If I talk only about West African fashion for women here, it’s because I know the subject, not because I’m not interested in fashion from other regions or for other genders.
1. Because it respects your body
It’s still common in West Africa to buy the fabrics and to ask for a tailor’s services to sew them. In that way, you’re sure the outfit fits your body perfectly and you’re your own designer. You choose what you want to show of your body, what you want to enhance, or what you want to hide.
Even if the globalization tend to add social pressure on the women bodies in West Africa too, most African women stay proud and confident with their bodies. For example, in Senegal, there are specific terms to define different morphologies, but all are socially accepted. People will express their personal preferences but won’t tell a body type can’t be beautiful, or is less beautiful than another.
More than accepting different sizes and shapes, the West African fashion keeps in mind that women need to feel free in their clothes, and stays comfy, easy to wear, easy to wash.
2. Because it's timeless
The West African fashion is most focused on quality than quantity. The traditional fabrics, like wax fabric, are made with strong cotton (or other natural materials) and the print is very resistant. You can wash these fabrics, even in very hot water, without any color or quality loss.
This fashion is designed to last your life long. In this idea, the most common shapes are designed to be worn at any age. Even very old women pay attention to their look and want to stay elegant. West African clothes aren’t attached to a specific period, they’re totally timeless!
West African fashion isn’t about having lots and lots of stuff, isn’t about age or shape. It’s all about showing proudly and loudly who you are through your clothes.
3. Because it's all about fun!
As you often choose yourself the fabrics and the cut, West African fashion encourages the creativity. You can have fun during all the making process of your outfit.
It’s something we can see during weddings. Traditionally, the couple’s closest guests wear a “uniform”. The bride choose a particular fabric or color, and the groom another for their respective guests. Then, each guest designs her/his “uniform” with the imposed fabric. Each guest can be creative, can imagine fun shapes and cuts…
4. And because it's all about your true self
The West African fashion does not only show respect to your body, but as I wrote it sooner, to your whole person and identity. West Africa is a multicultural region where ethnics groups and cultures don’t take borders into account. Same thing for religions, they are numerous and diverse in a same country.
The West African fashion respects this multiculturalism by adapting shapes, colors, cuts to each one’s identity and will. A Muslim woman who wants to wear a more modest outfit can do it, another who wants to show her legs with a mini-skirt can do it too. There is no rule in West African fashion, except wearing something which reflects who you truly are.