Aso-Ebi is a Yoruba term, which literally translates to family cloth, as Aso means “cloth” and Ebi means “family.” For my non-Nigerian readers, it is pronounced ‘Ah-Shaw-Eh-Bee.’ There! That wasn’t so hard now, was it?
Traditionally, aso-ebi was the fabric which members of the same family wore to identify themselves at events such as weddings and other ceremonies. At a wedding, for example, members of the groom’s family would wear a particular aso-ebi fabric, while members of the bride’s family wore a different one. The fabrics include: Ankara, Woodin, Velvet, Damask, Lace, and of course, Aso-Oke (another traditional Yoruba fabric made from cotton or silk). But aso-ebi is not just a Yoruba thing. It’s a Nigerian thing, and even an African thing.
Today, the idea has evolved to include even non-family members. Friends and even strangers now wear aso-ebi at events, as long as they know in advance and are able to get the fabric. By get, I mean purchased, or acquired for free. After obtaining the fabric, it is sewn into various styles.
A few years ago, magazines that covered society events, such as Ovation, used to be one of the few outlets, which showcased the designs that the aso-ebi fabrics were transformed into. Thanks to technology, you can view these styles and get inspiration for your own outfits via online magazines, blogs and websites such as Bella Naija, Na My Wedding and Sugar Weddings. Notice the emphasis on weddings? Hands down, those are the main arenas where aso-ebi styles are displayed.
So, to answer my own question, No. Aso-Ebi is more than the family cloth. It is a fashion statement, a visible expression of cultural evolution and a solid reminder of the strength and importance of community.
So, do you think this aso-ebi trend will fade away anytime soon? Knowing Nigerians, I doubt it.