Best Of Both Worlds

How To Look Chic On The Cheap: Naija Style



I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week. She had been out shopping in Lagos with a much younger cousin and was horrified to see how the young lady spent money on the most unnecessary things but always complained that she was broke. I remember my uni days in Nigeria and here are some of the tips that saw me through as a struggling student.  I hope ladies of all ages reading this will add their own tips in the comment section below.


We all want to use MAC or Mary Kay cosmetics, but we also know that they cost a pretty penny. One easy way to save on makeup is to invest in good quality foundation/ powder and buy cheap brands for all other make-up items. The foundation is the base of a woman’s makeup so if it is the wrong shade or leads to breakouts or runs like mud, the whole look will be ruined. For all other pieces of makeup like eye shadow pallets, blusher, mascara, the trick is to look for alternative brands of makeup online. There are many makeup blogs on youtube and other websites where people review cheap brands which are comparable to the expensive brands.

Also spend time watching make up videos online on youtube and learn to do your own make up. After a few tries you will be able to achieve the look you want without any assistance. You can also try out daytime and night-time looks. This will save you spending a lot of money on MUA anytime you need decent makeup.


Search and do not relent until you find a brilliant tailor. Not one who will make a skirt and blouse from 5 yards and still give you 2 yards for scarf. Waster! You need one who can make 2-3 outfits from said 5 yards by creatively embedding other cheaper fabric. That way you can pool resources and buy expensive fabric and aso-ebi with friends when you have to.

For gele and other head ties, find a good aso-oke store or strike up a good relationship with local aso-oke weavers outside Lagos. Mine is in Oje market in Ibadan. (Yes o!) .  Same as with fabric for outfits, you can pool with friends to buy expensive aso-oke, get a strip and buy plain cheap aso-oke to mix with it, creating your unique style for half the price.

Younger girls and ladies can ask aunties and close older female relatives once in a while for ankara scarves they no longer want. They will usually be excellent quality wax fabric from long ago which you can ask your tailor to make into the cool blouses and button down tops which are now in vogue. Team with blue or black jeans or even a black skirt (for more formal outings) and look super for less.


Invest in good gold and silver shoes. Nigerian party outfits require a certain degree of ‘shine-shine’ so you can never get it wrong with sparkly shoes and matching clutch. These are invaluable for those times when you can’t afford to buy a new pair of shoes to match a party outfit.  Also buy a solid pair of brown shoes. Make sure they match your skin tone as they elongate your legs. They look fabulous on almost any kind of English outfit and give you that chic look, instead of boring sensible black shoes.

To get good jewellery, be good to aunties, god-mothers and all older female relatives.  If need be, you might be able to borrow their expensive gold jewellery when you need them. Otherwise, find a way to buy cheap costume jewellery on the internet.  Aliexpress  has some fantastic deals  and I have been told that some of the sellers deliver to Nigeria.

Where to go and how to get there

Try to save money on transportation and taxis when going out with friends or attending functions by making sure that you arrange your ride both ways. If you would like a lift from a friend, tell them before hand and confirm before the day in case they’ve had a change of plan.

Never order more food than you can pay for at a restaurant even when you know someone else is footing the bill. If something goes wrong and you have to pay for your meal, at least you have the money to do so. Sometimes it makes sense to eat some food before going to an expensive restaurant, so that you can eat daintily. It is bad form to eat like crazy when someone else is paying.

When shopping with friends don’t buy what you can’t afford. If you find that this will be impossible because you are in the company of a mean-mouthed person who will spread rumors that you are cheap, make sure you discreetly check that the store will accept returns so you can bring the items back later.

When visiting friends

Always take a little gift for the person you are going to visit. It could be anything from fruits to a small cake. However, when you are short on cash and need to give a very classy gift, you can make a wonderful hamper filled with well- chosen but inexpensive items. You can also make an ordinary gift seem more expensive by gift-wrapping it.

Also, do not flash people. It is rude. Use whatsapp to make calls or send voice notes. Whatever you do, make sure you have a bit of data on your phone. Nothing whiffs of penury than a phone that cannot receive or send whatsapp messages.

After all is said and done, it takes more than being chic to make a good person. You need to have the heart and soul to go with it. Having a good personality far outweighs any polished or stylish appearance/manners. Style unaccompanied by virtue, is as a flower without perfume. A beautiful soul needs no adorning. We do not grind down the pearl upon a polishing stone.



Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on almost everything.

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