Historical Changes in Style

In the early part of the twentieth century, when Senegalese women wore their boubous hip or knee length, the pagne was a stronger visual focus for both the aesthetics and the symbolism of dress. Cloth was a major form of wealth, as well as a principal medium of artistic expression. In order to show their status and taste, Senegalese women wore three pagnes, layered in three different lengths. The three contrasting pagnes were made of hand-woven, hand-dyed, and factory-printed fabrics. After World War II, the grand boubou, reaching almost to the ankles, came into fashion for women. The pagne, almost hidden, became less of a focal point. In the latter part of the twentieth century, elegant fashion demanded a single pagne of the same fabric as the boubou and head-tie, either richly dyed or in Holland wax.

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