waist beads


Do you wear waist beads? Do you know what their colors mean? Have you ever asked yourself the benefits of wearing it? Or maybe you’ve seen your sister with them and be wondering why women wear waist beads in the first place? You’re not alone, understanding women have always been a puzzle for some people, the same is trying to understand why they do what they do.

This post is a 10-minute read that’ll give you everything you need to know about waist beads.  First, let’s start with an insider. While 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. Everything from her head down to her toes was beautifully decorated with paintings and beads. The beads were made into beautifully laced coverings that served as a blouse and a short skimpy wrapper wrapped around her waist. 

When I asked her what the occasion was, she said it was ceremonial wear in those days, women dressed up like that as part of their cultural heritage. The concept of ‘’African beauty’’ has really changed over time. For those born in the early 90s the difference in space-time continuum may not be a mile, it’s wide enough to notice the difference.

However, waist beads evolved with the trend, today’s women are not afraid to wear it and put it on display. It has even become a social media trend. It is intriguing how these ornaments by women remain an interesting subject to date. People are still divided along perception lines.

According 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. ‘’[1]

Waist beads are also referred to as belly beads, waistline beads, or beaded waist chains. Personally I think waist beads are beautiful, it’s a great tool that brings out the feminine impression. One good feature of this ornament is it’s highly customized, usually handmade from beautiful gemstone highly polished to preserve its natural essence.

Back in Calabar, during ‘the fattening room’ era, the rich could pay for special “fattening rooms” to put on extra weight.’’ [2] 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 a rising sun.

Those days are now gone, yet the waist beads survived the rapid stretch in time. For this ornament to remain relevant to our women to date there must be some benefit right?


According to tradebeads.org, ‘’Archeologists 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 [11] account of the origin of beads recognized that Indian beads were originally stitched together to form ribbons.

Let’s look at the advantage of wearing waist beads


People wear waist beads for a number of reasons;

  • Decoration –women wear decorations to embellish their bodies. Just like any modern wearable accessory, these ornaments are feminine and that alone makes women more beautiful. Back in the day on special events like coronation of a king, women wore extra number of beads to decorate themselves. 
  •  Sexual Attraction – There’s a popular adage that men are moved by what they see, while this statement implicates a man for being sensitive, women are not totally innocent. According to Demand Africa, Yoruba women wear these ornaments because they believe it attracts the opposite sex and stirs deep emotional responses [5].  It is a common belief that a number of women tie up charms to their waist beads to induce deeper sexual attraction.
  • Accentuate figure – Waist beads heighten the figure and to the movement of the hip. Although, 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.
  • Seduction- Brides used more waist beads during marriage ceremonies, in other to seduce their husbands.
  • Contraception – it was believed that waist beads help women control their ovulatory cycle. As a form of birth control, they’ll avoid sexual intercourse with their husbands.  Charms to prevent pregnancy were believed to be laced with some beads.
  • Symbol of Love – a gift of waist beads can melt a woman’s heart when given as a token of love from a suitor, a husband or parent.
  • Pregnancy – waist beads are thought to improve fertility. That’s probably because the beads cause sexual attraction, and therefore increases the rate of sexual intercourse between couples.
  • Protection – waist beads are said to be mixed with charms that endorse fertility, safeguard pregnancy and make child-bearing seamless.
  • 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.
  • Proof of Chastity/Sensuality – these ornaments are used to conclude if a woman is not corrupted or provocative, as she walks the observer watches the rolling of the beads. As it was a popular belief that loose women roll their waists on purpose to seduce the opposite sex.
  • Motion sensor – the people in Yoruba land believed that “it is the beads that make the buttocks to jiggle.”
  • Spiritual Protection – the Orisas is a deity of the Yoruba people [6]. Followers of water goddesses and high priestesses wore charms to protect themselves from other malevolent spirits. Also, to beautify their regalia.
  • Symbol of deity/ Royalty– Physique adornment for royalty. Common with the Edos, Yorubas, and Igbos. In most parts of Africa royalty is a symbol of divinity – some waist beads depict royalty. They are usually expensive, exceptional and polished from materials 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 the ornament is as a means of watching and controlling their weight. If it becomes tight, it’s an indication that the woman is adding weight or when it’s hanging lose it might indicate that she has lost weight.
  • Rites of Passage – just about two decades ago, waist beads were used as a rite of passage. They were used during traditional marriage rites or as a girl grows, she changes her old waist beads for newer ones that are more suitable for her growing body. This was an indicator of growth and maturity.

Just to review the points made earlier, the central idea remains that, it helps with weight loss, Sexual Attraction, a trend, heritage, symbol of feminism and spiritual purposes [4].


Everybody’s shape is beautiful depending on individual perception. In my opinion, I feel there are certain attributes that make a woman beautiful. Like the organization of her bony features, adipose fat distribution, age, pregnancy, genetic and hormonal factors, etc.

However, Some African cultures encourage girls to wear these ornaments, these little angels are taught that wearing it timely helps them achieve more rounded hips, slender waists, and fuller breasts.

When it comes to shapes?  To a scientific mind, it’s purely physical. A rectangular block is rectangular no matter how you look at it. Attempting to weigh beauty against body shapes might produce varying outcome depending on the individual differences.

According to Karmaria et. al [7] 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 unfavorable outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and low-self-esteem and poor quality of life.

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.

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 what they think about waist beads, it was revealed that contemporary women accept as true, that the beads shape their body and keep the waist small and hips accentuated.

Logically, The popular adage by an eighteenth-century writer, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, ‘’beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’’ is a clear indicator that beauty is subjective. It simply means beauty doesn’t exist but created by the observer.

But since it already established that wearing these ornaments can accentuate the figure of a woman, it’s not totally wrong that it can create an impression that a woman would appear curvier than she actually is.  


Have you ever asked yourself why you choose your favorite color? Now everybody has a color that resonates with his or her personality. Even though some people do not know why they choose a particular shade as a favorite.

Color is a property of light as seen by people; characteristically it is an enchanting element that indicates emotion and connection to events, objects, and feelings. Certain colors invoke certain natural feedback for example, the green color is widely associated with fertility, nature, acceptance, and prosperity.

Just in case you are visiting your vendor [9], here are a few clues as to what your waist beads color choices might mean.

  • Yellow – Energy, joy and happiness
  • White – Light, truth and purity.
  • Turquoise – Communication and self-awareness.
  • Red – Confidence, and vitality.
  • Purple – Royalty, spirituality, and wisdom.
  • Orange – Courage, self-confidence, and vitality.
  • Green – Abundance, fertility, nature, and prosperity.
  • Gold – Good health, power and wealth.
  • Pink – Care, beauty, love, and kindness.
  • Brown – Earth and stability.
  • Blue – Loyalty, and truth.
  • Black – Power, and protection.


Perhaps the most outstanding reason why women still value waist beads is; it’s used to control weight gain. The ornament act as a tracker for your body which helps you in weight control.

Using beads to check isn’t a new practice. The Egyptians [10] have been using this method for centuries to shape their bodies. Understandably, using waist beads to monitor your weight is a hassle-free method to lose weight without undergoing vigorous exercises.

According to Yimmy[10] 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 to achieve this feat, but in combination with other strategies like strict dieting and bodyweight shedding routines. Waist beads on their own do not increase or reduce your weight by just being wrapped around your waist.


If you are about to get a waist bead, there are certain things to take into consideration while measuring your waist before buying or making your beads. For best results:

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Hold the measuring tape correctly behind you.
  3. Start at the top of your hip bone, and then bring the tape measure all the way around your body, level with your belly button.
  4. Wrap it around your waist so that it overlaps at your navel.
  5. The tape should be parallel to the floor and fit cozily around your upper body.
  6. Do not make it’s too tight and that it’s straight, even at the back.
  7. Don’t hold your breath while measuring.
  8. Check the corresponding number on the tape measure right after you exhale.
  9. Avoid burrowing it into your skin.


Wearing waist beads by women in Africa is a culture that will continue for a while. Although the current trend features chains and belts, a good number of women are still interested in the femininity and beauty of waist beads.

In Nigeria, some people especially young men do not think wearing waist beads by women is ideal as waist beads sometimes are thought to be laced with charms for various reasons. Not surprisingly, a great number of men are interested in the sexual attractiveness and sensuality of waist beads and encourage their partners to wear them.

Appropriate use of waist beads can be beneficial to weight management.  The process of controlling weight does not work alone, overall, you have to take good care of yourself and keep being beautiful.

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