By: Katherine Lemay
As anyone prepares for a trip abroad either to backpack, volunteer, work, and/or study, you are overwhelmed by the information about what to eat and what not to, culture shock, landscape, the people, the language, security and health issues etc. But when do we ever hear about the fashion unless it is exceedingly unusual?
In Ghana, to my surprise, I dressed no different then I would in my home country Canada. I work for a Member of Parliament, and although my case might be an exception since I held entrepreneurship workshops, I was not standing out if I was wearing my typical office outfit.
This made it very easy for me to dress every morning, although there are some standard fashion items in Ghana that you can’t leave without experiencing. The first would definitely be having an item of clothing hand picked and designed for you. You start first by walking around the different markets and shops and finding a material that catches you eye. Which are your favourite colors and favourite material and patterns? Once you have chosen your material, you then decided on a seamstress. Either you ask for a referral from your host family or people you already know. If you don’t have any recommendations to work with, there are so many seamstresses in the market to choose from and you can even ask them to show you examples of their work. The more frequently you go and refer other people to this seamstress the better the price of all of your items.
The seamstress will then measure you, and you can ask for them to make you anything! From skirts, socks, to men’s dress shirts or hair bands. Head to toe … literally. They will measure you, so that the fabric you chose will fit you exactly right. A week later you go back to the seamstress to try out the work, and have them adjust it a bit if need be. It’s amazing to see what they can do with the patterns they provide you with. Don’t worry! If it doesn’t fit you right the first time, make sure to mention and to get it fixed, or else you will be stuck not wearing an item that you paid for.
Secondly there is the fabulous side of Ghana, which has to do with their bi-weekly bead markets. Just outside of the town of Koforidua you can buy beads and strings and have them made and fitted on your right before your eyes. It’s quite amazing. Don’t forger your bartering skills as well. You’ll need them, especially if you are buying many for all your friends and family.
All this to say, the people of Ghana dress very nicely. Men will be dressed in suits, and women in wonderful matching pieces. So be sure to not bring to many pairs of khakis and old shoes, you will stand out, and not in a good way.
Take advantage of dressing up, its all part of the experience!
Katherine is a Youth Ambassador who worked with YCI in Ghana. Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with YCI’s projects abroad.