Are you a fashionista? No? No problem, you’ll still enjoy watching the fashion scene in Ghana, West Africa, where I lived the expat life for many a year. So come with me and have a look around in Accra, the capital:
I’m driving my man to his office this morning so I can have the car to do my grocery shopping later. A young woman standing by the side of the dusty road catches my eye. She’s gorgeous and tall, wearing a black velvet party dress, a long, slim-fitting number with a plunging neckline fit for a fancy night club. (I know what you are thinking, but stop that!) She has teamed this velvet confection with lime-green flip-flops and an aluminum head-pan full of water-baggies that sell for a penny a piece. Head held regally high, she’s smiling at the world. She’s queen of the morning, ready for work.
Later that day, as I drive around doing my shopping, I see another example of imaginative Ghanaian dressing. This particular person is a young male, a handsome dude strutting his stuff with great flair. He’s got massive shoulders which are visible because he’s conveniently wearing a white singlet undershirt. He has carefully teamed this with loose, wide-legged trousers made of – I kid you not – lacy baby-pink eyelet fabric. If only I had my camera.
Okay, this is not your average male attire, but there it is.
Clothes make the man, as they say. And the woman as well. In Ghana they know how to have fun dressing. Their traditional garb is as colorful and fun as it gets and people love to dress up for any and all celebrations and festivities and, of course, for church. Hairdos are often works of art that take hours at the beauty parlors to create.
Ghanaians have style, and although the young sophisticates go for Western fashions for work and an evening out, they still might dress up in a modernized version of their traditional dress for certain occasions. Ghanaian fashion designers will use traditional African fabrics to create stunning new styles. Just have a look here at this Modern Ghana Fashion video. It’s fabulous.
Ali, our gardener, takes part in the fashion fun too. One morning he comes to work in a new shirt, a cheery floral print of many colors, an English flower garden in full bloom. Non-tropical roses and daisies and crocuses and pansies and gardenias spring forth from the cloth in glorious abandon, a profusion of blooms tempting to be picked. The print with all its sweet blossomy detail reminds me of a summer dress my mother used to wear when I was little, sleeveless, with a gathered skirt and a wide belt, cheered further with a necklace of round pink beads.
Of course, being a man, Ali does not wear a pink necklace.
He wears pink sneakers.
Ghanaians, in keeping with their character, favor bright colors, and exuberant designs. Wax print cottons, Ashante adrinkra fabric and the woven kente cloth, are part of the Ghanaian cultural heritage and they are not disappearing from the scene, I’m happy to say. Just look at these guys on the photo below. Who wants jeans? (Actually, they do, but not for celebrations and festivals.)
Clothes of Western origin are easily procured at trendy shops (for a price) or cheaply at Obruni Wao Market, otherwise known as Dead White Man Market. Every imaginable type of clothing from the West can be found here, discarded not necessarily by the relatives of dead people, but more likely by people making room for new fashions. Along with skirts, pants and blouses, you’ll find queen-size bras, ski hats and ball gowns. I once saw a fishmonger in the market decked out in an American purple mother-of-the-bride dress while cleaning shrimp, and another one was wearing an over-sized sleeping shirt with woolly lambs chasing across her bouncy breasts. Women love mixing and matching patterns and colors. What’s wrong with a red-and-blue flowered skirt teamed with a green-and-white striped blouse? Aren’t they both pretty and cheerful?
Go for it, is what I say. What’s wrong with a little happiness?
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You have a fashion story? A clothing story? Go hunt in your memory, drag something out and hang it up here.