What is Aso-Òkè?
Aso Oke (pronounced ah-SHOW-kay) is short for Aso Ilu Oke which literally interpreted means clothes from the countryside. It is also sometimes refereed to as Aso-Ofi. Ofi refers to the seat of the weavers sit on when weaving the cloth.
It is a hand woven cloth made mostly by the Yoruba tribe of south west Nigeria. There is a vast tradition of strip woven textiles in Africa and in West Africa in particular with for example Kente from Ghana or Akwete from Eastern Nigeria. The woven strips produced are typically sewn together to make traditional clothing.
The clothing made from Aso Oke is worn to special occasions such as festivals, weddings, coronation and the like. It is also what traditional rulers wear especially during such festive occasions. It is seen as the most special of traditional fabrics in Nigeria. It serves traditionally as formal wear. Aso-Oke is often also worn as Aso-Ebi (ebi meaning friends, and/or family) where similar colours are worn by all to a particular event to symbolise unity.
The cloth is produced mainly in Iseyin (Oyo state), Ede (Osun state) and Okene (Kogi state) all in Southern Nigeria.
“Sanyan ni baba aso, alari ni baba ewu.”
TRADITIONAL YORUBA CLOTHING
WOMEN- The complete outfit for a Yoruba woman consists of the following elements;
- Iro– a large wrapper tied like a wrap-around skirt
- Buba– a loose fit blouse worn on top
- Gele– a head-tie
- Pele– a shawl that goes around the waist or over the shoulder
- Iborun– a scarf
MEN- The complete outfit for a Yoruba man consists of the following elements;
- Buba– a loose fit top/shirt
- Shokoto– loose fit trousers
- Agbada– a large robe worn over the Buba
- Fila– a soft cap
Muhammad Ali in Sanyan Aso Oke, Nigeria 1964
TYPES OF ASO-OKE:
Originally there were three main types of traditional Aso-oke based on their colours.
ETU: Etu is a deep blue, indigo dyed cloth often with very thin light blue stripes. Etu means guinea fowl, and the cloth is said to resemble the colour of the bird’s plumage.
SANYAN: Sanyan is woven from the beige silk obtained locally from the cocoons of the Anaphe moth. This is left undyed forming a pale brown/beige cloth. The custom was to wear Sanyan to weddings and funerals.
ALARI: Alaari is woven from magenta waste silk and is the deep red version of Aso oke.
These days, aso-oke is available in a vast range of colours and designs that are no longer limited to the tradtional colours.
ASO OKE MEASUREMENTS AND BUYING GUIDE
We have a lovely selection of Aso Oke fabric in our store for your to choose from. It is extremely versatile and apart from Aso ebi for weddings, birthdays and the like, it would also make a great material for upholstery, soft furnishings as well as modern clothing like skirts, jackets and coats.
To help you place your order, we have a guide as to the quantities you should by.
- Aso oke is woven in various widths ranging from from as narrow as 4 inches to as wide as 9 inches.
- We sell Aso Oke as bundles
- We also sell Aso Oke By the Metre
- The unit of measure for Aso Oke is the ‘Awe’
- An Awe is a prescribed strip length.
- The normal length measurement for a strip is either 2 and a half yards or 2 yards and a quarter. This is 2.28 metres and 2 metres respectively.
So what do you want to make?
If you want to buy based on Bundles see below
- Pele, Gele, Fila- 1 Bundle
- Iro (Wrapper)- 1 Bundle
- Buba (top)- 1 Bundle
- Agbada (Tunic overall)- 3 Bundles
- Buba (Shirt)- 1 Bundle
- Sokoto (Trousers)- 1 Bundle
If you want to buy based on Metres see below
- 1 Gele (Head-tie)- 6 Metres
- 1 Pele (Scarf/Shawl)- 8 Metres
- 1 Iro (Wrapper)- 16 Metres
- 1 Buba (Blouse)- 16 Metres
If you are buying for a traditional for a Bride and Groom you will need:
- Woman’s outfit complete- 3 Bundles
- Man’s outfit complete- 6 Bundles
CARE OF ASO OKE:
Aso-oke garments can be carefully handwashed or drycleaned. We would recommend that you spot-clean your pieces to elongate the life of the fabric.
DESIGNERS USING ASO OKE
Woven cloth can be a somewhat tricky material to work with as it starts to unravel as soon as it is cut! Nevertheless, there are some designers out there willing to take up this challenge. Designers like Jezreel, KemKem Studios, Urbanknit, Ethnik by Tunde Owolabi have used Aso oke in making clothing, bags and accessories and even for furniture and upholstery. It really is a versatile and durable option. Here are a few of my favourites