of the cotton fibres. After the seeds are extracted, the cotton is set aside, while the seeds are ready to be planted again.
After seed extraction, the cotton is spun into balls of thread using a locally made wooden instrument popularly known as a spindler, but locally as orun. The balls of thread are carefully sorted to remove dirt and the processed threads are dyed to a desired colour or used in their natural form, which is creamish white. The desired colours are then interlaced on the weaving machine to create the structure and order with which the design will be brought to life. This is known as patterning.
The process of patterning requires a lot of care and patience because if a mistake is made, the weaver would have to unweave the design. Weaving begins after arrangement of the thread and assembling of the required machine parts have been concluded. The duration of weaving depends on the complexity of the design, expertise of the weaver, and the conditions under which he/she has to work. The fabric is traditionally woven by men on a horizontal loom in narrow strips or by women on a vertical loom.
Aso Oke and The Nigerian Wedding Today
Aso Oke has been used to make traditional wedding attires in Yorubaland since the 15th century and is still very much in use today. The production process has remained the same for centuries, however, new techniques and production methods have been adopted to eliminate the weight and thickness of the Aso Oke fabric, and to make it more suitable for casual wear.
Another way designers have modernized this old traditional fabric is by structurally manipulating and combining animal and floral motifs into definite shapes suitable for computer design applications.
Types of Aso Oke Fabrics
There are different types of Aso Oke fabric available today, they include:
- Sanyan type: woven from anaphe wild silk and cotton yarns.
- Alaari type: woven with either synthetically or locally grown cotton and shinning threads, sometimes with perforated patterns.
- Etu type: bears dark indigo colours with tiny white stripes noted for their simplicity.
Aso Oke fabric is often worn with aran, a brown velvet with concentric designs. The most common wears made with Aso Oke fabric include female blouses (buba), head tie (gele), wrapper (iro) and shawl, as well as male garments (agbada), trousers and hats. However, modern day fashion designers are now utilising this timeless fabric for the production of tote bags, footwears, jackets and formal dresses, all of which can be rocked to both traditional and white wedding ceremonies.
How to Correctly Rock Aso Oke to a Wedding Ceremony
Rocking Aso Oke to a wedding ceremony is a sure way to make a fashion statement and showcase your love and appreciation for our rich cultural heritage. Whether you're the bride, groom or just a guest, you can find the perfect Aso Oke attire for that special event. There are so many beautiful colours and patterns to choose from. You could decide to keep it simple and classy by rocking an Aso Oke fabric with just one or two colours, or you could take things up a notch by going for a fabric with bold, intricate patterns comprising of three or more colours.
You could go for a full-on traditional attire (i.e buba, iro and gele for females or agbada, trousers and cap for males), or you could switch things up a bit by rocking modern clothes made with Aso Oke fabric. Whichever one you choose, ensure that your shoes perfectly complement your outfit. If your Aso Oke fabric contains bold colours and patterns, it would be unwise to wear a shoe with bold patterns as this could make your entire outfit look like a costume. If you do not know how to correctly rock Aso Oke to a wedding, do well to scan through social media for ideas.
In conclusion, Aso Oke has been a huge part of Yoruba culture and Nigerian wedding fashion for as long as any living Nigerian could remember. Despite modern and contemporary fashion raves, Aso-Oke has remained resilient, continually cementing its place as a timeless, highly fashionable fabric which never goes out of style.
We have various aso oke fabrics in that you can adorn in style at your next event or wedding.