Loose-fitting robes are worn in many different regions of Africa, especially in West Africa. These robes reach to the ankles and are either open at the sides or stitched closed along the edges. In West Nigeria a loose-fitting robe is called an agbada. An agbada has sleeves that hang loosely over the shoulders and an opening at the front. A similar garment, called a gandoura or leppi, is worn in Cameroon, and the Hausa of Nigeria call their loose-fitting robes riga. The same garment is called a dansiki in West Africa.

Most often made of cotton, agbada and other robes are typically highly patterned. These patterns may be woven into, dyed, painted, or appliquéd onto the robe. Men wear the agbada alone with trousers or as a type of coat over a shirt. As Africans have had increased contact with other cultures, traditional methods of producing cloth have declined, and many modern agbada are made from imported cloth and worn with Western pants.

A Nigerian man wearing a green agbada. This loose-fitting robe was often highly patterned. Reproduced by permission of © .

A related garment, called the dashiki, became quite popular in the West during the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, which saw African Americans protesting to secure their rights. Wearing a dashiki was a way of making a political statement about the value of African heritage.


Blauer, Ettagale. African Elegance. New York: Rizzoli, 1999.

Kennett, Frances, and Caroline MacDonald-Haig. Ethnic Dress. New York: Facts on File, 1994.

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