Tag Archives: african

African Clothing

Africa is a huge continent, where at least a thousand languages are spoken, and there are many more than a thousand tribes, each with their own special culture.  So, when someone says, “African clothing”, it could cover a range of garments from loincloths to complex balloon dresses.

What people wear is usually dependent on their faith, culture, and the weather in their areas, or some combination of those.  Generally though, Africans tend to favor durable, natural fibers, and clothing that is both useful and beautifully made.

There has been alot of crossover in style influences between Africa and Asia.  You are just as likely to see people wearing caftans in both regions.  Silk is also popular in Africa for those who can afford it.  Egyptian cotton is recognized as among the best, and is sought after in Asia and around the world.

symbols that were originally used for textiles, but are now used in various other art forms, that represent a range of concepts.  These are printed onto fabric, using carved gourds.  See Adinkra.org for more information.
aso oke a traditional African fabric, sometimes made from woven strips that are carefully sewn together, somewhat like a quilt, before being cut to make the garment.  The traditional Yoruba women’s aso oke, consists of four parts: the buba (a blouse like shirt), a wrap skirt, the head tie, and a shawl or shoulder sash.  Aso oke come in many styles though, and some these days choose not to cut it up for garments at all, and instead, wear it as a drape, somewhat like the sari.
African Batik Sample
a resist dyed fabric.  The effect is generally achieved by painting patterns on the fabric with beeswax, and then dying them.
blauzi a traditional white blouse.
a dress made of one or more panels stitched together.  It may or may not have attached sleeves.  Normally this means a dress that is wide enough not to need sleeves, just slits or holes for the arms.
a traditional men’s shirt.  It’s usually long, to the upper thigh, and has some sort of embroidered or printed design around the neck and perhaps bordering the arms or base.  Usually worn with pants, jeans, or sokoto for men, and with salwar/charwal style pants, a skati, or wrapper skirt for women.
fila a men’s cap.
a headwrap or scarf arranged around the head.
kanga a shawl, usually made to represent a cultural ideal or proverb, worn as a shawl or kept as an heirloom by many Swahili speaking people.
kanzu, gauni two styles of traditional women’s dresses.
a drape made from sewing woven strips of cloth together, each strip’s pattern symbolizing some aspect of African culture, generally worn by men.
kikoy a sturdy woven garment worn across eastern and central Africa.  Like the sarong in Asia, it’s an all purpose garment that can be used for a skirt for men or women, a blanket, or even a small boat sail. Many men prefer this over pants because they don’t believe that a man’s parts should be split.
kofia a hat or head covering for men.
kuba raffia strips woven of raffia, by the Kuba people.
skati skirt.
sokoto traditional men’s trousers.
thobe a long, figure obscuring, but beautiful in itself, dress generally worn in Morocco, and other north African countries.  It is generally made with “panels”, the most decorative of which, would be in the middle and front.
tie-dye a technique of resist dying, using knots in the fabric.
Aso oke or some other uncut length of fabric that is wrapped and pleated around the body.  It is somewhat like the Indian saree, but the purpose of it is often to beat the heat, as the first round usually goes under the breasts rather than around the waist.  It’s around the back, under the breasts, around the back, over the breasts, and then around again and either tied or pinned and tucked, or tossed over the shoulder.  Men can of course skip the under and over part 😉  Wrappers may be worn as full dresses or skirts, or wrapped in a way to work as pants.


9jafoodie | Nigerian Food Recipes | Modern African Cuisine

9jafoodie | Nigerian Food Recipes | Modern African Cuisine.

Some excellent recipes from the great continent.  They cover a wide range, and there are recipes that are quick and some that are a bit complicated.  You will have a good time exploring here.

Professional Head Wrap Styling

Gelee, khimar, and other scarves and headwraps are usually done by the wearer for themselves, but if you know an expert, you can have your wrap done professionally.  Head scarf artists in Africa, the middle east, and other parts of the world provide their services for weddings, formal occasions, and those who prefer a precise wrap that looks good from every angle.

Aisha Bilal, Nanees Selim, and others use beautiful fabrics, pins, and decorative materials to create unique and fabulous designs.  A trip through YouTube will reveal many willing to teach others their head wrapping methods and styles.

If you’re a hair stylist, especially a natural or African hair culturist, becoming an expert in scarves will be good for your business.  Wrapping is good for times when the hair needs to rest from styling tension and to protect the hair from the harsh elements.  It will also enhance your services to the modest dresser, since you’ll be able to finish them
with a beautiful wrap, not just shoo them away when you’re done with their hair and let them fend for themselves.

Adding wrapping to your repertoire is inexpensive, but you will need to know where to get the right supplies, and be aware of safety and sanitation.  If you’ll only be doing wraps, you don’t need a hair styling license, but you will still need to study proper disposal, contagious diseases, and proper handling of hazardous materials, as well as proper cleaning and storage of fabrics. You don’t want to cause any allergic reactions because you didn’t use a green detergent or spread pediculosis because you put a used scarf back in your box.

You can get swatches and remnants for cheap from just about any fabric store.  It’s nice to keep a supply of these handy aside of a collection of full sized scarves, so that you can have things on hand that will match the patrons’ clothing more closely.  The smaller pieces can be made into flowers or used to cover hair sticks or for other nice accents. 
Be creative with it.

Good pins are also important.  Though some are okay with straight pins, I prefer safety pins and hair pins.  They’re not as easy to conceal, but they are more secure.  I recommend getting a collection of hair matching and colorful hair pins, many small safety pins, and sitting down to make a nice collection of hijab/scarf pins.  You can also buy pretty pins already pre made for this purpose.

Practice makes perfect in this art.  Seek as many opportunities as you can to style scarves for your friends and family.  If you like, send us some photos of your work.