Dress and Appearance within Kumasi
Despite the countless sessions and lists that told me about what to pack for the Ghana trip, I still, somehow, failed to be prepared for the 7 week stay. It was our second day in Kumasi, and we were set to visit our service sites. I open my suitcase and ~bam~ there are all of my spaghetti strap tops, all neatly folded and resting on top. This is when I realise that I had not seen a single strapped top on our way to Kumasi – over the entire 5-hour journey. I ask around and everyone looks at me incredulously; yes, Dr. Bowles had told us that people in Ghana do not look too highly on this fashion and no, they had not packed any. This was step one in realizing the differences of dress and appearance within Ghana.
Within our Ghanaian culture class, we delved deeply into how the female form is perceived differently. Beauty is seen through a sloping forehead, broad hips, large calf muscles and surprisingly, good toenails. Perplexed, I began to look at how fashion works within this framework, and, sure enough, the differences became more apparent. It was interesting to see these differing beauty standards reflected in the way in which Ghanaian people dress. I began to notice how women wear dresses that accentuated their breasts and hips, and the fashion is to wear open-toed sandals named ‘ahenema’. Not only this, but the colours used within Ghanaian clothing are entirely different to those worn within the United States; multicoloured items colour the streets a thousand ways, drawing your attention wherever you go.
It is also interesting to see how western influences are making a change on this culture. The dresses, that are seen on women throughout the city, are modern and practical, but the patterns and shape remain highly reminiscent of the Ghanaian culture which they seek to portray.
The difference in clothing also seems to differ between class. From what I can tell, the amount of money that you possess seems to change the way in which you dress, or at least the options that are available to you; women who frequent the malls and higher-end stores wear very different clothing to those that are selling fruit on the street. For example, on my trip to the the Kumasi City Mall, I saw that there were many younger women who could be seen wearing spaghetti straps and tighter skirts, items very reminiscent of clothing seen with the United States. These items lacked the colour and pattern design that is thought to be Ghanaian. The impact that Western culture has upon Ghanaian clothing is an interesting example of how western influences are changing the culture within Ghana. I hope to explore how western influences are impacting Ghanaian culture further as I spend more time immersed within the culture and am interested in seeing whether clothing styles differ in Accra and Cape Coast.
History of Fashion in Ghana (2018): https://yen.com.gh/112578-history-fashion-ghana.html#112578
Latest Ghanaian Dresses 2019 (2019): https://yen.com.gh/105450-latest-ghanaian-dresses-2019.html#105450