African clothing is the genius of a civilization which has a rich culture and the influence of various other tribes and countries over the centuries. The traditional outfits of Africans worn today have been inspired by the style of garments which have been worn by Africans for several thousand years.
Africa – A Brief
Africa is a continent of varying contrasts, on one had one can find the largest rain forest in the world whereas the other half of Africa had a magnificent desert which spreads over miles. The way Africans dress up had been greatly influenced by the surrounding landscape and the varying climate with peculiar patterns as witnessed all over the continent.
Most women wear clothes which are symbolic of the social, religious and political standing of the wearer in the traditional African society. Boubou, an embroidered, lose fitting robe of full length has been a part of the couture of Senegalese women.
Grand boubous were worn by older and much respected women. The young Senegalese women were seen in Anangos which were tunics of a tight fit having plunging necklines of V shape. Along with the anangos were worn wrap skirts having matching prints. In the country of Nigeria the traditional dress comprised the wrapper which was made of fabric of full length that was wrapped around the body with pleats.
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The women of the Yoruba Clan of southwest Nigeria wore Bubas which were blouses with curvy bottoms and sometimes even designed with a V shaped baggy bottom. In the eastern half of Africa, Kangas were a rage with women; these were colorful shawls having a general second pattern in the centre.
In the region of northeast Africa especially Egypt, the style of clothing has the traces of the culture of Middle East as is exemplified by the Jellabiya, a costume worn by the individuals from the Gulf. Unlike the northeastern part the northwestern part of Africa due to its geographical location remained was not influenced by the goods and elements from other cultures.
Djellaba a dress similar to the Kaftans and boubou is worn in the Northwestern Africa. Sahelian part of Africa is known for the Dashiki which is worn by the women of this area. Dashiki is extremely stylish with a collar of V-shape. One can rate the boubou as simpler than dashiki and even from Djellaba.
The attire changes as per countries as one moves down Hope Africa. For example in the country of Ethiopia women usually sport coffee dress of Ethiopia. Somalian women also wear the khameez.
Essences of The African Wear
Most African dresses shave colors which are bright and vivid with geometrical patterns. Mostly the preferred patterns, colors and style change with geographical location. Natural fibers and the use of durable are common due to their ability to keep one comfortable even in warm climate. Silk and Egyptian cotton are also popular.
The various types of boubous are colored in the tie-dye damask along with embroidered designs. Anangos are made of strip cloth, basically multicolored fabric strips sewn together. Each pattern on these strips symbolizes some aspect of the culture and traditions of Africa.
Tie-dye technique was invented by an African named Tuaregs who was from the tribe of Berber of North Africa. Tie-dye is symbolic of fertility and growth.
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Fabrics for These Awe-inspiring Creations
Asovoke is another Fabric from Africa made by sewing together the woven strips like a quilt. All this is done and only then the fabric is cut following a pattern to design a garment. Tie-dye imprinted pattern on woolen cloth is used to create Adire, another fabric. Swahili women use the Kanga fabric to design shawls of varied colors. Kitenge fabric is usually used as a wrapper around the waist and the bust.
Significance of the African Attire for Women In Society
The wrapper became popular in the Western countries due to the movement of Black Pride in the 1960s. Once again in the present day this movement is finding recognition due to the increased African immigration.
In the US, during the movement for civil rights women of African-American origin to show solidarity with their African counterparts had adopted kaftans and the dashikis.
The kaftan and dashiki also were adopted by African American women and men to demonstrate their solidarity with their African sisters and brothers during the civil rights movement in the U.S. Heap wraps another style which became a trend in US in the 60s as these were seen as acknowledgement of their African roots.
Small Bits of Information on African Clothing
Kaftans were originally worn by the men in Africa but were later personalized by the women of most tribes. Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian queen is said to have favored the Kaftans as the garment of her choice. She is reported to have possessed several kaftans of silk designed with embroidery, amulets, mirrors and prints.
During a traditional African weeding one will witness that the color of the kaftan that the bride wears on the occasion is similar to the dashiki of the groom. The color of purple and lavender is used by the African royalty and blue is considered as a color symbolic of love.
Though the fabrics used were not many but the choice of colors, symbols and the design were of importance to the women. The average African woman spent a lot of time choosing her designs as they were said to bring love, protection and power to the one wearing them.
The Africans were influenced by several forces specially those of nature. The gods of various tribes were important to the African way of life. The clothes worn in Africa were symbols of one’s status, position, power, religion and sex too.
Women of these tribes had an important role to play, some of them even held decision making posts in the governance of the tribe and were considered very wise. The traditional African clothing is an amalgamation of all these influences- both geographical and customary. Clothing of the dark Continent is not all that dark!
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