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Photo by Ade Adetayo
When choosing a fabric to use for your Gele, there are some things to keep in mind. Whether you are wearing your Gele for an everyday look, or preparing for a formal occasion, the fabric that you choose is important and makes a statement. Let’s look at the different things to take into account.
The Weight of the Fabric
Consider fabric weight when choosing your textiles. A lightweight fabric will be cooler and not as heavy on the head, which will make wearing your Gele more comfortable for longer wearing. However, heavier fabric that is intricately woven and adorned with metallic threads and various textures can make a dramatic and formal Gele for occasions that call for these. Very lightweight fabrics, or those made from non-manmade cloth such a polyester blends, will not hold their shape and you’ll be left with a lifeless droopy mess instead of a glamorous Gele.
The Content of the Fabric
We recommend 100% woven cotton fabric for your Gele. Cotton is lightweight, breathable, and holds its shape well to give you hours of wear without irritation or losing the shape you worked so hard to design. Cotton blends with other natural fibers such as linen, wool or rayon may also work as well, but be certain that these blends aren’t too heavy or too slippery. Avoid man-made materials such as polyester, nylon and acrylic blends, as these will be difficult to fold and will not allow your skin to breathe through the wrap.
The Feel of the Fabric
Your Gele will keep its shape when the fabric used is stiff, allowing it to be folded and bent without worry of losing the design. Using starch on your fabric will help with the feel of the fabric. A simple spray starch will work with many fabrics, but beware that spray starch can chip in humid weather, and can sometimes show as a white powder on darker fabrics after some wear. Washing your fabric in liquid starch might give you better results that last longer, helping you keep your Gele fresh and shaped, so that you can use it over and over.
The Color and Pattern of the Fabric
While African head wraps place much tradition and meaning upon the patterns and colors of their head wraps, you can choose the fabric that works best for your outfit, occasion and seasonal needs. There are many specialty cloths made especially for Gele, and you can buy these online. You can also choose fabrics from a sewing store, choosing the patterns and colors that most appeal to you. For casual everyday wear, look for solid colors in neutral tones that you can wear with anything. For formal occasions look for brocades, damask and patterns with metallic threads woven through.
Starting with the right fabric will make your Gele keep its shape and look fabulous for as long as you want to wear it. Don’t be afraid to rock it!
Ade Adetayo is a semi-professional photographer who has a preference for natural looks.