You really cannot end a conversation on Igbo Traditional Wedding Attire. Not when Igbo native wears are so rich you will want to start a proper college course if you wanted to be a fashion designer and focus on Igbo traditional attires.
Before we begin the conversation on Igbo traditional wedding attire, let’s talk a little about the Igbo traditional wedding called Igbankwu in the Igbo language.
It is a social event heavily laced with the Igbo tradition and, you know, a lot of money thrown around. During Igbankwu both the families of the groom and bride look their best – in Igbo traditional attire.
The traditional ceremony is called Igbankwu, or wine carrying, because it involves the bride carrying a cup of palm wine to her groom. The proposed wife is to look for her husband while guests distract her. Only after she has found the groom, offered the cup to him and he has sipped the wine, is the couple married traditionally.
The festive celebration is filled with joy, happiness, and fun but is incomplete without the high-fashion outfits worn on these joyous occasions.
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It is no news that folk dress has played and still plays a symbolic role in the preservation of national values and cultural heritage and in the creation of a feeling of unity of the people. The Igbo traditional wedding attires are worn to indicate the aesthetics of the Igbo culture, while showing the joys the Nwunye (wife) and Di (husband) experience knowing they have finally found their other half.
Elements of the Igbo Traditional Wedding Attire
At the Igbankwu, women wear various outfits with a coral crown and necklace while the men wear the isi agwu (lion head) fabric that’s usually black, red, white, or blue and bedecked with gold lions all over.
With the Igbo traditional wedding attire, fashion designers highlight their creativity with the customary blouses, wrappers, skirts, dresses, and head ties. Indeed, the styles are brilliant and brightly coloured, and there are endless variations, all of which give the men a noble air and flatter the female form.
Before the attire comes to fruition, a colour theme is chosen by the nwunye and di‘s family. The colours chosen by the bride’s family might be a different colour than those selected by the groom’s family. However, each colour should represent the color theme for the occasion.
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The di also wears beads with the Isi Agwu and, sometimes, his beads carry a tusk.
The Igbo traditional wedding attire of the nwunye
Using either silk, george, damask, print, machine print, or lace material, the blouse could be sown as a short-sleeve, sleeveless, or long-sleeve blouse. It usually comes in various designs with embroideries that add a more dramatic flare. The embroidery can be on the short sleeves, neck region, or the entire blouse, depending on the bride’s taste and preference.
To add to the woman’s beauty, the blouse can have a low or high bust line or be moderately cut – also depending on the conservative nature of the nwunye or her family.
A decorative piece such as a brooch, flower, or rose adds to the beauty of the blouse. If a decorative piece is not part of the blouse, then a beautiful hand fan or a horse tail creates a dramatic effect.
At other times, the nwunye simply ties a wrapper – usually made from the popular akwa oche – all the from the top.
It is difficult to imagine Igbankwu without a nice headdress. The bride can create an amazing crown made from beads, which are perfectly complemented according to the colour of the neck beads.
The wrapper is usually a different colour than the blouse and might be plain or have folds, frills, embroidery, or overlaps. The wrappers may be tied waist high, and in modern wrappers, they can be held firm with extensions or rubber bands. George wrappers are usually the preferred materials for these traditional weddings.
What complements all these are coral beads around the neck and, on the wrists. The coral beads are usually large and prominent.
One other thing the nwunye should carry is a small handbag to match either the blouse or wrapper to give the outfit a uniform appearance. Large bags are not ideal, but they are useful for carrying gifts for the bride and groom. This also applies to footwear, which should match the colours of the outfit, especially the colour of the blouse.
The table may help summarise:
|Blouse and skirt||Head tie||Coral beads|
|Dress||Head wrap||Ivory beads|
|Blouse and wrapper||Beaded hair||Precious stones|
|Flowery gown||Coral crown||Gold bracelets|
The Igbo traditional wedding attire of the di
It is pretty simple for the husband – but cultural also.
He should wear the Isi Agwu shirt made with high-quality suede materials.
Isi Agwu is a pullover shirt worn by Igbo people, and may be long or short sleeved. Some shirts have gold buttons that are linked by a chain. There is usually a breast pocket on the front.
The di could carry a fancy walking stick, usually adorned with a gold head.
Interestingly, the husband could also wear a coral crown, probably to replace the red cap. The coral crown comes with heavy beads on the neck and on the wrists.
Indeed, if you do it right and combine the colours and accessories well, it could turn out to be the talk of the moment.