Fashion has always been a love of mine & I’m finally branching out to share some of my favourite styles, trends & shopping tips here on the blog! Ankara fashion caught my eye a few years ago, around 2016 when I wrote my post on Jumbo Senegalese Twists almost exactly 2 years ago! Back then I had just gotten my hands on my first piece of African print clothing, a swimsuit, from Andrea Iyamah.
Since then, I’ve fallen in love with Ankara fashion & I follow countless designers on social media to feel my obsession daily! My favourites are those that highlight designers actually located in Africa introducing their work to the western world.
What is Ankara?
Ankara, often referred to as “Ankara prints”, “African prints”, ”African wax prints” “Holland wax” and “Dutch wax”, is a 100% cotton fabric. Vibrant patterns are what make this fabric stand out. It is usually a colourful & is primarily associated with Africa because of its tribal-like patterns.
Dutch companies trying to copy Indonesian Java batik originally created Ankara fabrics. The textiles however gained recognition in West Africa and the patterns therefore evolved to reflect the cultures of the many countries in Africa.
There are many theories about the introduction of African wax prints to the region but the most popular theory is that the materials entered through the Gold coast now known as Ghana. Ankara wax patterns have evolved in such a way that they have begun representing Africa as a whole.
The colourful, vibrant patterns are 100% cotton & made using a wax-resist dyeing technique called batik.
Why I Love Ankara
Typically I don’t wear super vibrant and bold colours but for some reason, these prints speak to me! I love how versatile the prints are. Ankara prints can be used to make clothing for men, women & children in addition to matching accessories such as handbags & head wraps.
The simplicity of the design of many Ankara pieces is what I think attracts me. For the most part, the designs of the pieces is relatively simple but the combination of bold prints & sometimes embroidery gives them an edge. Ankara fabric bring life to designs as simple as a T-Shirt dress. The prints make them appear a lot more interesting than outfits made from any other fabric.
Lets Talk Sizing..
Wax cotton has literally NO stretch so paying attention to the size charts if purchasing online is absolutely crucial. I tend to order a size up just because my “top” & “bottom” sizes never coordinate to match one single size.
Online size charts are not easy to use for women like myself who are on the curvier side of life. I wear a 6 in clothing with stretch, but my hips are actually a 10/12. Shopping online is a struggle sometimes, everything has to be altered at the waist.
My motto is always, “better bigger than smaller”. Using a tailor, alterations can always get something a size down but if an item is too small, you’re out of luck.
Designers I’ve Been Loving
The Etal Store (@etalstore) is located locally, here in Jamaica. They create very bold pieces using varying patters, textures & cuts. Walking into the Etal store honestly makes you want to break the bank! So many great pieces to choose from & they have accessories to match, from jewellery, bags & head wraps they honestly have it all. They also have in house alterations free of cost if your outfit doesn’t fit perfectly.
I have two outfits from this store, a two piece skirt set & a more formal, full length gown. Both outfits are to die for, I absolutely love them both.
Combining prints is always tricky but pairing the Ankara print with the black & white stripe fabric in my skirt is absolutely beautiful. Using simple geometric prints such as stripes/polka dots is an easy way to mix & match fabrics when using more busy prints. The simpler pattern is used as a solid here & brings out a gorgeous contrast with the more abstract Ankara print.
With the cropped (but not at all exposing) top & the a-lined skirt with a little bit of leg exposed this outfit edgy without showing off too much. Perfect for someone who leans more on the conservative side of the fashion spectrum. This outfit can work both day or night with black sandals.
Having an entire outfit made from one (very) loud print is not something I would typically be drawn to. In my opinion these kinds of outfits tend to make the wearer look larger in size. Breaking up these types of prints using belts or jackets ensures that my waist is defined & avoids the issue. This print however really surprised me. Since the flowers on this fabric were so large they really didn’t give the same effect that smaller, busier prints would. It also helped that the dress had an elastic waist so I really felt no need to try & “break up” the print. The dress was actually quite flattering on me, if I do say so myself 🙂.
My ultimate favourite Ankara fashion brand (@grass_fields), there aren’t many things that I don’t want from them! This brand is UK based & created by twin sisters from Cameroon. With contemporary designs, their pieces easily translate from day to night. They make use of bold prints that bring together African prints & western style. These ladies aimed to have African print dresses worn around the world & they have successfully nailed it with their brand, kudos to them!
Grass-Fields has many colour & print options in a wide variety of styles styles. My favourite thing about them is how wearable all the pieces are. I pretty much love everything they have to offer!
They offer skirts of varying lengths, different cuts of pants & dresses of all styles. The best part is that most, if not all, of their bottoms are high waisted! I think most people these days prefer high waisted bottoms as the fit is much more flattering on the waist than low rise options.
I also enjoy the fact that this brand offers workwear for women including boldly printed blazers, fitted pants & mid length shirt dresses. The outfit possibilities are endless with Grass-Fields from casual to very formal.
I got the Folabi Patchwork Midi Skirt that I paired with a denim shirt (which I love!) but could easily be paired with a multitude of colours having numerous pieces of Ankara fabric stitched together. No two skirts are the same since a variety of prints are stitched together individually to create each item.
My second outfit is the Nataya African Print Wide Legged Trousers & the Mustard Off The Shoulder Crop Top. I love the fit of these pants, the high waist is very flattering & the wide leg cut is very easy to wear. This look can easily translate from day to night with heels, bold lipstick or a pair of statement earrings.
The last outfit from Grass-Fields is their Nicca African Maxi Print Skirt & Black Deka Crop Top. This skirt is so versatile, with a dark lip & black top this outfit works for an evening out. While, if paired with a white top & neutral lip colour, it can look great for a breezy daytime look.
One of the Ghanian brands I found through social media that I have come to love is True Fond (@true.fond). They hand make each item using fabrics from the Makola market from local vendors in Accra, Ghana. This designer offers free customised items at no extra cost, you just have to submit your measurements if you are unsure of what size to choose.
This brand offers a range of tops, jumpsuits, dresses, skirts & accessories. Their collection of pieces showcase a variety of very detailed silhouettes that will flatter a multitude of women whether or not they enjoy showing some skin.
I chose the Java dress from them because of the beautiful colours & print. The dress features their signature “flame” pattern & hand embroidery at the neckline and hem with a plain yellow cotton back. The arrangement of the floral pattern in the cut of the dress is the best part! The narrowing of the floral arrangement in the centre gives the illusion of a smaller waist, who wouldn’t love that? 😉 This look can be worn as pictured with bold statement earrings or with a bold lip colour & muted jewellery. I cant wait to wear this dress to an elegant evening event!
I paired my Ankara outfits with either my Bamboo ark tote or my round Rattan bag. Both my handbags are listed on my Amazon store under “accessories”.
I really hope you guys enjoyed my first fashion post! Comment down below & let me know which outfit is your favourite & how you feel about Ankara fashion. Don’t forget to also let me know of any other designers that you’ve been loving, I’d love to find some new brands.
Until next time..
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First of all you look amazing in these prints! I have so many Ankara printed outfits but I never wore them. My brother brought them over from Liberia but they are a little too big on me. But I’m thinking about getting them altered and giving them a try!