One thing you’ll probably notice within minutes after arriving in beautiful Ghana is the bright, colourful patterned clothing worn by so many local people. They seriously put my entire wardrobe to shame!
As if these crazily creative looking clothes weren’t cool enough already, what makes them even cooler is the fact that they tend to be made by tailors/seamstresses on the street or in a little shop, using fabric also bought on the street by the wearer.
I had read about this online before going to Ghana, and I was determined to get something made when I was there. I thought it would be the coolest souvenir bought in my life so far, and the whole concept was a big novelty to me because in England where I’m from, it’s uncommon to get clothes tailor-made and I’d never done it.
In Cape Coast, the first place I stayed in Ghana, on my first day wandering around the area, I passed little fabric stalls/shops every few minutes, and most of them had a lady with a sewing machine there too. I asked the same question to a few of them in a row to get an idea of prices (“how much per yard of fabric, how much to get a skirt made and how much to get a dress made?”)
The general consensus seemed to be that fabric was around 9 cedis per yard, the labour to make a dress was around 30-40 cedis (about £5) and the labour to make a skirt was around 20-30 cedis (I would suggest you use this as a guideline if you’re looking to get something made over there yourself). The prices can vary a bit depending on if you need elastic/lining etc.
Choosing the fabric is super hard because there’s so much choice, but it’s also hard to picture a flat piece of fabric as an item of clothing that you’d actually wear. Of course the people selling it say “that one is really nice” to every single one you pick up or look at. In the end I chose one of the least ‘crazy’ ones. The ladies can help you figure out how much fabric you need, but in general it’s 2 yards for a skirt and 3 for a dress.
After you’ve chosen your fabric and brought it to the seamstress (if you bought it elsewhere), they’ll ask you to show them exactly what you want. You can either do this by showing them a picture on your phone of something that’s the same shape as what you want, or you can also use the magazines/posters they have of different styles of dresses to point to what you want.
They’ll then measure you so you have a chance to show them exactly how far down your leg you want the skirt to end etc., and you’ll also agree a time/day to pick up the finished product. If you tell them you’re leaving in a few days, they’ll probably agree to do it quickly because they’ll want the business from you, but it’s best if you can give them about 48 hours.
My skirt was quite simple to make so it was ready the next day. I asked for elastic along the waistband because I figured it would be the most comfortable option and the least likely to go wrong with sizing (I know they measure you but I still feel like it could go wrong).
This is the finished product (they get you to try it on there so they can check that it fits and make any adjustments if not. They may also want to take a picture of you if they think it looks good, to promote themselves.)
I’m 99 percent sure she made it at least an inch longer than I asked for, probably because her generation of Ghanaians are often quite traditional and aren’t particularly approving of short skirts/shorts!! Anyway, it seemed to be made well and it fitted fine. It isn’t really in the style of what I’d normally wear, but I was happy with it.
When I was staying at Roots Yard in Peki (Volta Region), I decided to get a dress made, just because the whole process is so cheap compared to in England and it was still a novelty to me even though I’d already got the skirt made by this point.
I decided to go for a dress this time (why not?!) and it actually came out WAY too tight (I was basically mummified when I put it on) but the lady adjusted it and it fitted fine after. She even brought it to Roots Yard so I didn’t have to go back to her stall to try it on again.
Again, not sure which occasion will call for me to wear it… but still glad I got it!
I have no idea how to sew, but I felt quite inspired seeing all the seamstresses in Ghana, and I just could not take my eyes off all the fun patterns on the fabric everywhere I went, so I also bought three yards of a particularly cool one in a market to take home with me to attempt to sew something myself:
So… to conclude, I don’t see a reason why anyone wouldn’t want to get clothes made on a visit to Ghana, so if you’re heading there soon, make sure you start saving some pictures to your phone of types of clothes you might like.
Remember… Firstly, it’s a great way to support local business people. Secondly, it gives you a good insight into the Ghanaian way of life. Thirdly it makes a far better souvenir than the standard things you can buy in a souvenir shop, and finally, whenever you wear your new item of clothing and someone asks where you got it, you have the perfect excuse to start telling them all about your amazing trip to Ghana!!