Styles of gele head-scarfs are the highpoint of women’s fashion at every Nigerian wedding. For any traditional, native-wear lok, the slay is not complete without a gele head-toe. Brides wear them, and wedding guests wear them too. When preparing to attend a wedding, after choosing what to sew, next on every woman’s mind is the style of gele to rock. There are so many styles for tying gele by Nigerian women, each one is uniquely different and all of them look stunning on the wearer. While there are many gele-tying artists around every street in Nigeria, sometimes, one just feels like tying your own gele by yourself (to also save some coins).
Generally, tying a gele into a headwrap involves tying it around the head and making layers and pleats, and knotting it to keep it firm on the head. The finished look is a gorgeous hat. So, how do you tie a gele head-scarf (for a beginner)? Or how do you perfect your skills (if your gele-tying skills are below average)? The video tutorial below will guide you through, step by step to tying a gele yourself. Just get out any gele fabric and practice along while watching the video – just play, pause and repeat. Play the videos below for your gele tying lesson (and if you prefer to read the instructions, steps are down below):
How to Tie a Simple Gele for Beginners
- Video 1 Above: Gele tying video tutorial using wired aso-oke headtie | Video 2 (down below): How to tie pleated sego gele headtie (scroll down to after ‘the explained steps’)
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THE GELE-TYING STEPS EXPLAINED
In case you prefer to learn by reading steps than watching the video tutorial above, here is the step by step instruction for learning how to tie your own Nigerian-style gele:
Material Needed: Any of these headtie fabrics in about one-and-half arm length width: aso-oke gele, sego gele, a few yards of Ankara wax print
STEP 1: Get your hair out of the way, by slicking/ packing it to the back. If you’re wearing weaves or braids, pack it up into a center-bun. Alternatively, or wear a wig cap or hair net.
STEP 2: Straighten one end of the gele’s width, and fold up a small part of the fabric’s edge.
STEP 3: Place the gele head-tie over your head, covering both ears; and hold both ends of the fabric until it is very tight on your head. Now, you are holding on to the ends of the gele with each hand (right and left).
STEP 4: Ease off pressure on one side of the fabric, so that one end is longer than the other. The usual ration is to have one-third of the fabric (shorter side) on one hand and two-third or the gele fabric (longer side) on the other hand.
STEP 5: Now, both ends of the gele should be behind your head. Next, pull the shorter side inward (to the back of your head) so that the longer side is out to the front, over the shorter end. If you’re right-handed, the longer end of the gele should be gripped by your right hand, and the shorter side should be gripped firmly by your left hand.
STEP 6: Next, wrap the long arm of the gele around your head, while holding firm to the shorter end. Ensure that the shorter end is wrapped into the inside of the back of your head, and have the long side wrapped outward to the front of your head. While wrapping the gele around, take time to make nice pleats and folds; and also smoothen the layers that are forming – although you can leave it until later, if you like.
STEP 7: Pull the long arm around tightly to form a layer. If the gele fabric is very long gele, you should do another round of wrapping the longer end (of the fabric) around your head one more time. If not, move to the next step.
STEP 8: Next, bring both arms of the gele fabric to the back of your head and cross the ends of the headtie (to get ready to tie the ends).
STEP 9: Now, knot both ends of the gele arms together to secure the head-tie tightly. Tie it one or two more time to keep it locked down.
STEP 10: Next, make a clean finishing by using your hands to adjust the gele from side to side. Use your thumb and fingers to smoothen the folds and layers of pleats. Adjust the top to make the gele fan-out. Keep adjusting your gele until you like what see in the mirror. Your gele hat is ready to wear. Congratulations, you just tied your first gele like a pro.
That’s the end of your gele-tying lesson. Be sure to come back to re-watch the video tutorial above and practice some more.
How to Tie Sego Gele With Pleats (Video)
- Video 1 Above: Gele tying video tutorial using wired aso-oke headtie | Video 2 (above): How to tie pleated sego gele headtie
Why Do Nigerian Women Tie Gele Headties?
Gele, in Nigeria, is a term for head-tie or scarf. While gele scarfs are everyday-wear for older women, the gele headtie is also a fashion accessory that completes any traditional attire look for women, such as wedding guests aso-ebi dresses. Gele head-scarfs are worn with any style of women’s native-wear, like wrapper and blouses (iro and buba or lace blouse and george wrappers, skirt and blouse outfits, ankara aso-ebi gowns and more. If you’re a woman that is invited to a Nigerian wedding, probably you have bought the themed aso-ebi fabric the couple specified as dress-code. Your Nigerian wedding guests aso-ebi look will not be complete without a gele headtie, or you’ll look out of place. You can pay to have someone tie your gele headwrap for you, or you can learn to tie it yourself – which is what this post is about.
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Why Nigerian Women Tie the Best Gele Styles in Africa
In many parts of Nigeria, women, especially the older and married ones, covered their hair by tying scarfs or head-ties, primarily as a form of modesty. Many still do, but most younger women prefer to wear headtie as a fashion accessory, to complete their look for Nigerian traditional or native attire. Unlike the scarfs worn by European or English women, fabrics for the Nigerian gele head-scarfs are not soft but rather have some thickness and stiffness to its texture. It is the texture of the fabric that gives the gele headtie the flexibility to be maneuvered into different artsy styles and also gives it the ability to stay up, standing like a hat.
Head-ties or headwraps are called by different names by the people of Nigeria (gele in Yoruba language and Ichafu in Igbo). Depending on the wearer’s preference or size of gele fabric, one can find women wearing small or huge gele head-scarfs. Generally, small gele head-ties are worn for a casual, everyday look; while big and flamboyant gele head-scarf styles like infinity pleats ankara gele, are special styles for events and weddings (worn by brides and guests too). However, small gele styles still make it to big occasions and weddings, because they also look beautiful.
You can tie a gele with any fabric type and texture, but fabrics with some level of stiffness are better because the most beautiful gele scarfs are those that stand stiff like a hat. Some popular headtie fabrics Nigerian women love to wear during events and occasions include sego gele, aso-oke gele, ankara gele.
In its original form, a gele head-tie is just a rectangular or square piece of fabric, but while tying it on her head, a Nigerian woman makes it into a beautiful, handcrafted hat. Nigerian women put some art into the way they tie their head ties, wraping it into several pleats, layers, and shapes. Thanks to talented Nigerian gele artists and fashion designers, today, there are uncountable ways of tying gele headties. Since not every Nigerian woman is skilled at tying gele or have the time to do so, we also now have ready-to-wear gele scarfs (also known as auto-geles) that are simply gele hats for busy women who just want to throw on their headtie and go. Those are available in Nigerian markets.
For non-Nigerians, the art of gele-tying would appear impossible to master, laborious and time-consuming. However, it’s ‘a normal’ that most Nigerian women can fix in a few minutes because it’s what they do nearly every day and have done for over 10,000 times in their lifetime. Hence, Nigerian women prefer to tie their gele head-wrap fresh every time they need it and deconstruct it after an outing.
That’s all on how to tie your gele (with sego, ankara or aso-oke). Did you practice along? Be sure to see our editor’s selection of the reigning, new gele and bead necklace styles in Nigeria. I’d like to hear from you – what is your favourite material to tie gele headtie with, and what new gele-tying style are you loving at this moment? Another question – have you worn a ready-made auto-gele scarf before? If so, do you prefer them to tying a fresh gele headtie?