Some years ago as a little girl, I watched my mother dress up the the eastern Nigerian attires like the george wrapper and blouse. She was a Yoruba woman from the western part of Nigeria, however, she was a liberal person. She could speak Hausa, the northern Nigerian language fluently, and spoke a little Igbo from the Niger Delta. She was quick to learn other languages because of an experience that almost cost her life due to miscommunication. She had recounted how a Hausa man almost stabbed her for using the wrong phrase. That traumatic experience opened her ears to taking the time to learn other languages. However, what fascinated me most was her outfit. Although, she wore george, it was the 'small" george - cotton material george and not the satin or silk version adorned with sequence, stones and or beads. I guess she didn't bother to invest too much in the higher grade ones because she was neither from the tribe nor had the occasion to wear the outfit.
However, I loved the george but I loved the satin or silk ones. They looked really nice on the women when they wear it to special events like weddings, naming ceremonies, king coronations, and so on. Although, I like this outfit, I never found how to buy it. I asked someone from the Niger Delta region once if she could help me buy one, and she said, "Yes", but it never happened, because I didn't get to follow up to pay and get the material.
Well, when I became a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking two years ago, one of the steps that I took was to specifically wear African prints but sewn in a non traditional Nigerian way. I love dresses, so I ordered dresses to be made for me. When I got a sewing machine for bag making, I decided to put my imagination to work. I started sewing dresses for myself or fix some of the dresses made for me by doing alterations on them by myself.
For the Second Annual Report launch of the Council, I decided I was going to wear a george outfit, however when the fabric arrived, I changed my mind to make a dress out of it. The net material supposedly added for the top looked too delicate to sew for a rookie seamstress like me. I was lucky to find fabric at a discounted rate at a store called AKN fabrics in New York.
traditional Igbo style. However, in fear of ruining the fabric, I contacted a friend, Bike, owner of Cocozini who is also a designer that has made dresses for me. I wanted her guidance on how to make this delicate fabric work for me. She said, "Come over and I will make you a pattern. That will make it really easy for you to sew." I was thinking, "A pattern? I don't even know how to use a pattern." She had given me a pattern sometime ago that I never even touched, talkless of making something with it.
I went to her by faith, and I was glad that I did. She measured me and began to cut out my size out of paper. As she cut, she explained and asked questions. She even gave me a muslin of about two yards or so to practice with before cutting my nice fabric.
I went home and got to work. I cut and sewed the muslin. It took forever to finish. Then, I decided to cut and sew an African print fabric, which took lesser time because that was my second practice. After sewing the second dress, I felt confident to cut my nice george fabric to make the dress that I will wear for the special occasion. I was pleasantly surprised by the speed with which I completed the dress. Plus, I liked the outcome too.
It was very pleasing to see people fall in love with the dress. I received a lot of compliments to the point that someone told me to go for modeling. And, when I shared it on social media, people also commented, "Lovely dress", "I love the dress" and ofcourse, Cocozini owner, Bike commented, "That dress looks so beautiful" on Instagram.
The lesson from this piece is to never give up on what you desire. It might not come true immediately, but it will come true someday. This is a 30 year's plus dream and it became a reality. I now have a george in my collections.
If you have a sewing machine, and will like to sew your own outfit, you can contact Bike at Cocozini to order your own custom pattern just for you.
Thanks for reading.Until next time, share your own aspiration or inspirational story in the comment below.