Shopping Ghana, Africa: A Bespoke Dress, Custom Made, Just for You

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Do you ever shop while on a business trip?

My fab friend and co-worker Char recently had the opportunity to do some unique shopping while on a company trip– but this wasn’t a standard business trip. On this trip, there were no clients or company meetings, no comfy hotel rooms or dinners out.

ghana africa market This company trip involved several long plane and bus rides to a remote area of Africa, in the far upper east region of Ghana, to the small village of Bolgatanga.  Char, along with some of our co-workers, swapped briefcases for hammers and spent the week painting local schools and building furniture as part of one of our company’s many volunteer initiatives.

market goods in ghana africa souvenirsWhile in Ghana, Char had the opportunity to support the local community by doing what we all love to do anyway– shopping!

Ghana africa fabric textiles souvenirOne of the best things to buy in this part of Ghana is a custom-designed, custom-fitted dress. First, pick out your fabric– there are all sorts of gorgeous textiles to choose from at giveaway prices ($4 for three yards).

ghana africa seamstress at work fabric

A seamstresses at work in a local orphanage, making a colorful dress. There are no modern amenities here– the seamstress uses a turn-of-the-century iron, heated up on hot coals, to iron the fabric before sewing.

Next, select a dress design from a one of the many options offered.

In two hour’s time, using nothing but measuring chalk, scissors and a manual sewing machine set up on the dirt ground, these wonder ladies will whip you up a dress of your choosing.  Incredibly, you can buy one of these custom dresses for as little as $10-15, depending on your bargaining skills (and whether you are a local or westerner).

I found this completely shocking– it takes my local tailor three days (and 20 bucks) to hem a pair of trousers!

custom dress ghana africa colorful

Char and some friends model their gorgeous dresses.

The dresses are totally stunning–  I’d love to wear one as a chic hostess dress for a summer party.  And because it’s a bespoke original, you never have to worry about anyone showing up in the same dress.

Special thanks to Char for her photos and story!

Have you ever shopped the markets of Ghana or other parts of Africa?  Share in the comments below!

All photos courtesy of Char, used with permission, Copyright 2014. 

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11 Responses to Shopping Ghana, Africa: A Bespoke Dress, Custom Made, Just for You

  1. sueslaght 02/05/2014 at 11:11 am #

    Such beautiful colors and fabric!

    • Kristin Francis 02/08/2014 at 9:27 am #

      Aren’t they? I was wondering if Char had some special fancy camera because the colors were so vibrant!

  2. dianaveggienextdoor 02/06/2014 at 11:55 pm #

    This is so amazing! The beauty and speed of the dresses! And what an amazing opportunity to travel there and volunteer in the community. I would love if my company organized that!

    • Kristin Francis 02/08/2014 at 9:26 am #

      I know, it’s really fantastic–they do a yearly trip (in addition to tons of other programs, particularly in stopping human trafficking). We even get two paid days a year to volunteer in our communities. : )

  3. Sharon 02/08/2014 at 8:12 pm #

    I love the colourful outfits!! Ghana has always held an appeal to me, I am not sure why. Maybe because it is just sooooo far away?!

    • Kristin Francis 02/09/2014 at 8:38 am #

      Hi Sharon, thanks for stopping by! I agree the colors are fabulous. I want that green dress!

  4. heleinwonderlustelen 02/09/2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Love this! I get lots of clothes made when I’m in Africa! Love the fabrics! 🙂

    • Kristin Francis 02/09/2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Helen, thanks for stopping by! Would love to see your stuff!

  5. Paige Totaro 03/09/2014 at 7:10 pm #

    These are gorgeous! And what a great way to support the local artisans.

    • Kristin Francis 03/09/2014 at 8:13 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by Paige– I agree, these colors are fab!! I’m thrilled to be featuring more African souvenirs from Travelista Teri soon!


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