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`Aso-ebi’: Gate pass to social gatherings

A popular Yoruba adage says, “Eni o wo ankara o je semo” meaning:  the guest who does not wear uniform fabrics, popularly called `Aso ebi’ will not eat at the social gathering the fabric is meant to celebrate.

‘Aso ebi’, usually worn by family members and friends at ceremonies, has in contemporary times,  become the gate pass to social events such as weddings, burials, harvests, ordination of religious leaders, political rallies and campaigns in Nigeria. It gives a sense of belonging to those who adorn them during the events. It equally makes the celebrator feel loved and important.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Aso ebi’ is a uniform-attire traditionally worn in Nigeria and in some other West African countries as an indicator of cooperation and solidarity during ceremonies and festive periods.  `Aso ebi’ can be made with Ankara, Lace, ‘Aso oke’ (hand-woven fabrics), Damask, George, `atiku’, `Senator’, and a host of others materials for both men and women.

The prices of these fabrics range from N500 per pack to N150,000 depending on the class, status, and taste of the celebrator. They are mostly sewn in native blouse and wrapper/skirt or gown for women and native shirt and trousers/wrapper and even `agbada’ for men.

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`Aso ebi’ adds beauty, colour and glamour and grandeur to events.

Analysts note that guests who wear ‘Aso ebi’ to social functions are usually believed to have directly or indirectly contributed to the success of such functions.

They also argue that those determined to identify with a celebrator through adorning of `Aso ebi’ often do not mind the quality or market value of the fabric.

According to analysts, a guest who refuses to adorn ‘Aso ebi’ may receive cold reception, especially from ushers at the event no matter how highly placed or influential he may be.

Thus, most guests purchase ‘Aso ebi’ and appear in them on the day of the events, whether convenient or not,  just to fulfill all righteousness, since they are not likely to wear them after that day.

It is also believed that some people see the purchasing of these outfits as an opportunity to acquire more clothes as they may not have the time to go to markets to buy fabrics.

A fashion designer, Mrs Seun Olujide, says an average of 10 ladies send ‘Aso ebi’ to her shop for sewing weekly because of one event or the other.

“This keeps us busy, helps us to hone our designing skills, and deepens our mastery of the art while we make a living from it.

“When our clients wear their fabrics, it gives them a sense of belonging when they get to the event venue because no one likes to feel left out. We are also fulfilled as fashion designers when our clients bring us commendation from their friends and admirers about our works.

“Personally, when I attend a wedding in ‘Aso ebi’, it increases my confidence. I don’t feel like an outcast or someone who does not want to support her friend or family member,” she says.

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Mr Ojo Ogidi, however, notes that some people exploit ‘Aso ebi’ buyers by selling to them at high prices, noting that this makes such people unable to sell more packs of   `Aso ebi’ because some intending buyers would have carried out market survey and observed the exploitation.

“To beat such pranks, two or more potential buyers will jointly buy just a set, instead of the individuals buying a set each,’’ he argues.

A civil servant, Mr Funmi Ajayi, says she teamed up with four others and bought a set of lace materials for a wedding which the event host sold at a skyrocketing price.

“We decided to buy a set and share it among ourselves. Each of us gave to our fashion designer who combined it with other matching fabrics and sewed.

“Our host gave us a single gift which we gave to the oldest among us. By doing so, we contributed to the success of the wedding and were accorded the same recognition at the reception as others who bought and wore the full set of the lace material,’’ Ajayi says.

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