Accessories have always played a pivotal role, from traditional coral beads worn by queens to the iconic gele head-wrap, raffia bags weaved intricately, to repurposed brass bracelets. In the fashion sphere, personal style often meets culture, where the art of adornment has left an enduring imprint globally.
Accessories enhance looks and weave a tapestry of self-expression, cultural celebration, and timeless elegance from the corridors of history to the catwalks of contemporary fashion.
Cultural imprints of accessories
Since time immemorial, African traditional accessories have held profound cultural significance and, to date, continue to influence contemporary fashion. The Zulu people of South Africa, for instance, are known for their intricate beadwork, particularly the iconic Zulu bead necklaces as seen in the new South African drama series Shaka Ilembe. These necklaces are beautiful and serve as symbols of love, courtship, and marital status.
In Nigeria, Adire or lace fabrics, with intricate patterns, find life as skirts, scarves, and head wraps to embrace the Yoruba heritage of textile craftsmanship. Temi Otedola’s birthday shoot this year is a perfect example. The filigree silverwork of the Fulani earrings, an embodiment of nomadic origin, graces the ears of many Nigerian women today.
These traditional accessories, with rich cultural meanings and timeless beauty, continually shape fashion choices globally. They celebrate the diversity and significance of African heritage in the world of style, allowing us to pay homage to our cultural heritage, values, and beliefs.
Why we accessorise
Accessories provide signature elements that metamorphose an outfit into a style statement. They supply us with a unique canvas on which our personalities are explored, individuality expressed and leave a lasting fashion impression that exceeds the functionality of just being embellishments.
A remarkable feature of accessories is their versatility, giving a licence to adapt and experiment effortlessly with styling. A statement necklace and small clutch bag can quickly elevate your simple black dress. The same dress will look different by pairing it with knee-high boots and a vibrant patterned scarf.
In distinct circumstances, accessories serve as conversation starters and memory keepers. That vintage brooch from a family member or a unique handcrafted bag from a memorable trip becomes a wearable story, sharing a part of our lives with the world.
In Nigeria, fashion is celebrated as an art form and a means of cultural expression. With this, accessories take on an even more significant role. For instance, the gele, beaded necklaces, and intricately woven aso-oke (handwoven fabric) embody how Nigerian women embrace accessories as a form of self-expression to convey values, aspirations, and confidence.
How do we experiment with accessories?
Incorporating accessories into your everyday fashion choices is a delightful journey of rediscovering creative expression and elevating your style. Here are some practical tips to get you started:
Start with the basics: Invest in timeless, versatile pieces that complement various outfits. A simple chain necklace, elegant stud earrings, and a classic leather belt are great starting points.
Stack: Stacking involves layering multiple pieces of jewellery, like bracelets or rings, to create a striking effect. You can mix textures and styles to express a personalised taste. Try stacking delicate bangles with chunky cuffs, or combine dainty rings with statement pieces. Stacking adds depth and complexity to your look when done right, drawing attention to display points. Keep it sophisticated while experimenting until you find one that suits and complements your outfits.
Pro tip: Stacking with the same metals makes a more dashing look.
Colour play: Accessories add fantastic pops of colour to your outfit. If you tend to stick with neutral clothing, consider adding a vibrant scarf, statement earrings, or a bold handbag to add colour to your look.
Explore texture and material: Play with textures and materials to add depth to your outfit. A good mix of shiny metals and natural materials like wood or stone provides an exciting contrast and they elevate your overall style.
Invest in statement pieces: Consider investing in a few pieces that reflect your personality or style palate. These could be a pair of oversized sunglasses, chunky cocktail rings, or bold headbands. Statement pieces shine better when paired with classics, and to nail the perfect casual chic look, try them on a t-shirt with linen shorts to take the outfit up a notch.
Take inspiration from cultural influences:
Explore accessories inspired by your culture by incorporating elements from your background. This is a meaningful way to express your identity and artistic expression through fashion.
Keep it balanced: Remember that balance is crucial while experimenting with accessories. If you wear statement earrings, keep your other accessories minimal and avoid overwhelming your outfit with too many focal points.
Confidence is crucial: Confidence is the ultimate accessory that can shine on any outfit. Embrace your unique style choices and wear them confidently.
Incorporating accessories into your outfits is about self-expression, creativity, and, most importantly, having fun. Be inspired to experiment with your accessories and let your unique style shine.