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Nigerian Women Gele Styles

Comfort Babatola is a Nigerian-American whose interests include travel, faith, cooking, sewing, decorating, wellness, and fashion.

High Fashion Gele

High Fashion Gele

What Is Gele?

In the Western Region of Nigeria, women can often be seen in their traditional attire of "buba," an airy type blouse with long sleeves, and "iro," the wrapper that's tied on top of the buba. To complete this whole attire, a woman will wear a head wrap (usually in matching fabric). This headwrap is known as "gele."

Gele (pronounced gay lay) is a Yoruba term for a woman's head wrap. This piece of clothing can be as simple as a scarf-like head-tie or bandana to being as elaborate as the arched train of a peacock. A very sophisticated gele is usually spurned from a fabric made specifically for that purpose.

The Culture of the Gele

Though the wearing of Gele is common-place for women in the Nigerian Culture, the two cultures that are especially noted for wearing the Gele in both its casual and sophisticated form are the Yoruba and Igbo Culture. Yoruba women can always be seen at home, in the market, at church, and on special occasions, such as a wedding, birthday, and chieftaincy parties wearing some form of Gele as an accessory with their attire.

In the Ibo culture, the Gele is usually worn over George Wrapper and blouse. Thus, the gele has now become a fashion statement. In fact, to wear the traditional Yoruba buba and iro without a gele will be considered a fashion faux pas.

Woven - Custom-made Gele

Woven - Custom-made Gele

Types of Gele

Casual Gele: Gele comes in many different forms. The very casual ones are usually the ones made out of the same fabric as the outfit being worn. It can also be a regular polyester scarf or shawl that can sometimes be worn as a head-tie.

Couture Gele: These are Gele made for the fashion-conscious, the fashionistas of the Nigerian and other African culture. In this category are the Grand Swiss, Super Jubilee, and Hayes Gele. There's even the Net Gele Head tie (a net-like, see-through fabric gele).

These are imported gele made with the African woman and culture in mind. They are usually made in Switzerland and come in both solid colors, with designs or embroideries.

Net Gele - Not your ordinary Gele!

Net Gele - Not your ordinary Gele!

Custom-Made Gele—Gele Aso-Oke

These are Geles that are made especially for special occasions, such as traditional weddings, milestone birthday, chieftaincy title celebrations, and other special occasion celebrations. Custom-made Geles are usually made with of Aso-Oke, a woven fabric spurned by hand or machine on demand.

Custom made aso-oke geles are made to the specification of the buyer. The design, fabric consistency and color are followed in detail. The result is usually a blend of colorful prints and patterns. These colorful print fabrics are then used to make the Gele and Shawl (that drapes over the shoulder, or around the waist), or into the complete outfit which consists of the Gele, Shawl, Buba, and Wrapper. The price of a custom-made gele is usually more than a casual gele.

Emerald Green Metallic Net Gele with Bling Trim.

Emerald Green Metallic Net Gele with Bling Trim.

Bling Gele: Accessorizing the Gele

As mentioned earlier, a common way to wear Gele is as an accessory over either the Yoruba style Buba and the Iro, or the Igbo style George (Up and Down) traditional outfit. In our contemporary time, modern Nigerian women have found countless new ways to accessorize the Gele itself. The newest trend is to add as much bling to the gele as it can take. This is called Bling Gele.

Bling Gele is becoming popular among fashionistas who want to take wearing the Gele to another level. To bling the Gele, precious stones, beads, rhinestones, and sometimes silk flowers can be added to the Gele for a more glamorous appeal. Such Gele helps to set one apart where one is the celebrant of a special occasion, such as a wedding, wedding anniversary, or a milestone birthday celebration.

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Bling Gele is gradually catching on as the design is currently available on High Metallic Net Shimmery Gele. These types gele are adorned with a layer of quality rhinestone trim, usually on the edge of the Gele. A pair (Gele & Ipele - Shawl) of these could cost anywhere from $100 to $120 USD. Bling Gele will add that needed sparkle to your special occasion.

Gele Styles: That Was Then, This Is Now

The wearing of Gele by most African culture and by Nigerian women is not a new fad. Nigerian women have been donning the Gele as an accessory that completes the traditional attires since pre-colonial times. Today, the Gele continues to emerge in designs, styles and uses.

It used to be that the Gele was only worn with either the 'Buba' and 'Iro' (the Yoruba woman traditional attire), or, the Igbo woman's 'George Wrapper and Blouse'. Not any more! Gele is no longer just for Buba and Iro.

Today, you can see the Gele being donned on all types of attire, such as skirt suits, pantsuits, and cocktail dresses. The possibilities are endless as the uses of the Gele is still emerging.

That was then. The Gele worn over the Buba and Iro. This picture was possibly taken in the 1960s.

That was then. The Gele worn over the Buba and Iro. This picture was possibly taken in the 1960s.

This is new: Reinventing the gele. Meet The fashionistas - The Ceiling Is The Limit!

This is new: Reinventing the gele. Meet The fashionistas - The Ceiling Is The Limit!

Modern Gele. How tall is that?

Modern Gele. How tall is that?


The 'Gele' Dilemma

The ability to tie the Gele is one of the problems faced by most Nigerian women. Tying the Gele is an art in itself. It takes great patience and precision. I remember as a child always watching my mom tie the Gele for a special occasion and wondering, 'what in the world...?' Now I find myself doing the same, getting frustrated over tying my gele, because sometimes it just takes forever.

But, I seem to have found just the secret to tying the Gele in less time than most Nigerian women would. Don't ask me to tell you how long it takes. Let's just say, I pre-tie my Geles weeks, and sometimes months ahead of the special event. So all I do is just put it on like a hat whenever It's needed.

For a lot of women, the time it takes to tie the Gele is a deterrent to wearing this essential part of the cultural attire as it can take from half an hour to hours just to get it right. This can sometimes be a frustrating process. Thus, most Nigerian women have abandoned wearing the Gele altogether.

One Nigerian man, who is well skilled in the art of tying the Gele, noticed this trend of not wearing the Gele among Nigerian women. His name is Segun Gele. One day, on location at one Nigerian Wedding, an opportunity presented itself, and he sprung into action, tying the Geles of many invited guests for a price. Now, he makes a living doing this at Nigerian gatherings and special occasions here in the USA. (See him at work in the video below).

Auto-Gele: Gele Made Easy

Though Segun Gele was instrumental in making the tying of gele popular again, even better is the invention of the now very popular Auto-gele. I don't really know who gets the credit for this very clever invention. One thing is sure, Auto-gele is taking the Internet by storm.

Auto-geles are a new wave of gele styles that are born out of the necessity to have the experience of wearing the complete traditional outfit without the stress associated with tying the traditional gele. Auto-geles are pre-tied, usually held in place with Velcro or pieces of the gele fabric and set in the form of a hat. This makes it easy to wear and remove while retaining the shape of the gele.

Auto-gele makes tying gele a breeze. It only takes minutes to put on and take off. No need for countless trials and errors.

This is my attempt at the Gele. Pretty good, don't you think? Segun Gele, watch out!

This is my attempt at the Gele. Pretty good, don't you think? Segun Gele, watch out!

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a way to sew a Gele?

Answer: Yes there are plenty of ways to sew a Gele. However, It's usually easier to just buy a ready made autogele.

Question: Are geles only worn by women?

Answer: Yes, only by women. Men wear traditional caps.

© 2012 Comfort Babatola


megrose on January 05, 2020:

thanks for the information, l want to learn how to tie the.


Chola Katandula on June 13, 2017:

I love African outfits

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 13, 2017:

@Anahi Jimenez

One of the image featured here already has one donning her gele.

Thomos Max on March 07, 2017:

Thank you soooooo much for such Scarves --very nice! Hello ...

Isabella King from Honolulu, HI on March 05, 2017:

I wish I had read this before listening to "Half a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on tape. I realize now that I did not really know what she meant, so I had trouble visualizing her descriptions. Thanks for the hub:)

Anahi Jimenez on November 30, 2016:

I have a big question.. I hope to not cause any problems by asking if it is okay to see a person of a different culture wear a gele. I mean a Latina or white women. thank you.

Cat Jefferson on November 24, 2016:

For those asking about double gele. It is a method of tying two contrasting colored pieces of gele cloth. You can find many photos using a google search and you can learn how to tie many different styles of gele on youtube. You can learn with Sego gele, (stiff strong paper gele) Aso Oke (traditional woven Yoruba fabric) and Ankara cloth. (Wax died brightly colored cotton cloth) Learn the methods, then practice, practice, practice! You can even learn how to make an easy tie gele that only takes 30 to 60 seconds to put on!

bonda on November 01, 2016:

Thanks for the piece about the Gele, extremely educational. Actresses such as Mide FM Abiodun and Mercy Aigbe seem to love them. So elegant!

cyntex on May 13, 2016:

lovely styles. really impressive and makes me want to tie Gele on my head too. lol

Wil M. D. on April 11, 2016:

Do you know of any Gele artists in FL?

Debra Hargrove from North Carolina on February 24, 2016:

Very pretty Gele styles. I like wearing head wraps. I was not able to do the wraps like in your pictures. I like trying different unique style designs. Nice article for showing nice accessories styles.

Lauren Podell on November 19, 2015:

Nice look for super fashionable fabrics. It look gorgeous.

Lauren Podell on November 19, 2015:

Nice look for super fashionable fabrics. It look gorgeous.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 02, 2014:

@Your Cousins - Thank you for stopping by to read. Appreciate the comment.

Your Cousins from Atlanta, GA on October 01, 2014:

The Geles are wonderful, as are the women wearing them. Voted up and beautiful!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on September 02, 2014:

Hello lizdamore - There are several places in Lagos where you can get the customized gele. I don't have a specific address on hand as I live here in the USA, but if you go to Idumota, Lagos, it shouldn't be hard to find at least one who deals in custom-made Aso-Oke.

I will try and include a list of possible sellers in the future.

lizdamore on September 02, 2014:

Hi,I love this page but I want you to please tell me how to get the customised gele or better still who do I contact to get one?I reside in port Harcourt. Thanks

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on August 30, 2014:

@stuff4kids - Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I'm glad you found this interesting.

Amanda Littlejohn on August 30, 2014:

What a truly gorgeous hub this is! And a wonderful insight into traditional Nigerian couture and the way that women are styling it up with a more modern twist.

Beautiful photos, too. Loved it!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on July 27, 2014:

@MLeeWilliams - My pleasure. I'm glad you found this useful. Thanks for your visit.

MLeeWilliams on July 26, 2014:

I just ordered fabric for my gele. I can't wait until it arrives so that I can start wearing it. Thank you for the article and the beautiful pictures that accompany it.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 18, 2014:

@Kristine Manley - Thanks. I'm glad you stopped by. Appreciate the read and comment.

Kristine Manley from Atlanta, GA on June 18, 2014:

This is a wonderful Hub. I remember when my Mom used to wear Geles.

Lovely on November 30, 2013:

They are really beautifully .pls how can I get the wooven custom made ashike or gele .thanks

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 22, 2013:

Thank You, Cocoa Lady - Be Blessed!

Cocoa Lady on October 21, 2013:

Thank you soo much, this is one of the very best video's on making a Gele

easy. I think I've got the ability.. will share with other like minded Sistah's


Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 28, 2013:

@helpavisitor - Thanks you for the read and comment. Welcome to hubpages!

helpavisitor from Germany on June 28, 2013:

Very interesting article. I love it.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 21, 2013:

@rocky - Double gele? Not sure I get that, but it would be nice to see what a double gele looks like on a person. Would like to show it on here.

I know gele, if made with Aso-oke, are made in pairs. The other piece is used as a shawl, as shown in two of the images above.

Thanks for the read and comment. I appreciate your stopping by, and I'm going to look into this double gele thing.

rocky on June 21, 2013:

Nice really. Thanks for this. But I would have loved to see samples of double gele on a person...

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on May 18, 2013:

@Purpose Embraced - You are very welcome. Now you know what they're called. Thanks for stopping by. :)

@Monica Kay 215 - Thank you. Appreciated the read and comment.

Monica Kay from Pennsylvania on May 18, 2013:

Wonderful hub.

Yvette Stupart PhD from Jamaica on May 16, 2013:

Those head wraps are beautiful! I have always admired them on women. But I never knew they had a special name. Thanks for sharing.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 18, 2013:

@pstraubie48 - Thank you for the read and comment. And, for sending those angels my way. Shalom. Stay blessed. :)

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 18, 2013:

How gorgeous these are. I have seen them but did not know the correct name for them. Now I know thanks to this article. Thanks for sharing. Voted up+++

Angels are on the way to you this morning. :) ps

Author Victoria Sheffield from Georgia on March 13, 2013:


Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on March 12, 2013:

ComfortB, Wonderful informative hub on the Gele! What lovely unique colorful artistic high fashion as well as casual African head wrap designs. Nice presentation!

Thank You for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 10, 2013:

@Sue Andreas - Thank you. Your comments are much appreciated.

Sue Andreas on March 10, 2013:

wonderful clothes...

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 09, 2013:

@torrilynn - You are so welcome. A lot of people have seen Nigerian women is their traditional attire but never quite have an understanding of why 'we' dress that way. This hub was written to give readers an understanding of the Gele and it's relevance to our way of dressing.

It's not a costume, it's our way of life. It's an integral part of the attire that defines our culture.

I appreciate your comment and vote. Thanks.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 09, 2013:

@Sonya-Artis - Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Sonya Artis from Kansas City, MO/Ft. Lauderdale, FL on March 09, 2013:

Beautiful...great information also.

torrilynn on March 09, 2013:

Hi ComfortB,

thanks for this hub on how to make a Gele

i think that it was very useful and really did show a new way

of making the traditional African head-wrap thanks again

and Voted up

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 09, 2013:

Thank you jainismus. The Gele is the 'cherry on the cake', so to say for a Nigerian woman wearing a traditional attire.

Thanks for visiting and commenting. Very well appreciated.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on March 09, 2013:

Beautiful women in beautiful costume.....

Thank you for sharing the information and photographs.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 23, 2013:

@loksmi - I love learning about other cultures too. And I'm glad you found this hub educational in that aspect. Now you're in the 'know' on the subject of 'gele', 'buba' and 'iro'.

Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. :)

loksmi on February 23, 2013:

Just lovely!! I love knowing about the culture and traditions of different places. This article has really served the purpose. I've a Nigerian friend, and I will talk to her about Buba, Iro and Gele now, I'm sure she will be surprised :)

Thank you for introducing us to your culture :)

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 18, 2013:

@AMFredenburg - Just the right words. Thanks for stopping by.

Aldene Fredenburg from Southwestern New Hampshire on February 18, 2013:

Stunningly beautiful . . .

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on January 04, 2013:

@billybuc - You are very welcome! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2013:

That was actually very interesting. The style and colors are spectacular. Thank you for educating me...great piece!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on January 01, 2013:

@expertscolumn - Yes, beautiful is really well fitting. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Very well appreciated.

Stanley Soman from New York on December 29, 2012:

oh my Nigerian women beautiful!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on November 14, 2012:

@dwachira - You're right. The Gele has a unique look to it, and always makes the whole outfit complete and gorgeous.

Thank you. For reading, for your comment, and for sharing. You are appreciated.

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on November 14, 2012:

Hi ComfortB,

I don't know how Nigerian women make this head wrap but it always look unique, hot and beautiful. Interesting article, voted up and shared.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 05, 2012:

@lindacee - Yes it is a gorgeous head wrap. And for the guy in the video, tying gele is his full time gig. He's got his own website and usually booked through the year.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Very well appreciated.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on October 04, 2012:

Absolutely gorgeous head wraps! I can see how it would take much time to learn the art of tying the Gele correctly. I think yours turned out beautifully! I love the enterprising guy in the video -- I'll bet he's making quite a nice living from his Gele-fashioning talents. What a fascinating Hub! Voted up, interesting and beautiful.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on August 28, 2012:

@tirelesstraveler - That must have been a frustrating experience as you said. It's actually easier to don the pre-tied ones. It's like wearing a hat.

Thanks for the read and comment. Very well appreciated.

Judy Specht from California on August 27, 2012:

Beautifully presented hub. When I was in Cameroon I tried wearing a head wrap. I don' t remember what it was called, my hair wouldn't hold it. Very frustrating to have straight fine hair it won't even hold a hair band.

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on July 10, 2012:

@Lady Summerset - Thank you so much for your comment. Very well appreciated.

Lady Summerset from Willingboro, New Jersey on July 10, 2012:

I never knew the proper name for this beautiful style of headwrapping. Your pictures are breathtaking and the women are beautiful and beautifully dressed!

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 21, 2012:

@elnavann - Yes, even little girls can wear the Gele, as long as they can hold their head up.

elnavann from South Africa on June 20, 2012:

The Gele is really beautiful and stylish and gives the ladies a distinguished look. Do girl children also wear it? Imagine a mother with a few small daughters getting ready for a wedding

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on June 16, 2012:

Thanks MjNicole for your contribution. Very well appreciated.

MjNicole from North Richland Hills, TX on June 15, 2012:

Love it, my cousins from Nigeria introduce me to the Gele, but I love it.

Nell Rose from England on February 05, 2012:

Hi, they are beautiful, I remember seeing a couple of women walk down the road in my town with them on, everybody was looking and saying how regal they looked! they must be difficult to put on, but very worthwhile, lovely hub, rated up! cheers nell

Comfort Babatola (author) from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 05, 2012:

@ Lady_E - Ko t?p? (you're welcome). Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

@jamila sahar - Thank you so much for your comment. Just as you said, practice makes perfect. It's easier for me now than it was before, and it all took practicing each time.

jamila sahar on February 05, 2012:

Beautiful Photos ! and informative article, i have worn the 'gele' on several occasions, as the African women helped me tie it and showed me how, they were very helpful, but it does take a bit of practice to tie it on correctly, but as with everything else if you practice frequently you will get the hang of it. its not that difficult just requires a little practice. thanks for sharing, i enjoy reading about different cultures

Elena from London, UK on February 03, 2012:

Very nice styles.

I wish I knew how to tie them.

Ese Pupo. :)

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