Pagnes 101

One thing that Burkina Faso (and all of West Africa for that matter) is famous for their pagnes. So, you are probably asking yourself, Gee Sara, What’s a Pagne?
A Pagne is a piece of cotton fabric that is 2 meters by 1 meter wide. They come in 1s, 2s, and 3s. They are extremely useful and are great gifts for your host famiy when you have been on vacation.
Common Uses for a Pagne include: A sheet, a towel, a skirt, a sarong, house clothes, etc. In Burkina three are three main grades of pagne, low, medium and high quality pagnes.
Low – typically see through, lower thread count, lower quality
Medium – less see through, higher thread count, better quality
High – completely opaque, waxy, highest thread count, best quality
Each country has their different style of pagne. The most different are the pagnes from Ghana (which are more like batiks) and Cote d’Ivoire (usually only 2 colors, off white, and a contrasting color

It is easy to get special pagnes printed for special occasions and organizations. For example, every holiday has a pagne associated with it, my host family’s church has their own pagne, there is a pagne representing the 50 years of friendship between Burkina and the US, and even special Peace Corps Pagnes.

When shopping at the marché, shopkeepers usually like to sell 3 pagnes at a time, because then you can take it to the tailor and get a complet made (two piece traditional west African outfit complete with matching headscarf). 3 pagnes can cost anywhere from 2000CFA to 18000 CFA ($4-36 depending on the quality of the pagne, with 5000 CFA being a nice price to shoot for.

Going to the tailor is an awesome experience and you can easily get clothes for less than $12 USD approximately 6000CFA. If your tailor is experienced enough, you can draw a picture and they will measure you and make your drawing come to life. You can also pick from already completed modeles (versions of dresses/complets) as well if you are not sure what you want. There are many tailors in our training village, and the stagiaires are providing them with lots of work opportunities.

Lastly, on a completely unrelated note, thank you to Rose and Tiffany for the lovely package, and all of you who have been sending me postcards and letters. It takes about 4 weeks for letters/postcards, and about 2 weeks for packages, and responses are on their way!


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