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Nigerian Women and Their Gele Styles | Nigerian Ladies Re-Inventing The Gele

Updated on March 21, 2016
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 sleeve, 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 head wrap 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's 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 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 | Source

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 an 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 specially 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 details. 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 custom-made geles is usually more than the ready-made geles.

Bling Your Gele!

Emerald Green Metallic Net Gele with Bling Trim.
Emerald Green Metallic Net Gele with Bling Trim. | Source

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 the fashionista who want to take the wearing of 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.

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 has 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, pant suits, 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.
The Gele worn over the Buba and Iro. This picture was possibly taken in the 1960s. | Source

This Is Now - Re-Inventing The Gele!

Meet The fashionistas - The Ceiling Is The Limit!
Meet The fashionistas - The Ceiling Is The Limit! | Source

Grafity-Defying Geles

Modern Gele. How tall is that?
Modern Gele. How tall is that?

The Modern Nigerian Woman

The 'Gele' Dilemma

The ability to tie the Gele is one of the problem 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.

Segun Dele - The Gele Artist

One Nigerian man noticed this trend of not wearing the Gele among Nigerian women. He is well skilled in the art of tying the Gele. 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).

Tying The Gele

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! | Source

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Do you love to write? Writing is a great way to share with others what you know? Why not make some money doing it too.

Author: Comfort Babatola - © Updated 2016

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    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

      Very nice styles.

      I wish I knew how to tie them.

      Ese Pupo. :)

    • jamila sahar profile image

      jamila sahar 5 years ago

      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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 5 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @ 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.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      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

    • MjNicole profile image

      MjNicole 4 years ago from North Richland Hills, TX

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Thanks MjNicole for your contribution. Very well appreciated.

    • elnavann profile image

      elnavann 4 years ago from South Africa

      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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • Lady Summerset profile image

      Lady Summerset 4 years ago from Willingboro, New Jersey

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      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.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

      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.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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.

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      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.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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.

    • expertscolumn profile image

      Stanley Soman 4 years ago from New York

      oh my Nigerian women beautiful!

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 4 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Stunningly beautiful . . .

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • profile image

      loksmi 4 years ago

      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 :)

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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. :)

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Beautiful women in beautiful costume.....

      Thank you for sharing the information and photographs.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      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.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      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

    • Sonya-Artis profile image

      Sonya Artis 4 years ago from Kansas City, MO/Ft. Lauderdale, FL

      Beautiful...great information also.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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.

    • Sue Andreas profile image

      Sue Andreas 4 years ago

      wonderful clothes...

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 4 years ago

      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!

    • VictoriaSheffield profile image

      Author Victoria Sheffield 4 years ago from Georgia

      beautuful!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

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

    • Monica Kay 215 profile image

      Monica Kay 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Wonderful hub.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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.

    • profile image

      rocky 3 years ago

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 3 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @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.

    • helpavisitor profile image

      helpavisitor 3 years ago from Germany

      Very interesting article. I love it.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 3 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • profile image

      Cocoa Lady 3 years ago

      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

      Peace

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 3 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Thank You, Cocoa Lady - Be Blessed!

    • profile image

      Lovely 3 years ago

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

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 2 years ago from Atlanta, GA

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 2 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • profile image

      MLeeWilliams 2 years ago

      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.

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 2 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • stuff4kids profile image

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      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!

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 2 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • profile image

      lizdamore 2 years ago

      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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 2 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      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.

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 2 years ago from Atlanta, GA

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 2 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

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

    • profile image

      Lauren Podell 18 months ago

      Nice look for super fashionable fabrics. It look gorgeous.

    • profile image

      Lauren Podell 18 months ago

      Nice look for super fashionable fabrics. It look gorgeous.

    • DebraHargrove profile image

      Debra Hargrove 15 months ago from North Carolina

      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.

    • profile image

      Wil M. D. 13 months ago

      Do you know of any Gele artists in FL?

    • profile image

      cyntex 12 months ago

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

    • profile image

      bonda 6 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Cat Jefferson 6 months ago

      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!

    • profile image

      Anahi Jimenez 5 months ago

      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.

    • Isabella King profile image

      Isabella King 2 months ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

      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:)

    • profile image

      Thomos Max 2 months ago

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

    • ComfortB profile image
      Author

      Comfort Babatola 2 months ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      @Anahi Jimenez

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

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