The Many Fabrics of Gabon

Tuesday 23 August 2011

There really aren’t a lot of clothing stores here in Gabon.  The few that we have are expensive and usually last years (or even 5,10,15 years before) style.  In the markets, the majority of the clothes sold are second hand but around every corner is a fabric store and behind those corners are tailors, often Senegalese men.

Walls, stacks and more walls of bright, heavily patterned fabric.

Fabric colour and patterns are a big thing in Africa and they’re used on many different occasions.  When a wedding is going to take place, both the bride and the groom choose a fabric and all of their guests are required to get an outfit made out of that fabric.  On special events, such as last week’s Independence Day, companies will choose a fabric and make shirts for each of their employees.  Last year, there were fabrics specifically designed for the 50th anniversary of Gabon with emblems, president’s faces, and anything else ‘Gabonese.’

The tailors make a wide variety of African fashions and it’s generally quite cheap.  You can get your custom dress made anywhere from around 10 000 cfa ($20) up depending on how elaborate it is.  You can also take in something you already own and they’ll try to make a replica.

A terrible, unartistic photo of the tailor many of the women use. The dressing room is behind the pink curtain. Not exactly Saks but it gets the job done.

I’m still thinking that sometime this year we should throw an “African Party” and we’ll all get elaborate African dresses made and our husbands can get matching shirts.  Oh the life of an expat housewife...

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