I took a lot away from my time in Ghana and much of it I’m now trying to find space in my closet for. As it turns out, I came home with a whole new wardrobe.
Traditional fashion in Ghana was one of my favourite things. Ghanaian people have serious style and it’s easy to see why when the process of having clothes made allows for such creativity.
I would go to the market and peruse until I found 1, 2, or 5 fabric patterns that I liked (on average GHC 5.00 per yard). Fabric shopping was at times overwhelming, but always so much fun. By the time I left Ghana the vendors at my usual spot in the market knew me far too well…one told me that if she had a son she would offer him to me for marriage. Then I would take the fabric to my seamstress along with a drawing or picture of what I wanted made. In all, I had three seamstresses and a tailor. I almost had a shoe-maker but restrained myself.
This is how I justified my new wardrobe:
- I was supporting the local textile industry
- I know where my clothes were made, by whom and under what conditions. My tailor and two of my seamstresses had small shops, and one seamstress was my neighbour who sewed in her home. I bargained a lot in Ghana, but never on clothes. The clothes were so beautifully made that I was happy to pay whatever they asked, which as it turns out, wasn’t much.
- It was far cheaper than clothes at home. On average a top or skirt was 10 Cedis, dresses and pants were from 20 Cedis to 30 Cedis. ($1 CAD = GHC1.9)
- Everything looks good on if it’s custom tailored!
One thing that getting clothes custom-made does is make you aware of your body. Ghanaians like to comment on physical appearance in general, and nothing encourages commentary more than someone holding a tape measure up against you. Actual quotes from two of my seamstresses:
“Your shape is nice oo” (Ghanaians use “oo” for emphasis similar to how Canadians use “eh”)
“Your breasts, they are very small. If they were bigger it would look so nice”
Gotta love the honesty!
Other fun exchanges with the seamstresses occurred when having short dresses or skirts made. In Ghana showing your thighs is a little taboo. I say a little because short skirts and dresses are common at clubs, just not for day-to-day wear. Seamstresses tend to err on the more conservative side, so I felt a little awkward asking them to make me short things.
The quality of the clothes I had made was excellent, and for the most part I loved everything. There was however, an unfortunate bedazzling incident with what was supposed to be a basic a dress. In an effort to make it extra special for me; because it was too plain; my seamstress took some creative liberties with a glue gun and some silver stars. That dress didn’t make it home with me.
I think that the outfit I’m happiest with is something that I had made for my mom. Without seeing my mom, one of my seamstresses made her a traditional outfit just using her measurements. Mommy loves it and so do I!
I am also in love with the clothes I had made for myself and thought it appropriate to share pictures. I started a fashion show for my family at home of everything I had made, but then I got tired of all the wardrobe changes – a model, I am not – so the pictures are of most, but not all of my new clothes. Note that I chose pictures based on what showed the clothes best, not how I look.
Photography credit to Junior West, the best little brother ever.