The return of iro and buba

The indigenous Nigerian attire is now a must-wear for every occasion.

The latest fashion craze among young Nigerian women is the iro and buba, a style trend that previously they would rather not be caught dead in.Iro and Buba 5

The indigenous Nigerian attire is now a must-wear for every occasion; from weddings to the red carpet.

“It can be worn for almost occasion; like for church, weddings, casual outings and almost anywhere. It is also comfortable for our weather,” said Ada Ezike, a fashion aficionado.

The iro and buba, pronounced “ee-ro and boo-bah,” has been part of the West African culture for a very long time. It was mostly worn by the Yoruba people of South West Nigeria but has since spread far into other ethnic groups.

In recent times, the iro and buba, which was fashionable in the sixties and seventies, has come to be viewed as everyday clothe “our mom” would wear and not a style for a young nubile woman.


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Children, however, were not left off the hook as some were forced into the very “mature” style and had to make reluctant appearances in their uncomfortable and constraining iro or wrapper at church and birthday parties.Iro and Buba 3

However, there has been periods in the eighties, nineties, noughties and now when it has reappeared on the high fashion scene with slight little tweaks here and there to suit the taste of the day.

In the late nineties, early noughties, the “oleku” – where the iro ends anywhere above the knees or mid-calves – was all the rage. It was a reincarnation of the style as it was worn in the sixties, the era of the mini skirt.

These days, however, young women are proud to don the traditional long wrapper which stops around the ankles. Still, some creative alterations have been made to give it a modern look.

Usually, the two-piece attire is made out of plain cotton, African print (or Ankara), lace, as well as traditional woven material (aso-oke). But in its latest iteration, Nigerian designers have continued to experiment with various fabrics. The current trend has seen iro and buba made out of silk, chiffon and satin.

“I think designers are rushing into it right now because it’s making money. Our generation, we just like going with the trend and anything that is making money, they just hop on to it,” said Titi Belo, a fashion designer and CEO of Vmperfect Verbalista.

Traditionally, the iro is wrapped around the waist and the top of one end bunched up and tucked under folds of the wrapper on one side of the waist. Sometimes, both ends are tied at the back or the side of the wearer. In its continued stylish reincarnation, the 2014 iro is worn as a tulip style wrap, tied in front or at the side.


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The trendy attire can be acquired anywhere; from off the runway to a street tailor’s shop, with a ready-made set going for as much as N10,000.

“Although I feel people make money off (customers) when they know that something is in vogue, it’s however funny how people who sell the materials in the market haven’t increased the price of fabrics; a yard of silk is N300. Meanwhile, I know designers who sell the readymade ones for about N8, 000 to N10, 000 which I find ridiculous and people are actually buying these things,” said Ms. Ezike.

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