10 Spring/Summer 2019 Fashion Trends You Can Pull Off With Your Mami’s Wrappa!

Our father gathered us all together in one room. As we, the children, sat down, Mami (often used to refer to older women in general, or specifically towards your grandmother) stood in front of us. As she began to speak, it seemed that even the streets of Cote d’Ivoire became silent in obedience. She shared with us how proud she is of her young girls, how she admires our strive toward higher education, and how happy she is that our family and culture is still very important to us. She spoke blessings over our future and that, when it was time for us to marry and walk further into womanhood, she had gifts waiting for us back at home. Wrappas of hers. One for each of her female grandchildren. When the time was right, every one of us would hold a piece of her to remember always.  

My sisters, my brother, and I with Mami. Cote d'Ivoire. December, 2019.

It was at this moment that I no longer saw the wrappa simply as a piece of cloth. Its simplicity sometimes deems it forgettable. But like any article of fashion passed down from generation to generation, it is a sweet keepsake; one that holds memories and moments interwoven in its fibers. It symbolizes womanhood for the traditional West & Central African woman.

How can 2 ¾ yards of regular cotton fabric hold such significance, you ask? Well, let’s start by going back to Cameroon before the 1960s.

It was around these times that the wrappa reigned. In fact, the wrappa was the skirt before the skirt was the skirt! (By the way, the wrappa in totality refers to both the blouse and skirt matching combo but for this blog, I will use it only to describe the skirt part of the ensemble.) Back in the day when getting your clothes tailored was more common and more affordable, you would present to the tailor your six yards of fabric (if you’ve ever bought West African fabric before, you know that these six yards pre-cut is the standard like...everywhere) two to three yards would be used to make your blouse. Then the remaining fabric was cut in two and would be kept aside to use as your two-piece wrappa. The smaller piece would be your base wrappa- just enough to WRAP (get where the name comes from now? :D)  one time around your waist. The bigger piece would be your real wrappa- with enough yardage to tie any way you like. Both pieces were held secure by rolling the fabric over in itself at the waist. And voila! Your own DIY skirt!

Most of the time, the fabric for the wrappa was either passed down from mother to daughter or bought and made when the daughter became a wife (a sign of the young girl graduating into womanhood). You rarely saw young women wearing wrappas. It was a grown woman thang (wink wink). It was a modest way of dressing, covering up a woman in length. And it also accentuated a woman in the right places- presenting her frameline as it wrapped around her waist and laid softly on her hips and backside. It was that classy sexy, you feel me?

My aunt (in green) with the family of her late husband. She wears a modern skirt as the women of the village wear wrappas.

But those of you who grew up in a West African households know that the wrappa’s functionality did not just stop at style. Oh no! It continued to celebrate femininity and womanhood through all of its multiple uses. For example, it was a phenomenal way to carry a mother’s baby while she worked.

Photo taken by  UNICEFNZ

Photo taken by UNICEFNZ

Real quick, who reading this can attest that the best naps were on your mother’s back?! I sure can! So you know what I mean! As a child, the secure wrapping of both your hands and feet to your mother’s back just automatically lead to a secure nap. (By the way, we call this method of carrying babies “baba.”)

It was also a very accessible blanket. Because once that baby was asleep, all you needed to do was untie the wrappa from the front, hold the baby with the wrappa still around him/her, lay him/her on the bed, and wrap the front of the baby with the wrappa. In two seconds you have made a security blanket for more than half the cost!

It was also a great way to protect your goodies from peeping eyes while pounding fufu. Because nobody had time to try and be cute and put their legs to one side in order to pound fufu! Pounding fufu is no joke and requires for the mortar and its bowl to be placed in between the legs to get the job done! Keep in mind, this was a time before the popularity of pants. Therefore, the wrappa was a great way to cover your legs while doing such work.

A still image of my step grandmother pounding palm nuts to make Banga Soup. You see how she is rolling up her wrappa for the next round?! This is not light work! Click the picture to actually watch how to make the entire recipe from scratch.

A still image of my step grandmother pounding palm nuts to make Banga Soup. You see how she is rolling up her wrappa for the next round?! This is not light work! Click the picture to actually watch how to make the entire recipe from scratch.

It was great for farm work as well. When the benefits of pants became clear and creeped into our culture, women started to wear them to farm. However, they continued to tie the wrappa over their pants to still have that feminine touch.  Because the wrappa fabric was lightweight and breathable, it was not an extra burden for the women to wear out in the hot sun. Instead, it was quite the opposite and its ankle length served a great purpose protecting the women from mosquitoes and other annoying insects.

On top of that, the wrappa made a great makeshift basket and held a woman’s produce to and from the farm. Heck, it could even be used as first aid! Quick! Close your eyes and imagine that you and a child are working in the farm and he gets cut. Since your wrappa is a two piece, you can tear a piece off and use it to help cover the bleeding. Shoo, my mother even went as far to say that one could use it to help pull someone out of a ditch! Can your modern day skirt do all of that?! No. No it cannot.

I could literally go on about the wonderful uses of the wrappa and how, in every use, it symbolises the beauty, skill and strength of being a woman. Though our women of today are not pounding fufu with a mortar but are pouring it from a package to a boiling pot of water on their island kitchen stove, I do not believe this is the end of the wrappa. If it can no longer serve as a lifestyle tool, it will always serve its purpose as a fashion piece. Want to see how? Check out these 10 new ways you can wear the wrappa in 2019 inspired by the SS19 trends I’m really digging right now. Take a look!

TIE DYE

Tie Dye techniques are such a big part of traditional West African textiles. Since these hand crafted textiles are becoming less common, finding authentic ones are rare. If you are lucky, your Mami has one in her closet from her mother and has decided to pass it down to you. Update the tie dye piece by wrapping it around your body in a more modern silhouette and simply pairing it with your favorite jeans.

STYLE 1

Dior

RUCHING

You’ll find that when you’re tying your wrappa in the traditional manner, ruching automatically happens. I personally love ruching because it is a much more forgiving take on body-con. This is because you can use the ruching effect to either disguise flaws or accentuate assets (unlike bodycon where every hill and valley is on display :/). In this skirt I use two pieces of the red wrappa and tie the bottom one to 1) distract from my pouch area ( because summer abs are still on the way) and the top one to 2) accentuate my hips. Techniques like ruches or ruffles will always give the illusion that an area is fuller. Use this to your advantage! Want your hips look fuller? Ruche around your hips. Want your chest look fuller? Ruch around you chest. Voila!

STYLE 2

Calvin Klein

STYLE 3

SUNSHINE SHADES

You won’t have to worry about this color trend with your Mami’s wrappa. Shooo, she probably has these colors on deck! Burnt oranges, smokey reds, mustard yellows are popular colors in a lot of wrappa textiles. It’s even better if you have a wrappa that has metallic undertones so it shimmers like the sunset. Wrap this into a simple halter top and wear it with a pair of wide leg pants to add elegance. Grab your grassland clutch, and you have the perfect look for a summer’s night out!

STYLE 4

Balenciaga

Or style this look for the day and wear your wrappa as a throw over a pair of your favorite jeans and a soft bodied button up top ( made from a silk material or charmeuse).

STYLE 5

BOWS

Bows proved to be the new seasons most feminine trend. The wrappa is a perfect fabric to tie bows with because of its weight. It is light enough to wrap a bow with no problem but not so light that it gives you a limp looking bow. It’s a fabric that, even with it being light weight, is able to give you some structure to work with. It’s like magic! Tie your wrappa in this style and wear it as a fun statement belt. Play around with bold prints in order to give the eye a focus around your waistline ;).

STYLE 6

Emilia Wickstead

METALLIC PLAID

Metallic wrappas! These are the wrappas that Mami placed somewhere in the far back of her closet as she most likely kept these specifically for celebratory occasions ( or to just hide them from you haha!). If she has smiled upon you and given you one of these unique wrappas to wear, you can flaunt it in the daytime by styling it as a scarf. Add in that low key SS19 UTILITY vibe by wearing it on top of a fresh white T and cinched with a leather belt. To tone down the metallic so it works for the daytime, pair it with a jean color that compliments the tones in the wrappa.

STYLE 7

Sally Lapointe

WHITE TANK TOP / ASYMMETRICAL NECKLINES

So happy the white tank is making a comeback! But I must admit, sometimes it can look too basic for my liking. So spice it up with the wrappa to add interesting elements to the neckline. Make this trend workwear friendly with an accent belt and suit pants. No one is trying to go to work in the summer with a full 3 piece suit on! This look is a great way to stay cool but still look work appropriate.

STYLE 8

WONKY COUTURE

Now if you know me, you know that I am a fan of wearing couture in the daytime. I am just extra like that! And the wrappa is a great fabric to accomplish the look. This is because of the magic that’s in it. Remember what I said before? That It is light weight but also structural. Therefore, you can use it to create the extravagant details that need structure to stay in place (without having to add a lining or interfacing)! Just look at how a mock asymmetric sleeve and peplum top stays in place! And all you need is a belt around the waist to keep it in place. Again, a great way to tone down couture pieces is to pair it up with basics. In this case, a white T and jeans will do just fine ;D.

STYLE 9

Marc Jacobs

MARIGOLD

Marigold is the color of the season and I am totally here for it! Your Mami probably has this color in a wrappa to match with her marigold head tie! Use the traditional two piece wrappa tying technique to make this statement skirt. Go monochromatic and wear it with a top of the same color, or play it up with a graphic T shirt that has metallic undertones to pick up the shine.

STYLE 10

Elle Magazine

Watch the video below to see how you can accomplish these looks step by step!

How do you wear your wrappa?

Are there any Spring/Summer trends you’re feelin’ that I completely missed out on?

Would you like to see the wrappa in more styles?

Share your thoughts below <3



P.S Huge thanks to my bestie KK! She took all these gorgeous photos. Check her out on her website HERE.