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By Onyinye Ofoegbu

Half of a Yellow Sun film boasts a 1960s wardrobe that calls to mind recent screen productions like Mad Men.

It’s universally known that whether in a film or a novel, so much of storytelling takes place on the bodies of characters. That’s why the costume designer is as much a storyteller as the screen writer or the director. Biyi Bandele and his team should be applauded for bringing Jo Katsaras on board as the costume designer. HOAYS is a period piece, so there was no way the production team could get away with skimping on costume design.

The Cyprus-born South African designer is known for the beautifully evocative costume design of HBO’s No. 1 Ladies Detective series set in Gabarone, Botswana. In HOAYS, she presents a rich ensemble of garments and accessories that capture everything from the soigne Lagos socialites of the ’60s to the sadness and austerity of life during a time of war. 

Generally, the style of the clothing  in HOAYS is ladylike silhouettes. Katsaras sticks to sheath, shift and fit-and-flare. However, she uses semi-fitted versions of these styles rather than the motion constricting figure-hugging silhouettes we see today.  The result is an effortless elegance in the styling.

The skirts tend to be A-line or semi-fitted. Although the mini skirt was introduced in the 1960s, the trend doesn’t seem to feature prominently in the film. Katsaras seems to have opted for knee length skirts for most of the characters. 

As far as fabric goes, expect to see floral patterns and metallic hues. Lace is also featured as seen in Olanna’s wedding dress. Odenigbo and Richard’s print shirts, including Ogwu’s Ankara print tunics are all evocative of the obsession with prints and patterned fabric that defined the decade. So are Odenigbo’s skinny tie and his rugged pair of mod shorts. 

As far as I can tell from the trailer, the more traditional pieces—wraps, blouses, head ties—seem to be more earthy tones: greens, beiges, browns while western styles tend to be more colorful, ranging from bright pigmented colors like reds, greens, yellows and blues to softer pastel version of blush pinks and baby blues.

Don’t be too surprised by the similarities between the ’60s and today’s fashion in terms of style, color and fit. History does repeat itself!

As most reviewers have noted, the costume design is one of the high-points of the movie. Katsara’s artistic blend of costume texture and color makes scenes in the movie look like paintings.


















HOAYS in Lagos. See red carpet photos HERE.

Watch Trailer (view more clips HERE)

Images via and Jo Katsaras’s website



Onyinye C Portrait2Onyinye Ofoegbu is an engineer, wife and mother who combines her love for DIY and fashion on her blog Bobbin Love (

Follow Onyinye on twitter @msbobbinlove

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4 Responses to “Mad Men Of Nollywood —1960s Fashion In Half Of A Yellow Sun Film” Subscribe

  1. Oge 2014/04/14 at 21:52 #

    That’s right. Though I’m yet to see the trailer, there’s no doubt from the pictures available that the costume of the movie really defined it.

  2. CUEB 2014/04/15 at 08:51 #

    An excellent fashion commentary on such an important movie! I love the clothes. They are so elegant and understated. Many of the styles are indeed back today.

    Despite the controversy regarding the casting for this movie, I think Thandie and Noni look very Igbo. I can’t wait to see it.


  1. My Thoughts on ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ | Veronica - 2014/04/19

    […] […]

  2. Mad Men Of Nollywood —1960s Fashion In Half Of A Yellow Sun Film | Africa Speaks 4 Africa - 2014/05/14

    […] Read full review here. […]

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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