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Oleku- A Fashionable Traditional Attire

Oleku is the term coined for the ‘short-sleeve style blouse of iro and buba outfit’.Oleku was adopted from the ‘iro and buba’ which trended between the 50s and 80s among the Yorubas (the south western region of Nigeria, Africa).The iro and buba used to be made of long sleeve blouse and a long wrapper which is tied across the waist.

There were no ankara styles as such during this time, as it was mostly worn by the older women and even when they matched different prints, it was more about wearing anything they can lay their hands on rather than making a fashion statement. Many young Nigerian women dislike wearing the old style of iro and buba saying that it makes them look ‘mama-ish’, and they are happily embracing the modern buba styles as most say that its so like their age.

This new twist has also converted the long sleeves and wrapper to shorter versions and the blouse tweaked into the fitted style that are more sexy.

What the Modern Iro and Buba Looks Like:

  • Buba Fabric Types: The traditional iro and buba style used to be sewn in cotton fabrics, usually ankara/ wax. Lace was mostly used for party / occasion iro and buba. Latest iro and buba styles come in assorted, lighter fabrics such as silk, chiffon, guinea brocade, velvet and more;
  • The Sleeves: Traditional iro and buba was only sewn in round neck and wide long sleeves that reached the wrist. The modern styles of iro and buba are sewn in all sorts of sleeves styles – fitted sleeves, short and three-quarter sleeves (OLEKU buba/ tops) and even puffed, long sleeves, sleeveless and much more. By the way, oleku is the name for the short-sleeved iro and buba.
  • The Buba Neckline: The neckline of the old style of buba is round WHILE necklines of the modern buba styles are also limitless – we’re seeing women wear the one-shoulder buba style, the scallop-neck, high-neck, v-neck, cowl neck, embellished neckline (with beads, with lace etc) and more.
  • The Body: The traditional buba style is loose-fitting WHILE the modern styles have been tweaked into the fitted and not-so-loose styles. You can see them in the pictures above.
  • The Wrapper (Iro): With the old, traditional buba style, the wrapper is tied round the waist BUT with the modern style buba, thewrapper is knotted in front (TULIP STYLE). In the old buba style,  In the modern iro and buba style, the wrapper (iro) length: varied – long and short, as the wearer desires.
  • Other: In the Oleku buba style, the buba (top) could be paired with a short or long skirt.

While the oleku and tulip style iro and buba styles are fast gaining acceptance in and outside Nigeria, especially among the young women, the classical, original style of buba is still a favourite of older women. The new oleku ankara styles are more  stylish, more comfortable and elegant compared to the old iro and buba and the different ankara prints gives you more options to combine.

Oleku are a feature at traditional ceremonies and special occasions.