In Port-Gentil there are very few places to buy ready-made clothes. Not one single clothing chain is in town (or in the whole country, for that matter), and most shops selling women's attire seem to sell a few pieces here and there of last summer's leftovers from Europe. If you happen to spot a nice skirt hanging randomly on a rack, you'd better hope it's your size, and if not, well, there'll be another shipment of odds and ends coming into town in another month or two. Needless to say, our family tends to shop for clothes once a year when back in France.
There are, however, loads of seamstresses in town and a seemingly endless number of Senegalese men selling gorgeous African cloth all over the place. Put the two together and you can get yourself pretty snazzed up, African style. Here's Dialo who I tend to buy fabric from pretty regularly. In his hand is some material I chose the other day for a few little African dresses I'm having made for Cecilia. I'll post her in her new outfits once they're ready.When you enter any of these fabric shops (or rather tin-roof shacks) you walk right into a wall of individual swaths of material, each marked with a family name and specific event to be attended. Some say "Baptism", others "Funeral", but clearly this is where you go to buy the material for the outfit you need to wear on a very specific occasion. See here:
Here's a closer look. The material in the middle with green and blue hearts is what you'd need to be wearing if you were invited to the Moussavou family wedding, for example.In Port-Gentil (is this the same throughout all of Africa?) everyone attending a family event is dressed in exactly the same material, but in whichever style of dress their seamstress made up for them. I'll try to get a shot of a crowd dressed like this one day. Meanwhile, a few "artistic" shots of some fabrics around town: