Existing in Africa are many indigenous fabrics intricately woven with patterns and designs to depict the heritage, tradition, culture, and history of Africans. Some of these fabrics are Kente (Ghana), Shweshwe (South Africa), Kitenge (Zambia), Baoule (Cote D’Ivoire), Ankara (Nigeria), etc. These fabrics were usually worn during special occasions such as weddings, family reunions, and other social events. The most popular of these African fabrics among West Africans is the Ankara fabric.
Everybody loves to wear Ankara. Prior to the 2010s it was strictly a native attire. Now the fabric has gained worldwide acceptance such that it is crafted creatively to produce different types of clothing and fashion accessories.
Origin of the Ankara Fabric
The Ankara fabric, originally known as the Dutch Wax Print, has been in existence for a long time. Initially, it was produced by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market through a process called ‘Batik’. The Indonesians carried out batik by melting wax and making a pattern of it across a blank cloth. Afterwards, the cloth is soaked in dye but the wax on the cloth prevents the dye from covering the whole cloth. Where more colours are needed, the wax-and-soak process is repeated with new patterns.
Dutch merchant, Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen, commercialised this method and as the market for the batik fabric grew, Scottish, English, and Swiss manufacturers, sauntered in. Soon enough, the Dutch wax prints became a part of African clothing with so much Africanness and indigenous ownership. Names such as “Veritable Dutch Hollandais,” and “Wax Hollandais” were used to refer to this fabric. It was even adopted as an official wear by the rich and the leaders of that time.
Significance of the Ankara Fabric
The Ankara Fabric is known for its colourful prints that bear much significance to the African culture. One distinct feature of the Ankara fabric is the lack of difference in the color intensity of the front and back sides. In early times, women used Ankara as a method of non-verbal communication with specific patterns used as a common language with shared meanings. To protect the design and show the quality of the fabric, the name of the product, the company and the registration number of the design is printed on the selvage. Some Ankara prints can be named after events, places, popular proverbs, personalities, etc. The Ankara fabric is a mode of visual communication where each pattern stands as a symbol of the African identity.
Ankara Fabric Today
With the advent of technology and civilisation, the textile business has become much easier than its beginning. Fashion designers have helped to proliferate the Ankara fabric by exercising their dexterity and stretching their creativity in a bid to explore and show the multifacetedness of the Ankara fabric. Ankara fabrics can be combined with plain fabrics, Ankara can be worn with denim, Ankara can be made into suits, jumpsuits, playsuits, sneakers, bags, shoes, earrings, bracelets, etc. The Ankara fabric is a source of income to many such that if you do not want to venture into the sartorial aspect, you can become a dealer by getting the fabric from manufacturers and supplying to retailers and fashion designers.
What becomes a source of worry to fashion lovers is the perfect style to sew with Ankara. This shouldn’t be a problem as many fashion influencers all about Instagram show us different ways to style Ankara every day. Some of these looks have been curated here. Scroll down, keep reading and feast your eyes but don’t forget to screenshot the styles that catch your eyes so you’ll have what to show to your fashion designer the next time you’d be calling at his/her place.
Clothes You Can Make With Ankara
1. Ankara short gowns
Wearing Ankara short gowns makes you look, very much on-the-go. You can style it with sneakers, flats, flip-flops, sandals, wedges or even stiletto heels depending on how you want to look. The Ankara short gown can be worn to work, weddings, or any casual outing. Its flexibility makes it a must-have for every wardrobe.
2. Ankara Long Dresses
You can style Ankara long gowns in a dramatic or less dramatic way if you are a lover of long dresses. You can rock Ankara long dresses whether you’re tall or short, slender or plump. The important thing is to choose a style you are best comfortable in. Long dresses accentuate your femininity and help in concealing some flaws in your figure. Wearing heels with a long dress gives you a more confident carriage.
3. Ankara suits
Wanna go formal in a different way? Try putting on an Ankara suit. It is a blend of westernisation and Africanness. Be it a full suit or a blazer, the Ankara suit is a creative way of exalting the Ankara fabric.
4. Ankara jumpsuits
Jumpsuits have become popular among women all over the world. If you’re a lover of jumpsuits, be prepared to look effortlessly chic with any of these Ankara jumpsuit styles below.
5. Ankara playsuits
Ankara Playsuits are the shorter and flirtier version of Ankara jumpsuits. They are usually casual wear and can be worn to any occasion of your choice so long as you are comfortable in them. Ankara Playsuits emphasise your figure, flaunt your features and make you look hot.
6. Ankara Kimonos
Kimonos are a must-have. You can make a beautiful piece of kimono with Ankara. If your closet does not house at least one piece of kimono, you have no idea how much you are missing out. Ankara Kimonos are so versatile and this makes them easy to be chipped into our everyday wears. You can rock an Ankara kimono with an all-black or an all-white ensemble