Ghana’s Got Style

By Sandra Aya Enimil

Though I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, I always had a sense of my Ghanaian heritage.  After living in Ghana for a short time after college, I meant to go back as often as I could.   Somewhere between working for a while in New York, going to law school and working more in Chicago, I kept forgetting to get a ticket back to Ghana. When I returned to Ghana in March of 2007, the last time that I had been to Ghana was 2001.  Before that, I lived in Ghana from 1998-2000.  During those early times of living and being in Ghana, I had many differing experiences with fashion.  While I was in school earning a Masters degree at the University of Ghana, Legon, I lived on campus at the famous and infamous all-girls dormitory, Volta Hall.  Many of the stylish, upper and middle class girls from good families stayed in this hall.  It was (and is) more than a notion to be a Volta girl.  People expected a lot from a young lady living in Volta Hall.  Such a woman should be able to wear a kaba (top) and slit (long skirt) (Ghanaian women in urban areas typically wear this “modern” ensemble. In rural areas, women use rich African cloth and wear it in considerably less structured ways. The kaba and slit have become very popular over the years, spreading across urban and rural Ghana and has become part of what is considered traditional attire.  Some people believe that the kaba and slit is an African rendition of the styles of British Colonial women from the late 19th and early 20th century.) to church, special events, interviews and sometimes to class. A Volta girl was also expected to keep abreast of the latest styles from America and Europe and have access to those same clothes and accessories… or be able to get decent versions of the styles from friends and relatives living abroad.  Since, I came from the States and I was (and am) particularly stylish, I already had the Western clothes, but I did not have any traditional African clothes.  Even though I knew I had to have traditional clothes or face pitying and disapproving looks at weddings and funerals, I did not want to wear these clothes in a traditional way.  I like the edginess of the 1960s and 70s versions of African clothes, but Ghanaians (like Americans) in the 1980s became very conservative in dressing and this continued through the 1990s and early 2000s.


Me, my mom and Sister wearing traditional “white” kabas and slits for the 20th Anniversary of my grandmother’s death. My mom and I used European fabrics for our outfits.

Abenaa, Asantewaa and I about to hit the town-bringing African and American style together.

Abenaa and I with the winner of Ghana’s Next Top Model.