Generally, the urban people of Benin have adopted Western dress in their daily routine. The Beninese men and women both dress up in western outfits for their workplaces. In the offices, the men are seen wearing pants and shirts while some executives prefer suiting. Women are also seen with jeans, shirts, and t-shirts. The skirts and dresses are almost all ankle length.
But having said that, a large proportion of the Beninese population still wants to live with the traditional dresses.They not only prefer the traditional outfits on special occasions but some of them still wear in normal life as well. The ancient excavations in Benin and other West African countries suggest that the ancient clothing in this region was based upon indigenous fibers like raffia, bast, and cotton. The textile fragments used until medieval times were normally densely woven in plain weave. The formal attires were also adorned with openwork embroideries etc.
Today, the Beninese traditional outfits normally include the typical “Bomba” dresses which are designed as tunics and trousers for men and a loincloth and a top for women. As the majority lives in the coastal areas, the women living on the coast usually wear the colorful African pagnes embellished with stunning patterns and gorgeous artwork.
Matching headscarves are also an essential part of their traditional dresses. Muslim Beninese women cover their bodies with three-piece clothes. One piece of cloth is used as a wrapper around the waist, one around the chest, and one covers the head. Using a veil and scarf is also common in Muslim women in Benin.
The traditional dress for Beninese men is loose, long, and is having boubou –style cotton shirts over pants. In the formal versions, the embroidered boubou is also becoming popular with both men and women. This dress is prepared with a lot of skilled toils and it may cost too much. In the present times, the Beninese designers have introduced fusions between traditional and modern dressing. The fabric mostly comprises traditional cloth for making shirts, pants, and even other types of outer garments.
The folk costumes of Benin include the West African dashiki, which is a colorful men’s garment covering the top half of the body. It has both formal and informal versions and varies from simple draped clothing to fully tailored suits. Most grooms wear white dashiki suits during wedding ceremonies. Black and red are the traditional colors of mourning. Many men wear a bowler hat with a lace dashiki suit.
The traditional dress of Benin is a prime example of the historic brilliance of Africa. It truly represents the indigenous colors and stunning black customs.