Ethiopians don't wear hats during the cold weather and some don't wear coats. Traditionally men and women wear gabis, or a large woven cotton piece (or two) of fabric that gets wrapped around the head, shoulders, arms and the torso for warmth. It's most often white or cream with a colorful pattern at the bottom. Men, women and children of all ages also wear a smaller version of a gabi as a head wrap that covers the head and then the ends are wrapped around the neck for warmth. It's rare that I see Ethiopian women without some sort of scarf or wrap on, no matter what the temperature is outside.
This series of blog posts is about how I am adjusting my wardrobe to fit the styles and practicality of living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In the case of the scarf I am kind of lucky. I have lots of scarves and wraps in my closet and since moving to Addis I am simply wearing them more. I felt a little over dressed with a nice scarf on in the States (unless it was winter) or in SE Asia. Here in Ethiopia scarfs are as natural as wearing a shirt so most days I have one on. Scarves are for comfort and warmth as much as they are for style, especially during the rainy season.
Justin is getting on board the scarf train too. When we first arrived we joked a bit about all the men at NGOs wearing scarves like hip Europeans. Truly men who pull off a scarf are hip in my book. The idea that a scarf would become an accessory for my khakis-and-a-polo-wearing husband was not something I saw coming. But here we are, 8 months in Ethiopia and he wears them all the time. Mostly when we travel for warmth and comfort. I love it.
I'm getting much more use out of my scarves than I had in other locations and it's fun to play with how to wear, tie or drape them. Most of the time I aimlesly wrap and tuck until there are no loose ends and my neck it warm. I'm not the best person to ask about stylishly tying scarves but I personally prefer a messy looking scarf over a styled one. So there you go. Here are some of my favorites and a few ways I wear them.
On the fashion side of things I tend to like patterned scarves unless it's one I wrap around my head. I don't match my clothing to my scarf. I tend to wear neutral basic things and then accesorize with a scarf. A scarf immediately turns jeans and a t-shirt into an outfit. I like that I can throw one on and look a little more put together.
The head drape scarf is still a little tough for me to pull off. I haven't actually worn this wrap around my head like this around town but lots of expat women do. They wear them with a hat and sunglasses on too. It's good to protect against the sun so I can see the need but so far I haven't dared wear all three accessories together yet. The scarf around my neck with a hat is about as Africa chic as I have gone.
The head wrap style is very practical though because you can pull the top off your head when you get inside so the scarf is now only around your neck.
Do you wear scarves? What's your favorite way to wear them?