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Iro and Buba, African Fashion and Its Beautiful Styles

Updated on July 18, 2018

70's Iro and buba

Iro and buba
Iro and buba | Source

African Fashion and Styles

Revolution Of Iro And Buba Up To Date

Iro and buba in the past, has been associated with the fashion for older ladies, super single ladies and mothers, but with the constant advancement of Iro and buba, it has shifted from what it was perceived to be in the past to a fashionable style that can be worn by all. In recent times, designers have been able to transform it into diverse styles that appeals to the young modern woman of today. However, it has evolved from one generation to another and different styles have been created such as the “oleku” which is the shorter version of the normal Iro and buba thus making the wrapper shorter. There is also “sarong” in which the wrapper stops at mid calf and occasionally even shorter. This wrapper is styled or joined stylishly in front.

Iro and Buba

This iro and buba is a loose fitting top with a wrapper. This top part known as buba is slightly loose fitting while the bottom part of iro is just a rectangular piece that is tied around the waist.

The iro and buba styles can be achieved with different fabrics, e.g. lace, chiffon, Ankara etc. Though the younger women tend to fashion themselves in western style, this has further helped in their designers been very creative with the iro and buba.

Oleku style

The Oleku Twist

Mrs. Sade Thomas – a fashion designer reputed to be the first woman to own a boutique in Nigeria. Embarked on finding an identity for Nigerians by inventing and creating many innovative styles using traditional fabrics with the Ankara. She made gowns, pleated skirts, midi and miniskirts. Her efforts kick started what is known as the Nigerian fashion industry today. Some of her creations include the kaftans, boubou, also oke dresses, beaded shoes, Ankara skirt and mini dresses and the twist on the iro and buba.

First of all, the 60’s was truly a fashionable decades.

Deola, Sagoe, reworked the Yoruba classic. Iro and buba, giving it a modern edge in her “komole” collection. Thus bringing back the “okeku” style on the fashion scene. The twist and knot style of tying wrapper also made a comeback and this was also the rave back in the days. Iro and buba worn by the mature women South West Nigeria between early 50’s and 80’s has been transformed into oleku.

The Oleku style isn’t just about the short sleeves and short wrappers only, Nigerian fashion designers have also played around it, mixing and blending complementary prints and colours. Like matching an ordinary or French lace buba with an Ankara wrapper, adire buba with damask or aso-oke wrapper.

Vivian Udeh, a fashion designer, said that with the oleku trend both the old and young wear it and style it up by sewing smaller necks and put on beads to accessories. The neckline also comes in varied shapes form the normal round wide necks, to a u-necks etc.

Fashionable and timeless the classic iro and buba has gone through a style evolution. More colours, more contemporary fabrics and the classy knot make the iro and buba the first choice for young, fashionable women. It’s the perfect blend between the old traditional style and today’s contemporary trends.

African Fashion and Style

Lagos Nigeria:
Lagos, Nigeria

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South West

Flowery satin falling shoulder buba and sarong styled iro paired with pearled neck-bead and earring.This fabulous attire would look good on the red carpet. Wink

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Buba | Source

The iro and buba is now worn by both young and older women to important occasions such as a birthday, anniversary, weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals etc.

‘Oleku’ is a Yoruba word which means ‘too hot’ though there are different interpretations to its meaning, oleku describes an alluring fashion style. It was quite trendy back in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s you would see mature women tie their wrappers which is called iro around their waist, which normally extends to their ankle, with long sleeve blouse called “buba” to match. The iro is typically fastened with a rope or girdle to ensure it does not loosen. But with its progression, it has undergone some alteration or modification. The wrappers are now shorter more like the updated version of the 70’s. Iro and buba is now worn by all classes of people both high and low. Usually of the same fabric or a combination of lace and aso-oke evolution. More colours, more contemporary fabrics and the classy knot make the Iro and buba the first choice for young, fashionable women.

It is the perfect blend between the old traditional style and today’s contemporary trends. The iro and buba style was traditionally worn as a three or four pieces clothing that is the iro, buba, gele and the scarf commonly called ipele, or Iborun which is worn across the shoulder.

It dates as far back as the 70’s. The aso-oke, which is indigenous to the Yorubas has undergone a lot of changes in colour and texture.

Combination of different colours of Chiffon fabrics in a stylish one-shoulder buba with cape and long fitted tied wrapper. In Sarong style (Knotted in front)


The aso-oke is a hand loomed cloth woven by the Yoruba people of South West Nigeria. Aso – Oke means top cloth in English language. It is usually woven by men and the fabric is used to make men’s agbada, men’s hats called fila and for the women it is used in making the iro and buba some Yoruba classic aso-oke include Sanyan, etu, and Alaari.

Aso-oke is the short form of Aso-ilu oke also known as Aso-ofi.


Submit a Comment

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 

    3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Aww thanks Benny. I appreciate you too.

  • Benny01 profile imageAUTHOR

    Ijeoma Peter 

    3 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

    Kristen, I am glad you were able to learn something new from my article, I appreciate you my friend.

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 

    3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    My pleasure, Benny. I enjoyed learning new stuff in your hub.

  • Benny01 profile imageAUTHOR

    Ijeoma Peter 

    3 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

    Kristen, thank you very much for stopping by, I appreciate your comment.

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 

    3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Benny, this was an interesting hub on African fashion styles. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

  • Benny01 profile imageAUTHOR

    Ijeoma Peter 

    3 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

    Lol, you know I thought its only me, gele looks great on people who can wear it but I finds it difficult to wear it myself maybe because I like wearing simple clothes. Thanks for reading and commenting @ Lady-E.

  • Lady_E profile image


    3 years ago from London, UK

    It's a very elegant fashion but I don't feel comfortable with the Gele. I love seeing it on other women but the few times I have worn it to important parties (because as you know sometimes people wear the same and you have to fit in). I take it off within hours.

    Nigerian fashion is so elegant. I also love the way the men dress, particularly the Hausa's. That long elegant embroidered top.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  • Benny01 profile imageAUTHOR

    Ijeoma Peter 

    3 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

    Aesta1, you are right, if you see Americans in Nigeria rocking Iro and buba you would be amazed. God bless you for stopping by to read and comment on my hub.

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 

    3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Interesting style. I think African fashion is now getting popular to many others beyond Africa.

  • Benny01 profile imageAUTHOR

    Ijeoma Peter 

    3 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

    Wow that's interesting, by the way thanks for reading my hub. And you can get one for yourself, it would look good on you.

  • StealTheirStyle profile image


    3 years ago

    I'm in love with african tribal prints. I'm also loving afro beats at the moment!


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