Your personal style is an expression of your individuality, but some people even show their culture and tradition through the clothes they wear. We know that different tribes in Africa pride themselves on their traditional outfits and dresses, but do you know one can now infuse some fashion-forward and modern touches into the look? Whether you love the traditional African clothing or modern African fashion, keep on reading for the African outfit inspirations to show your culture and tradition.
Traditional African Dresses and Outfits
Do you know that the traditional African outfits are very hard to trace because most of them have been influenced by colonial or even western looks? More than that, some of the dress codes in each tribe were passed down orally, and they didn’t have written rules. But according to the history, furs, skins, and bark cloth were the materials used on creating African outfits. Sooner, bones, seashells, feathers, and such became an accessory.
In the 15th Century, Africa became open to trading, and cultures in the East and Europe were introduced to the continent. Do you know that different colors and patterns in their African outfits were used to identify one tribal group from another? Yes, one’s culture is a great inspiration when it comes to fashion, allowing you to show your heritage and history to others. However, some people adapted some western influences into their African outfits, creating a more personal yet unique style.
When we say African fashion, some think of the traditional clothes African wear during special occasions and ceremonies, while some think of loud, vibrant, and colorful outfit combinations. Do you know that African dresses and outfits are now shaping the fashion world? In fact, some fashion designers used the Masaai fabric in their collections, along with African-inspired prints.
The Art of African Fashion
We all know that fashion takes inspiration from different sources—art, nature, architecture, history, space, culture, and tradition. But do you know African outfits and dresses weave some cultural stories? For African women, wearing African dresses that remind them who they are is the best thing they can do to show their love for their culture and tradition.
A great thing, African fashion considers every color, design, print, detail, and silhouette as a part of one’s culture. If you’re considering wearing African dresses, pay attention to the design elements of your outfit as they can make or break your look. A great thing, fashion designers who promote African fashion also values environmental friendly textiles.
In fact, some designers even use the details and prints of their design as a form of communication. More than that, some designers reveal the issues of racial discrimination and insecurities in their collections. African fashion designers are becoming positive about the future fashion in their continent, especially when some people are starting to support their culture.
Why You Should Love African Fashion
African outfits and dresses show your culture and history.
We now know that the details, print, and color in African outfits are a reflection of their history and culture. However, there are lots of fashion designers and brands incorporate African details into their designs without proper credit. This is one of the reasons why some African tribes trademarked their bead artistry, so they can protect their tradition and culture. While some African tribes use marine shells as accessory, others use them for currency.
African outfits are no longer exclusive to African people.
Fashion takes inspiration everywhere, and African culture open new innovations, ideas, and designs on modern fashion. Do you still remember when Yves Saint Laurent showcased his collection, featuring the African heritage? More than that, Louis Vuitton and other fashion designers came up with modern designs rooted from African culture. Yes, African outfits aren’t just about wearing the traditional look, but also making one’s style fashion-forward and modern—thanks to the influences from foreign cultures.
African outfits hone your artistic and creative skills.
African dresses are known for its bold and bright designs, giving you a more feminine yet playful fashion statement. If you’re not used to wearing bold colors, plunging into the African style might sound intimidating for you. A great thing, you can think of your favorite color whether it’s a jewel tone or a rainbow color that will add some life to your daily outfits. If you’re getting more adventurous, think of color blocking or wearing unexpected color combinations to make your African outfits one of a kind.
You’ll be able to rock the mixed prints trend with African outfits.
We know that every detail counts when it comes to African outfits, and going for mixed prints can reveal a lot of things about you. Yes, some African patterns are designed to showcase their traditional tales and even proverbs, making your style more personal yet trendy. If you feel like mixing prints is a bit daunting, draw inspiration from African fashion. The key is to select a bigger print that will be the highlight of your African outfit and pick a smaller pattern as your background.
African outfits are fresh and unexpected.
Since fashion designers are constantly coming up to innovative and creative concepts, African outfits are now becoming more fashion-forward and modern. In fact, some African outfits can be seen in sleeker, more polished versions that you can wear professionally at work. If you’re working in a creative workplace, think of incorporating African prints into your office outfits. If you can wear bold colored African outfit, simply think of adding some pop of color with your accessories.
African fashion is not only stylish but also practical.
Whether you wish to travel light or simply maximize your classic wardrobe, African fashion will do the tricks for you. If you can go for African outfits in your travel, go for African accessories to dress up your look. Think of a traditional Maasai headpiece, Tuareg head wrap, elaborate beadwork and such that will add some spice to your travel looks. Yes, African fashion is practical and versatile, which can make you a more stylish person without spending a lot of money in your daily outfits.
Modern Ways to Wear Your African Outfits
Rethink your African outfits in “Living Coral” or unexpected color combos.
“Living Coral” is the Pantone’s Color of the Year, so think of adding some playful touch and feminine flair to your African outfits. Whether you’re heading to the office or attending a party, the color itself will give your African outfits some modern vibe. Since the color is vibrant yet a bit mellow, it is important to go for the shade that flatters your complexion.
If you want to get more colorful, rock the unexpected color combination with your African outfits. If you like, pair “Living Coral” with another bold color since it plays well with any color. If you’re wearing a subtler African outfit for work, think of adding some pop of color with your shoes, necklace, handbag, earrings, scarf, belt and such.
Dress up your casual pieces with African ensembles.
Nowadays, wearing dressy with casual is a fool-proof way to look stylish and look chic without trying too hard. Remember, African ensembles whether it is a blouse, a skirt, a dress, an accessory, or even a print are a major part of your heritage. So, don’t be afraid to show it off even on weekends with your favorite denim pieces. Do you know that you can even opt for a versatile African dress that you can wear casually? Simply think of casual pieces like a jacket, flat shoes, and even jeans to make everything cool.
Add interest to your African outfits with prints.
Do you know that African prints will make your looks more stand out and one of a kind? A great thing, African prints are festive and bold too, perfect for special occasions and holidays. If you think colorful prints are over the top, think again. Tom Ford even showcased his 80s inspired animal prints in rainbow colors, proving that everything bright and bold are in this season.
A great thing, African print will show your culture and tradition to others while keeping you chic and fashionable. To make things more personal, go for African outfits with prints that reflect your personality whether you’re a carefree, conservative, classy, trendy, or an independent woman. Yes, African outfits are meant to give you a fashion-forward look while honoring your African heritage.
More than that, you can even mix African prints with other patterns to create a more personalized look. But, to make things sleeker and more polished, start with different African prints in the same color, or same African prints in different color. The key is to look for similarities in your prints, so you’ll be able to create a cohesive African outfit effortlessly.
Don’t be afraid to mix your African outfits with modern pieces.
Depending on your personality, you may think of sequins and metallic ensembles to modernize your African outfits, or opt for structured, architectural pieces to give you a more polished look. Do you know that African ensembles will make getting dressed easier? Most of the time, African ensembles are bright and bold, so you don’t have to think too much about your accessories and pairings. If you can, you can have a more statement-making look with bold colored accessories or African print handbag.
How to Make Your African Outfits Professional for Work
Wearing African outfits and dresses are great to showcase your African heritage, but still, some workplaces have a strict dress code that one should follow. How can you be expressive on your love for your culture and tradition when your office is requiring pantsuit for work? A great thing, African outfits are versatile enough to wear from boardroom to parties, you just need to add some tweaks.
If you wish to wear your African outfits in the office, better opt for more muted colors and smaller prints. Do you know that the choice of your prints can make or break your office looks? According to experts, repeated and smaller patterns look more polished and sophisticated over abstract and loud prints that distract the eyes. Yes, your African prints can be the way to show your culture while staying professional.
Also, you must be selective on your color choices. Regardless how simple or muted your prints are, if they are in blinding colors, then your African outfit will still come off as casual and unprofessional for work. Neutral colors are safe, but if they are not your thing, then go for bold jewel tones—amethyst purple, sapphire blue, topaz yellow, emerald green and such that will look classy and elegant.
If you’re working in a conservative workplace that calls for business suits, make careful pairings on your African outfit. A great thing, creative offices allow a more stylish and personal office looks. Do you know that you can even wear your favorite African print at a creative office? But, think of balancing your loud print with a neutral blazer or a plain piece that matches the shade of your patterns.
A great thing, your typical office basics of straight leg pants, pencil skirts, button-down shirts, tailored blazers and such will go well with any African print. But the key is to create lower color contrast to look more pleasing to the eyes. While dark reds and dark blues go well with black ensembles, pastel yellows and emerald greens will look more flattering in white and nude colored pieces.
If you’re wearing a bold African print in your office outfit, better balance it with tailored and structured pieces. Think of structured blazers, boxy coats, and classy capes that will make your office outfits more professional. A great thing, you may also think of African inspired accessories to complete your African outfits for work.
Do you know that accessories are your best option if you’re working in a conservative workplace with a formal dress code? If you can’t wear an African print to work, then opt for an African inspired necklace, earrings, bracelets and even a scarf to add some cultural touches to your office looks. If you’re in a creative workplace, then feel free to go for Ankara print tote bags, floral print shoes, or even African print scarves.
A great thing, your structured leather handbag can make your African outfit office-worthy. As a rule of thumb, the busier and louder your prints and colors are the more structured and boxy your accessories should be. You can surely wear your favorite African dress, but keep it in conservative lengths like going below the knees or mid-length.
Fashion Designers on Reimagining African Outfits
African fashion designers are now taking the fashion world by storm, pushing the limits of fashion designs and what’s deemed cultural and traditional to create fashion-forward looks. Have you heard of fashion designer Modupe Omonze who loves traveling? Do you know that traveling helped the designer to create collections rooted from African and Arabian culture.
Also, fashion designer Hana Himmi loves drawing inspiration from different cultures. While she originally came from Morocco, she infused some designs from Shanghai, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Istanbul. She loves African dresses where she featured her passion for art and fashion. On the other hand, designer Ellisha Boie is known for her designs made from African textiles.
In fact, wedding gowns and sport jerseys look more fashion-forward with the use of Ghanian woven fabric. She even showed her passion for football and western fashion through her collection. If you love practicality, then you’ll be amazed with South African fashion designer Laz Yani who designed classy wrinkle-free African outfits for all season.
If you love a more personalized and artistic African outfits, Kenyan fashion designer Ami Doshi Shah will make things effortless for you. She even creates handcrafted designs made from locally sourced materials that will let you show your love for your heritage. Also, South African fashion designer Kirsten Goss is known for contemporary jewelry design that will surely revamp your African outfits.
If you have a mantra of simplicity is beauty, then you’ll love the Nigerian fashion designer Nkechi Harry Ngonadi who is known for her simple and classy designs. More than that, her collection caters the need of plus-sized women whether you’re an African or not. If you’re a religious person who always attends to sacred ceremonies at the church look no further as her designs will keep you classy yet modest.
Nigerian fashion designer Folake Folarin–Coker is known for her colorful and tasteful designs that will allow you to create endless African outfits. Also, Duro Olowu got his modern take on African prints, making them more diverse and cultural. On the other hand, Lisa Folawiyo is known for her designs featuring the modern styles mixed with African fashion.
In fact, she takes advantage of the traditional African fabric to create her designs. A great thing, Ankara looks more luxurious and sophisticated, not just the typical African outfit. More than that, she tried to weave Nigerian culture with urban styles, making her designs more practical and diverse. Even though the fashion designer has that simplistic style, she still loves to be innovative in mixing different colors and prints.
One of the Nigerian fashion designers that promote the Ankara fabric is Zizi Cardow. In fact, she became famous because of her work and the traditional fabric that is now seen on the red carpets. Deola Sagoe is known for her designs featuring colorful and loud African prints. In fact, she uses fabrics with western touch and traditional Nigerian characteristics.
If you think African fashion is only excelling on women’s department, think again. Nigerian fashion designer Soares Anthony is actually focusing on men’s African outfits. In fact, his designs are known for sophisticated yet masculine look, making your African outfit a bit edgy and contemporary. Also, Mai Atafo showcases his collection perfect fir a modern Nigerian gentleman.
Kenyan Fashion designer Sara Mugambi is known for her unexpected yet fashion-forward designs. On the other hand, Chakirra Claasen is a Namibian fashion designer that is known for her collection showcasing the Namibian culture and tradition. Even though she describes her designs as sexy, she preserves her culture through the designs’ traditional fabric and prints.
Mozambican fashion designers Nelly and Nelsa Guambe are known for promoting sustainable fashion. Do you know that they even use recycled materials to create their designs? A great thing, their designs are not just luxurious but also practical and comfortable. Another duo Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga and Shunnoz Fiel makes African fashion more stylish while keeping it cultural inspired. The Angolan designers aim to showcase their culture around the globe through their designs.
We all know that African fashion is known for its traditional style, but fashion designer Frank Oshodi showcased his designs, embracing Nigerian cultural diversity. If you’re looking for sophisticated and feminine African outfits, draw inspiration from Ade Bakare’s designs. He even designs wedding gowns and evening gowns that will make your special occasion cultural inspired.
South African fashion designer Laduma MaXhosa is known for his knitwear brand that features collection inspired from Xhosa rite of passage. Also, Imane Ayissi mixes the Parisian Haute Couture and tribal art that can make your African outfits more fashion-forward yet cultural. On the other hand, Kenyan fashion designer Katungulu Mwendwa experiments with traditional weaving techniques and modern fabrics to create timeless African outfits.
Do you love the idea of using raffia and silk fringing? Then fashion designer Maki Oh will surely amaze you with her designs. To get a more creative African outfit, you have to go for something innovative and one of a kind. Loza Maleombho is known for her designs featuring urban styles and Ivorian tribal touches with wild prints and futuristic silhouettes.
If you feel overwhelmed with the idea of wearing African prints, then fashion designer Lisa Folawiyo will make things more approachable for you. Instead of using African prints, she even used the textile handcrafted to create African inspired embellishments. If you wish to get an edgier fashion statement, think of Aprelle Duany’s designs, featuring leather accessories with African twist.
African fashion is more than just art, as it is deeply rooted to one’s culture and tradition, telling stories about their heritage. Indeed, your personal style is more than your sartorial taste, and with our guide, you’ll be able to reflect your individuality, culture, and tradition through your fashion choices.