The History Behind Powerful Nigerian Waist Beads: Styling and DIY

We see them everywhere, tiny beads dripping from the hips and waists of women like decorative sequins on ball gowns. It’s not foreign to see women of all ages wearing these belly beads in everyday fashion. The feminine decal has history dating back to the fifteenth century in Egypt, under different names, but the same structure nonetheless.Theres a greater purpose for wearing these waist beads and the customization process ensures that your jewelry is uniquely for you.  Before deciding to buy or DIY your own set it’s a best practice to look up the meanings behind them. 

We can’t begin our discussion without introducing where modern society gets its current interest in waist beads. The Yoruba Tribe, based in Nigeria along with many West African tribes, have provided today’s westerners with their traditional understanding of waistline jewelry. They call them the ibebe-de and/or or Ileke-idi, and assign meanings to different colors that they turn into waist bead designs. Outside of beaded waist beads, western fashion has proceeded to use metal chains and other raw materials for waist beads but the origin has a strict and beautiful background. 

Physically, spiritually, and mentally – women go through many monumental stages in life. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to celebrate ourselves and track all of these moments in our life through cherishable jewelry. The Krobo people of Ghana throw a Dipo ceremony every April celebrating the coming of age from childhood to womanhood. Nigerian waist beads are known to symbolize many things such as maturing into a young woman, the journey of weight loss/gain, the state of one’s fertility, spiritual protection, enhancing sexuality, display of marriage and more. The stage of life a young lady is in will determine when she is eligible for her beads – only if they are being worn for transitional purpose that is. No matter why you put on your waist beads, you’re bound to feel more empowered and in touch with your femininity. 


Selecting what colors to use is the most important part of the Nigerian Waist Bead process. A variety of materials can be used such as glass, woods, crystals and nuts but the color and finish is what matters the most. Each color has a specific meaning that you would want to look into prior to wearing. Red beads can symbolize passion, strength or fear, while  blue beads symbolize authority, peace, and self-control. If you are making waist beads for a fierce leader in your community you may want to use these colors like red or blue. 

Traditionally waist beads are tied around the waist using a string but there are various options now that we find pleasure in simply styling waist beads and chains. The three most common methods for stringing waist beads are:

  1. Elastic – Easy to get on and off, waist beads strung with elastic are perfect for people who are going to be moving around a lot. Adding a clasp to your elastic is optional.
  2. Tie On – This is a more permanent method that you commonly see in transitional waist bead styles. Ladies who have to display status or are simply on a weight watching journey are attracted to this option over the others. 
  3. Clasp – Made using the same bead stringing technique you’d use for a necklace, waist beads made with a clasp allow for the most flexibility when it comes to styling.

No matter why you put on your waist beads, you’re bound to feel more empowered and in touch with your femininity. 

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