If you are like me before I started writing for a fashion brand you probably rely strongly on your gut feeling to decide if your Agbada is well made or not. Yes, this is a quite effective method if you are fashion savvy or inclined but if you are not, fret not. In this article, I will share the secret of a well-made Agbada with you.
East or west, home is best
The Agbada is one of the names for a flowing wide sleeved robe worn by men in much of West Africa. It is known by various names, depending on the ethnic group wearing them: agbada (Yoruba, Dagomba), babban riga (Hausa), mbubb (Wolof), k’sa or gandora (Tuareg), darra’a Maghrebi Arabic, grand boubou (in various Francophone West African countries) and the English term of gown. The female version worn in some communities is also known as a m’boubou or kaftan or Agbada.
The Agbada is usually decorated with intricate embroidery, and is worn on special religious or ceremonial occasions, for example the two Islamic ’Eid festivals, weddings, funerals or for attending the Mosque for Friday prayer. It has become the formal attire of many countries in West Africa. Older robes have become family heirlooms passed on from father to son and are worn as status symbols.
The Agbada as a full formal attire consists of 3 pieces of clothing: a pair of tie-up trousers that narrow towards the ankles (known as a sokoto pronounced “shokoto” in Yoruba) and a long-sleeved shirt and a wide, open-stitched sleeveless gown worn over these. They are generally of the same colour, and historically were made from silk, but modern day Agbada is now mostly made from cotton and synthetic cloths made to resemble silk.
When buying or making an Agbada, here are 5 things to take note of,
1. QUALITY of FABRIC
Cotton is a super popular type of fabric for good reason: it’s soft, versatile, durable (when high-quality) and comparatively affordable. The most important quality property of cotton is its staple length, i.e. the length of the individual fibres the fabric consists of. Fabric made from long cotton fibres is generally considered to be of a higher quality than fabrics made from shorter fibres. Here’s how to estimate whether a cotton garment was made with long-staple fibres or not:
• Touch it! Even cotton fabric that is sturdy, thick and or even stiff should feel soft on the skin. If it doesn’t, it was probably made with shorter fibres and will be less durable in the long run.
• No pills. Cotton is generally not as prone to pilling as other fabrics, so if you already see a trace of pilling on a new garment, move on!
• Check the density of the fabric by holding it up to a light. Even if it is very fine, the fabric should not be transparent. If the fabric lets through a lot of light, it’s a sign that it is not very dense and therefore will not be very durable.
• Cotton needs to be spun, so look closely at the threads that make up the fabric. There should be no gaps or size differences between the individual threads. All you should see up close is a regular pattern of smooth rows.
Well-made clothes have top-stitching. Quality top-stitching should be straight, in matching thread (unless the top-stitching is designed for contrast) and uniform. This quick trick – Gently pulling the seams taut to see if there are gaps between the stitches, can totally prevent you from wasting money on cheaply made clothes. “Better-quality garments have more stitches per inch and thus have tighter seams, which means there’s less of a chance to have the seam come apart,
3. BUTTONS and the BUTTONHOLES
Buttonholes should have tight stitching and a neat slot for the button to go into. Touch the button and make sure it’s tightly sewn on — and make sure there aren’t a lot of threads sticking out. The button should be properly blended with the fabric and consistent with the overall design.
4. BAD EMBROIDERY, BAD AGBADA
The embroidery on the Agbada must be neat. Here are some features of a good embroidery:
• No overlapping fabric pieces.
• No unnecessary jump stitches. The embroidery must have uniform stitches, no skipping or jumping as this damage the beauty of the Agbada
• HAVE UNDERLAY! A good design rests on a good foundation. This allows the design to look solid.
• The satin stitches should be wide and the design should be smooth, not wobbly and wonky looking.