Waist Beads 101

Beads have long been an integral part of African history, tradition, and culture. Beads of all shapes and various materials have been used to adorn the body, to enhance artwork, for cultural practices, and as a form of currency. Special, unique, or rare beads would hold high value, thus the owner or wearer would be considered wealthy and/or of royal or respected lineage. Beads worn on the body would often be a determinant of who you were, what family or tribe you were a part of, where you lived, your age, your personal status and/or abilities, your accomplishments, rite of passage, or milestones.

Waist beads worn by women and girls is one popular custom believed to have originated in the Old Kongo Empire in the central region of Africa. They are worn by all ages & sizes, from birth to transition, as a symbol of femininity and beauty throughout the continent. They can be adorned with special beads made of clay, glass, wood, crystals, gemstones, and colors thought to have healing powers, and serve as symbolic protection of the womb area and the entire body. Special beads were often gifted to young girls at the age of puberty, and when they reached their cycle, marking their transition into womanhood. This milestone is just one of many women would reach, embrace, and grow from. Continued milestones, personal/life journeys, change, unions, celebrations, and growth are examples of rites of passages that would be marked by additional beads adorned on the waist and body, eventually telling the woman’s story. Waist beads are sacred to the body and wearer, tied on for permanent wear, and intentionally worn under one’s clothing to promote modesty.  Today, waist beads are becoming more popular than ever as women across the globe continue to embrace uplifting African social and traditional cultures. Waist beads further empower women as they grow to celebrate, love and adorn their bodies regardless of shape or size, grow through trauma/challenge/pain, celebrate the journey that has brought them forward to today, and embrace what the future holds in their search for a greater self, and thus a greater community.

Waist Beads are meant to be worn low to the waist line, comfortably below the navel, or across your belly, or in your natural grooves, and under clothing daily. Your fit will be determined by your natural curves and profile, so where they lay on you may be different for someone else. They can be tied permanently on the body with beading string, or clasped for easy removal. You can perform regular daily activity with most waist beads on including bathing, swimming, and exercising. After bathing, make sure to pat your beads dry with a towel and moisturize your skin. Keeping your skin moisturized will prevent skin irritation especially for those with sensitive skin. If you wear spanks or body shapers, place them over your beads for a smoother look when wearing fitted clothing. If your beads include sterling silver, pewter, gold-filled, or copper charms, know that they can patina/ tarnish when exposed to some natural and/or artificial ingredients in your lotions, oils, soaps, or when left exposed while unworn and uncovered. However charms/beads can be revitalized with a jewelry polishing cloth, or using toothpaste without tartar control or whitening agents. If using toothpaste, rub gently with a dry cloth, use a toothbrush to get into small grooves, then rinse with water. Sterling Silver and gold-filled beads have the longest life of brilliance, so they can always be revitalized if they fade or discolor.  Since waist beads are typically worn low to the waist, beads can easily camouflage in your natural crease line while wearing dresses, pants, skirts, or long shirts. *Be mindful of your beads when going to the bathroom – feel for your beads first before you pull down to protect from breakage.

How to Measure your Waist Use a string, thin rope, or tape measure to measure your waist. Wrap your measuring tool from the back to the front of your body. Measure low, under your navel, and allow room for your measuring tool to rest comfortably against your skin. Allow for as much space you desire for a comfortable fit, without your waist beads falling off your hips or backside. Pull your beads down towards your hips to make sure they are not too big and fall off. Once you are sure about your desired fit, note your measurements of your string, rope, or measuring tape to be included with your order.

Curvy and or Voluptuous? If you are curvy and/or voluptuous, you may prefer your beads to lay across your belly in your mid-center curve lines. Be sure your measurement does not allow your beads to fall below your belly, as often one’s waist line measurement can be much smaller than the measurement around your stomach. If you have a high back line, your beads are likely to settle in the dip of your back. In this case, measure from the lowest area in the dip of your back and curve your measuring tool around your belly towards the front and center of your body. Pull your beads down towards your hips to make sure they are not too big and fall off. Once you are sure about your desired fit, note your measurements of your string, rope, or measuring tape to be included with your order.

With-child or Future Pregnancy? Many women are able to wear waist beads through their entire  pregnancy term, and delivery of their baby. If you become pregnant while wearing your waist beads, be sure to pull your waist beads up over your belly as soon your belly starts to expand wider than your waist bead measurements. If you are already pregnant, you want to measure your beads wide enough to lay above your baby and drape over your belly – wide enough to allow for weight gain, but not so wide that they fall off your body. Keep your beads on above your belly, and as the baby and your belly grows, they will rise, and eventually rest right under your bosom area. If you are comfortable with your beads remaining there, leave them where they lay until the end of your term. After your baby arrives, they will remain high on your torsel, and lower as you loose weight. If your desire is to return to your pre-baby body, your beads will let you know you have arrived when they fall back into their original place.  Check out our FAQ page to see Answers to our Frequently Asked Questions and learn even more about waist beads!