Do you fancy waist beads? Do you or anyone you know, wear waist beads? Do you know what their colors stand for? Have you wondered what the benefits might be? Have you seen anyone other than females wear waist beads? Many, many questions!

This is a 10-minute read that takes a look into the alluring world of waist adornments.

Let’s get started with a memorable experience.

Growing up, I was privileged to see beautiful pictures of my mom as a young girl.

She was dazzling; her skin sparkled like Christmas lights in the dark. She was beautifully decorated with paintings from her head to her toes. Her blouse was strictly a composition of beads beautifully laced together and her waist was clad in a skimpy wrapper. When I inquired what the occasion was, she said it was ceremonial wear back in the days — women dressed in that manner to portray their cultural heritage.

Interesting! It’s amazing how the concept of ‘’African beauty’’ has really changed over time. To those birthed in the early 90s, the difference in space-time continuum may not be a mile apart but is wide enough to notice the difference.

waist beads
African Bride


According to tradebeads.org, ‘’Archaeologists have proven that beads were around almost 40,000 years ago”. Glass beads are said to originate from Egypt and Lebanon as far as 1365 B.C. Archaeological locations have also established the presence of bead factories in countries such as China.

Wikipedia’s account of the origin of beads recognized that Indian beads were originally stitched together to form ribbons.

Waist beads evolved with the times. Till date, it remains an interesting debate as people are divided along differing perceptions. Today’s women are not afraid to wear and put their decorative waist accessories on display. It is even a constant feature on social media.

According to Jennifer Chesak, ‘’waist beads still remains a traditional African accessory that consists of small glass beads on a string or wire worn around the waist or hips. They come in different colors and shapes and may also include decorative stones, crystals, or charms.‘’

Waist beads are also referred to as belly beads, waistline beads, or beaded waist chains. In Calabar, during ‘the fattening room’ era, the rich could pay for special “fattening rooms” to put on extra weight.’’ During that dispensation, it was a rite before marriage. On the D-day, the woman was decorated with ornamental beads that made her glow like the rising sun.

Although the times have changed, waist beads remain relevant to our women to date. There must be some benefit right?


People wear waist beads for a number of reasons

Decoration – women especially, wear decorations to embellish their bodies. Just like any modern wearable accessory, these ornaments are feminine and enhance beauty. In times past and on special events like the coronation of a king, women adorned themselves with extra number of beads.

Accentuate figure – Properly fitted waist beads highlight one’s figure and dance to the movement of the hip.

Sexual Attraction – There goes a popular axiom that men are moved by what they see. According to Demand Africa, Yoruba women wear these ornaments because they believe it attracts the opposite sex and stirs deep emotional responses.  It is commonly believed that a number of women tie up charms to their waist beads to induce deeper sexual attraction.

Seduction– Brides used more waist beads during marriage ceremonies in other to seduce their husbands. Traditionally, it was considered a taboo for a woman to show her waist beads to the opposite sex who is not her husband. Seeing a woman’s beads were regarded as seeing her nakedness.

Symbol of Love – A gift of waist beads can melt a woman’s heart when offered as a token of love from a suitor, a husband or parent.

Fertility – in the Yoruba culture, lagidigba are worn to indicate the gravidity of a woman. The lagidigba is made from palm nut shells that are organized in knots; also used to indicate multiple births.

Pregnancy – Waist beads are thought to improve fertility. This supposedly stems from the connection between the beads and sexual attraction. Ultimately, this increases the frequency of sexual intercourse between couples.

More reasons waist beads are fashionable

Protection (mother-child)– beads are said to be reinforced with charms that endorse fertility, safeguard pregnancy and make child-bearing smooth.

Contraception – It was believed that waist beads helped women monitor their ovulatory cycle. As a form of birth control, they avoided sexual intercourse with their husbands. Beads were also believed to be laced with charms to prevent pregnancy.

Proof of Chastity/Sensuality – a popularly held notion that loose women rolled their waists on purpose to seduce the opposite sex. Thus, a woman was judged to be modest, not corrupted or provocative based on how the beads round her waist rolled.

Motion sensor –  In Yoruba land, it is believed that, “it is the beads that make the buttocks to jiggle.”

Spiritual Protection – The Orisas is a deity of the Yorubas. Followers of water goddesses and high priestesses wore charms to protect themselves from other malevolent spirits as well as beautify their regalia.

Symbol of deity/ Royalty– Common among the Edos, Yorubas, and Igbos in most parts of Africa, some waist beads depict royalty. Royalty is a symbol of divinity. They are usually expensive, exceptional and polished from materials and gemstones that are higher in quality and rare to find. Monarchs and other noblewomen of royalty wear these beads to differentiate themselves from others and stand out.

Weight Control – Perhaps the most popular use of these accessories. If it becomes tight, it indicates that the woman has put on weight and when it hangs loose, shows that she has lost weight.

Rites of Passage – Just about two decades ago, waist beads were used as a rite of passage. Either during traditional marriage rites or at puberty, a girl changes her old waist beads for newer and more suitable ones. This was an indicator of growth and maturity. The central points remain that it functions in weight management, sexual attraction, trends, heritage, a symbol of feminism, and spiritual purposes.


Attempting to weigh beauty against body shapes might produce varying outcomes especially with regard to individual perception. The popular saying in its current form by eighteenth-century writer, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, ‘’beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’’ is a clear indication that beauty is subjective. It simply means beauty does not exist on its own but is created by the observer.

Body types

According to Karmaria et. al there is a significant surge in the perception of body image by young adults over time. Consequently, an undesirable body image ultimately results in body shape dissatisfaction and consequently would cause unfavourable outcomes such as anxiety, depression, low-self-esteem and poor quality of life.

Some African cultures teach and encourage girls to wear these ornaments early on as it helps them achieve more rounded hips, slender waists and fuller breasts.

Not totally shocking, Avery W, a blog writer, reflects that traditionally and in modern times, women still believe wearing waist beads keep their bodies intact. While gathering opinions for this post on Facebook and WhatsApp, a question was posed to my friends about their thoughts on waist beads. The results revealed that contemporary women accept as true, that the beads shape their body and keep the waist small and hips accentuated.

Since it has already been established that wearing these ornaments can accentuate the figure of a woman, it’s not totally wrong to say that it creates an impression that a woman appears curvier than she actually is. Regardless of the number of beads women wear, it’s important to feel great about your body. Just like any ornaments worn by people, how you feel in them is more important than how whatever you are wearing feels on you.


Have you ever wondered why you chose your favourite colour? Some persons do not have a particular reason why. All the same, everyone has a colour that supposedly resonates with their personality.

Colour is a property of light as seen by people. Characteristically, it is an enchanting element that links emotion and connection to events, objects and feelings. Certain colours evoke certain natural feedback. For example, the green colour is widely associated with fertility, nature, acceptance and prosperity.

If you are visiting your vendor, here are a few clues as to what your waist beads colour choices might mean.

Yellow – Energy, joy, happiness

White – Light, truth, purity.

Turquoise – Communication, self-awareness.

Red – Confidence, vitality.

Purple – Royalty, spirituality, wisdom.

Orange – Courage, self-confidence, vitality.

Green – Abundance, fertility, nature, prosperity.

Gold – Good health, power, wealth.

Pink – Care, beauty, love, kindness.

Brown – Earth, stability.

Blue – Loyalty,  truth.

Black – Power,  protection.


The most recurring reason why women still value beads is its use in controlling weight gain. It can be called a weight tracker if you wish.

Eyptians have employed this method for centuries to shape their bodies. According to Yimmy a waist trainer, ‘’the beads are used to remind women of their weight gain or if they are pregnant: if you lose weight, the beads on your waist will roll lower, and if you gain weight, they will become tighter or higher.’’

However, the practice does not work in isolation. It works in combination with other strategies like strict dieting and body weight shedding routines. Waist beads on their own do not increase or reduce your weight by just being hooked around your waist.


If you are about to buy or make a waist bead, take the following into consideration while measuring your waist. For best results:

  • Stand up straight.
  • Hold the measuring tape correctly behind you.
  • Start at the top of your hip bone, and then bring the tape measure all the way round your waist, so that it overlaps with your belly button.
  • Don’t hold your breath while measuring.
  • Ensure it’s not too tight and avoid burrowing into your skin.
  • BE ABSOLUTE the tape is straight all the way round.
  • The tape should be parallel to the floor and fit cozily around your upper body.
  • Check the corresponding number on the tape measure right after you exhale.


Wearing waist beads by women in Africa is a practice that will continue for the longest time. For one, a good number of women are still interested in the femininity and beauty of waist beads. Not surprisingly also, a great number of men are interested in the sexual attractiveness and sensuality of waist beads and encourage their partners to wear them.

The current trend features chains and belts. In Nigeria, some people especially young men do not think wearing waist beads by women is ideal as waist beads are sometimes enchanted for various reasons.

Appropriate use of waist beads can be beneficial especially in weight management.  The process of controlling weight does not work alone. You have to take good care of yourself and keep being beautiful. Personally, I think waist beads are beautiful and a great tool that deepens the feminine impression.

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